Chandler filmmaker Mitesh Patel says there has been a noticeable change when he attends film festivals around the world.
“When I go to see some, like AFM American film market, or any other like Berlin or Cannes, whenever I go somewhere for my movie work, I meet with people and they talk about the festival,” says Patel, who is president and the director of the Chandler International Film Festival. “And what’s surprising to me is they all know, mostly I would say they know, about the Chandler Film Festival.”
Patel says they once had to work hard to get the word out about the annual festival. Now, they don’t.
The seventh annual Chandler International Film Festival is Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, January 29, at the LOOK Dine-In Cinema in Downtown Chandler. Patel says they are extending it to nine days this year, so they don’t have as many matinee showings. Films will start at 6 p.m. most days, with some matinees on the weekends.
“You know a lot of people work, so it’s kind of a struggle, but it was good for the people who are coming from out of town so they can just stay for an entire weekend,” Patel says.
He says he wanted more Chandler residents to be able to attend, and that was the reason for pushing back start times and extending the festival.
Patel says the number of films will be the same, about 125 or so. He says they had more than 500 submitted to be considered. That’s still down considerably from pre-pandemic, when they would get about 1,000.
“I think the pandemic is still going on,” Patel says about the lower number of submissions. He adds that they no longer advertise and push hard to get the word out about the festival, relying on the fact that many in the business are already aware.
The films will be shown at LOOK Dine-In Cinemas for the second time. Patel says they were great hosts a year ago and complimented their food. After-hours parties will be staged around Downtown Chandler.
There will be no online viewing of the films for the first time in two years. In 2021, the festival was all digital because of the pandemic. Last year people had the option to watch them online if they didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater.
Patel says many directors are concerned about piracy if they put their films online, so they would rather not.
The lineup of films was still being determined at print time in late December with an announcement expected in early January. Patel says he had not decided on which film to open the festival with, but he does have one that he would love to open it with.
The festival is adopting a theme for the first time, and it will be a celebration of Indian filmmaking. The country is celebrating 110 years of filmmaking in 2023 so Patel thought that was an easy choice.
“Last Film Show” was chosen by India to be its submission for the best international film Oscar at the Academy Awards. It has won top honors at some of the film festivals where it has been shown.
It’s the story of a 9-year-old boy in rural India who loves films so much, he bribes the projectionist of a run-down theater with homemade food so that he can watch and learn about films and filmmaking from the best seat in the house. It’s a semi-autobiographical story of director Pan Nalin.
One of the keys to being the opening night film, Patel says, is that the filmmaker needs to be in attendance. He says Nalin says he’s willing if his film is not nominated for the Academy Award. However, if it is he will be far too busy promoting it and won’t be able to attend.
“I noticed that whoever attends the Chandler Film Festival, they get very excited when someone from the movie, they’re coming and attending,” Patel says.
He adds that a couple of films in this year’s festival will be by directors with Chandler ties. Former resident Rob Smat made a documentary called “Walkout.” It’s about Walmart’s reaction to having 23 people shot and killed in its El Paso store in 2019.
After the tragedy, the company took no action to stop selling firearms at its stores. Its employees decided to do something about that and forced the company to change.
India will not be the only country getting a focus at this year’s festival. Patel says they plan to have special nights throughout the nine days.
“We’re adding a Japanese day, a Spanish day, a Korean day, a Chinese day,” Patel says, pointing out the Chinese New Year will happen during the festival (January 22).
One of the reasons the Chandler International Film Festival has gotten such notice is because of the success it has had in matching filmmakers with distributors. Patel says all of their feature-length films last year got distribution deals.
“It’s been a couple of years now,” Patel says of the 100% distribution. “I’ve been I’ve been doing this for 15 years, I know so many companies. And I created this festival to help the filmmaker to showcase their work and put it out.”
Chandler International Film Festival
WHEN: Various times Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, January 29
WHERE: LOOK Dine-In Cinema, 1 W. Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
COST: Visit website for ticket information