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FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL 2007

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Why be normal?

So goes the bumper-sticker cliché that’s seen for a fleeting instant on a refrigerator in The Ballad of AJ Weberman. The phrase also works as a prevailing theme for many of the films that made their way into this year’s Florida Film Festival. For its Sweet Sixteen, the FFF programmed 170 movies to be screened over the 10-day festival. After previewing the selections, we can assure cineastes and newbies alike that this year’s movies will, if nothing else, make them feel a whole lot better about any concerns they may have about their family being too weird.

From the Dylan-stalking namesake of Ballad, the delusional one-hit-wonder profiled in Frank & Cindy and the quadriplegic pig farmer of When Pigs Fly to the debauched Peruvian villagers in Madeinusa , the lineup is filled with character studies — both true and dramatized — that explore the periphery of “normal.” While examining extremes is a natural inclination for artists, the stories dug up by many of the filmmakers in the 2007 edition of the Florida Film Festival are remarkable indeed. The fare, however, is not a full course of fucked-up.

A stirring selection of documentaries finds predictable subjects (Iraq, Katrina, Israel) approached in fresh and engaging ways, while narrative features both subtle (Swedish Auto) and over-the-top (Severance) are equally compelling.

As we do every festival, Orlando Weekly helps you make the best of the next 10 days of moviegoing. In addition to our usual review rundown of most of the films, we’ve highlighted the projects that we think are particularly worth your time. Dining editor Jessica Bryce Young gives an overview of the debut of FFF’s food-centric sidebar, and, if 90 minutes is too long for your cinematic attention span, look here for quick insight into interesting elements of the festival’s better-than-ever shorts programs.

Overwhelmed? Fear not, as we’ve sorted out all the logistics — buying tickets, the free filmmakers’ forums and so forth.

As you polish off your umpteenth box of popcorn — or a gourmet meal and alcoholic beverages out of Enzian’s kitchen —and start to wonder if it’s ordinary for one person to enjoy so many movies in such a short amount of time, relax ... after all, why be normal?

— Jason Ferguson

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