GREENWICH – Tickets go on sale Thursday for the Greenwich International Film Festival, back for its second year with an expanded roster of films and star-studded events.
More than 50 films will be shown during this year’s event, scheduled at venues in town from June 9-12. Celebrities including John Turturro, Kristin Davis, John Popper from Blues Traveler and Dar Williams will take part.
“We have grown the festival and we are offering a real variety of films including documentaries, dramas, westerns and comedies,” said Ginger Sitckel, chief operating officer for the festival. “You name it, we’ve got it in the lineup this year.”
Tickets go sale 9 a.m. Thursday at www.greenwichfilm.org. The festival’s box office will open Monday at 19 West Elm Street. Organizers held a party to announce the line-up Wednesday night at Empire City Casino in Yonkers, N.Y.
“We have such a great program this year,” said festival co-founder Wendy Stapleton Reyes. “We have incredibly high quality films that are really moving and powerful that I think this community needs to be aware of. We wanted to make it bigger and better.”
Last year’s festival featured 31 films.
Opening night will be anchored by a showing of “Little Boxes,” about an interracial family adjusting to life in suburban Washington State, at Bow Tie Cinemas, and the Connecticut premiere of “The Anthropologist,” a documentary about a teenager following her anthropologist mother as they chronicle the impact of climate change, at Greenwich Library.
The opening night party, at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, will feature performances by Popper and Williams. Davis, best known for her role on “Sex and the City,” will present the prize for best social impact film at the party.
Last year, the festival supported UNICEF and honored Harry Belafonte and Mia Farrow. This year, the roster of organizations supported will be expanded to include Community Access, a non-profit that provides housing, care and training to the mentally ill; the Rainforest Fund; the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and others.
The Changemaker Honoree Gala this year will salute producer and activist Trudie Styler, for her work with The Rainforest Fund, and actress Abigail Breslin, an Academy Award nominee for “Little Miss Sunshine,” for her support of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The June 10 event will include a reception at Betteridge Jewelers and a dinner at Richards.
“Through the nature of programming we became introduced to [Styler and Breslin] and their work on a great project called ”˜Freak Show,’ which is coming out in the fall, that has a powerful social impact message,” Stickel said. “Both have humanitarian endeavors that they care about so it really made sense to honor the two of them. Plus we really liked honoring women under the human rights umbrella.”
“Freak Show,” which co-stars Bette Midler, is about a teenage boy who runs for homecoming queen at his conservative high school. Styler is directing the movie and Breslin is one of the stars.
On June 11, Turturro, known for movies as diverse as “Do the Right Thing,” “Quiz Show,” “The Big Lebowski “and the first three “Transformers” movies, will be honored with a spotlight event at Greenwich Country Day School. The discussion, in which Turturro will talk about his craft and his career, will benefit Community Access.
The festival will feature panels throughout the weekend, including the return of last year’s successful children’s acting workshops, and discussions of adapting books to movies, the business of comedy, driving social change through investing in film and the role of women in media featuring Greenwich residents and media professionals Gretchen Carlson, Reena Ninan and Nancy Armstrong.
Question and answer panels will be held after many screenings, and the Jewish Film Series, including the world premiere of the documentary “Germans and Jews,” will feature a full day of programming on June 9.
The festival’s Centerpiece Films are “Newtown,“ a documentary about the Sandy Hook tragedy; “My Blind Brother,“ a dark comedy about brothers in a love triangle; and “The Fundamentals of Caring.” The latter is directed by Greenwich residentRob Burnett, who has worked extensively in television on “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Ed.” His new movie stars Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.
Programming the schedule of films involved a call for submissions last November and trips to film festivals including Sundance and South by Southwest.
“It is a gigantic job,” Stickel said. “We have an incredible programming team led by Colleen deVeer, our director of programming, and Rachel Langus, our programmer, and they have been working day and night for the past several months to pretty much know every film that exists out there.”
Other notable films on the schedule include “Life Animated,” a documentary about autism, and “Sonita,” a documentary about women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Like last year, a survey will be sent out to attendees after the festival to find out what they thought of the films and what they would want to see next year.
“Last year we were able to learn what worked,” Stickel said. “We’re always keeping in mind our audience and the town of Greenwich and we’ve crafted a festival we really think is perfect for this area. It all ties back to what the festival is built on, which is film, finance and philanthropy.”