Founded in 2001, Scottsdale International Film Festival is an annual 10-day destination event that connects audiences with award-winning cinema from around the globe. During its 20-year history, the Festival has presented more than 700 films – ranging from major Academy Award winners to undiscovered indie gems – to more than 110,000 attendees.

Whether film scholar or film lover, most will agree that film is an art form that is both a reflection of our everyday life and a means to escape it. Film can take us away while at the same time embed us in the truth of other people’s stories, some beautiful, some cruel, and some unimaginable. Our attendees eagerly anticipate each season’s program of varying tales, contexts, and characters both rare and relatable.

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2001 – The Festival launched with 11 films on September 28th. Attendance was projected to be modest for the inaugural event, which took place just 17 days after 9/11 at the Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre in Scottsdale. The turn out was much more than the initial estimate of 1,200, and nine of the screenings sold out.

2002 – Valley film-goers flocked to the 2nd Festival and the film count jumped from 11 in the first year to 21 films and 40 screenings. PROMISES, an Israeli documentary that followed the daily lives of seven Israeli and Palestinian children over the course of four years, ranked highest with Valley viewers. More than 4,000 turned out, almost doubling the first year’s attendance.

2003 – In its 3rd season, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) became the Festival’s Artistic Sponsor and mentor via the tutelage of Cam Haynes. He brought his expertise in Canadian film, along with the films BARONESS & THE PIG (featuring Director Michael Mackenzie, for a post-film Q&A with the audience after the screening,) and the film MARION BRIDGE.

2004 – The Festival expanded on its international flavor of programming with a Student Competition and a Digital Filmmaking presentation by renowned pop artist, Laurence Gartel. With the help of TIFF the Festival added American Independent, Cinema Vault, Documentary, and North of the Border titles. Renowned director Ted Kotcheff attended to present his films, FIRST BLOOD and WAKE IN FRIGHT, and participated in a post-film Q&A with the audience.

2005 – The 5th season saw the Scottsdale International Film Festival go Hollywood. Patrick Warburton, formerly of Seinfeld,accompanied his film, THE CIVILIZATION OF MAXWELL BRIGHT, and Lesley Ann Warren accompanied her closing night film, WHEN DO WE EAT? The Festival also introduced a local film featuring ARTIST OF RESISTANCE by award winning documentarian, Dr. Penelope Price, a Scottsdale Community College faculty member. Dr. Price also participated in a post-film Q&A with the audience.

2006 – Two esteemed members of the cinema costume design industry attended, making the Scottsdale International Film Festival one of the first in the world to feature costume design as part of its program.  Costume designer Michael Wilkinson introduced BABEL, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, and then held a post-film Q&A with the audience on the costuming field of cinema. Dr. Deborah Landis, a former President andmember of the Costume Designers Guild also attended. She designed costumes for films such as INDIANA JONES: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and ANIMAL HOUSE, and has written multiple books on the costuming industry. Landis participated in a Q&A session with the audience after the premier of the film INFAMOUS, starring Sandra Bullock.

2007 – The Valley premieres of such highly praised titles as THE KITE RUNNER, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, and THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY firmly established the Festival with its audience and with industry entities alike.  The premiere of THE KITE RUNNER was one of only four U.S. screenings to take place before being pulled from theatrical release while the filmmakers attempted to get the two boys who starred in the film out of Afghanistan. Another special appearance included Jennifer Tilly, who presented her film, INTERVENTION.

2008 – By the time the 8th Festival wrapped up, over 5,500 people had attended to watch 26 films with 46 screenings. Special guests included director Mike Leigh, who presented his closing night film, HAPPY GO LUCKY. Other films that enjoyed their Arizona premieres were WHAT JUST HAPPENED, starring Robert DeNiro, HOW ABOUT YOU, starring Imelda Staunton and Vanessa Redgrave, and PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND, staring Bill Pullman, Felicity Huffman, and Patricia Clarkson.  The Audience Award for Best Film went to AMAL, an Indian film about an auto-rickshaw driver.

2009 – The Festival hosted a successful live audience Q&A via SKYPE with famed director Henry Jaglom after the screening of his film IRENE IN TIME.  Other films that enjoyed their Arizona premieres were WONDERFUL WORLD, starring Matthew Broderick, and the Closing Night Film, THE BOYS ARE BACK, starring Clive Owen.  The Audience Award for Best Film went to SÉRAPHINE, a French film based on the true life story of French painter Séraphine de Senlis.

2010 – Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Festival opened with the U.S. premiere, and third installment of Stieg Larsson’s extremely popular “Millennium-trilogy,” THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST.  The opening night film and post-film gala party were so popular that the event was moved to a larger venue at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.  The Festival continued the rest of the week by screening 29 films from 25 different countries and ended with the Arizona premiere of CONVICTION, starring Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell. The Audience Award for Best Film went to BRIDE FLIGHT, the story of the Last Great Air Race in 1953, from London to Christchurch, which carried 26 young Dutch brides-to-be on their way to join their fiancés already settled in New Zealand.

2011 – An all time high of 8,500 people attended the 11th annual Scottsdale International Film Festival. And, the Harkins Shea 14 Theatre officially became the Festival’s new venue in order to accommodate the crowds and future growth. The Festival kicked off with the opening night film LIKE CRAZY starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. The two stars attended to present the film and participated in a post-film discussion with the audience. Also in attendance during the event was John Sayles, to present his film AMIGO.  He participated in the post-film discussion and was the Festival’s first recipient of the Artistic Diversity Award. The Festival had the Arizona premiere of 10 films, hosted 12 question-and-answer sessions, featured films from 27 countries, and held 69 total screenings. The Audience Award for Best Film went to THE WOMEN ON THE 6TH FLOOR, from France.

2012 – The Czech Republic documentary, NICKY’S FAMILY, won the Audience Award for Best Film. Australian director, Fred Schepisi attended to present the opening night film, THE EYE OF THE STORM, and participated in a discussion with the audience after the premiere of his film. Similar discussions folloowing six other international films were moderated by professors from both Arizona State University, OSHER, and Scottsdale Community College. Three films, SHOUTING SECRETS – Switzerland, SATAN’S ANGEL – USA , and LOS CHRISTEROS – Mexico, featured the filmmakers in attendance to present their films and participate in the post-film Q&A sessions with the audience. The Festival had the Arizona premiere of 11 films, hosted 12 question-and-answer sessions, featured films from 29 countries, and held 69 total screenings.

2013 – The Festival opened with DECODING ANNIE PARKER starring Helen Hunt, Aaron Paul and Samantha Morton, and closed with AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, and Abigail Breslin. The two powerhouse films helped draw sell-out crowds and further demonstrated the Festival’s standing in the art film circuit and its contribution to the arts in Arizona. ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE won the 2013 Audience Award. Many filmmakers were on hand throughout the Festival to speak to crowds following the screenings, as well as several other filmmakers and Anne Parker, whose harrowing story is depicted in DECODING ANNIE PARKER. The Festival also showcased the Arizona debuts of three all-star films; A.C.O.D starring Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, and Amy Poehler; THE CONGRESS starring Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm, Danny Huston, Harvey Keitel; and LAST VEGAS starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, and Morgan Freeman.

2014 – More than 9,000 attendees enjoyed the 14th annual Scottsdale International Film Festival taking in many special advance screenings and premieres. Along with THE IMITATION GAME audiences raved about WILD, RUN BOY RUN, DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST, and RUDDERLESS – which was the Festival’s opening night film. The Audience Award for best film by a wide margin went to THE IMITATION GAME.

2015 – The 15th Scottsdale International Film Festival kicked off at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with daytime screenings of children’s animated and live-action short films, which attracted more than 600 students. The Festival’s opening night celebration at the Center featured the documentary LANDFILL HARMONIC, which told the inspiring story of Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, the world-famous youth symphony that performs with instruments made from recycled trash. After the film, which later won the Audience Award for “Best Film,” the Recycled Orchestra, conducted by its founder, Favio Chavez, performed onstage and participated in an audience Q&A, along with Executive Producer Alejandra Amarilla and Producer Juliana Penaranda-Loftus. Following opening night, the Festival returned to its longtime home at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre in Scottsdale for all other screenings. Among the highlights were THE ADDERALL DIARIES (starring James Franco and Ed Harris), ANOMALISA (Jennifer Jason Leigh), THE BENFACTOR (Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning and Theo James), CAROL (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara), HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson), LOVE THE COOPERS (John Goodman and Diane Keaton), REMEMBER (Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer), TUMBLEDOWN (Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis) and YOUTH (Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel). Festival audiences enjoyed insights from moderators and select Q-and-A sessions. Among the special guests were actor Jack McGee and filmmakers Nestor and Rosemary Rodriguez of the indie dramedy SILVER SKIES; Jessica Cox, the focus of the documentary RIGHT FOOTED; and Kate Geis, executive producer of the documentary PAUL TAYLOR: CREATIVE DOMAIN.

2016 – The Scottsdale International Film Festival opened at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with a screening of A MAN CALLED OVE which went on to win numerous audience and critic awards including “Best Film.” The Festival returned to Harkins Shea 14 and featured the Arizona premieres of CERTAIN WOMEN, THE DAUGHTER, LION, A MONTH OF SUNDAYS, MAX ROSE, and YOUTH IN OREGON, among 31 other buzz-worthy dramas, thrillers, romances, comedies and documentaries from more than 30 countries. New developments for the 2016 Festival included a poster contest with winning art by Lisa Dietrich and awards judged by the Phoenix Film Critics Society.

2017 – The season kicked off with opening night film, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN, directed by Jared Moshé. Mr. Moshé attended to present his film, which stars Bill Pullman, Jim Caviezel, Peter Fonda and Kathy Baker. Other notable screenings included: DARKEST HOUR (Gary Oldman), LOVE AFTER LOVE (Andie MacDowell, Chris O’Dowd) and THE UPSIDE (Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart.) The Festival debuted its newest category that showcased WOMEN DIRECTORS which comprised nearly 30% of the overall programming. Highlights involving audience Q&A with film guests included: Vice Chancellor Agnes Binagwaho, MD, M(Ped), PHD, a Rwandan pediatrician who appears in BENDING THE ARC, Israeli director, Yonatan Nir, with his film THE ESSENTIAL LINK: THE STORY OF WILFRID ISRAEL, Lori Stoll director of HEAVEN’S FLOOR, and Italian director, Matteo Vicino with his film LOVERS. The Audience Award for Best FILM went to BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY. The Phoenix Film Critics Society awards went to: Best Film – AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, Best Director – RODRIGO GRANDE / AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, Best Screenplay – AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, Best Actor In Leading Role – LUIS FERNANDEZ / TAMARA, Best Actress In Leading Role – JULIET STEVENSON / LET ME GO, Best Actor In A Supporting Role – WANG NAIXUN / KING OF PEKING, Best Actress In A Supporting Role – KARIN BERTLING / LET ME GO

2018 – Ten films marked their premiere showing to Festival attendees as part the 18th annual Festival which expanded from five days to 10 days. A diverse and powerful slate of more than 50 films were featured in the Festival, which wove together stories of love and laughter, war, religion and history among other compelling themes. The opening night film/reception/ceremony was held at Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts and included the spectacular Arizona Premiere screening of ROMA from Oscar-winning director, Alfonso Cuaron. Other notable Arizona Premieres were: A PRIVATE WAR, BOY ERASED, THE CHAPERONE, DIANE, EVERYBODY KNOWS, COLD WAR, MAPPLETHORPE, PETERLOO, and STUDIO 54. The Audience Award for Best Film went to BECOMING ASTRID and the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (ROMA and the premiere films were not in competition) went to: Best Film –  BECOMING ASTRID, Best Director –  Pernille Fischer Christensen / BECOMING ASTRID, Best Screenplay – WORLDLY GIRL, Best Actor in a Leading Role –  Feyyaz Duman / ZAGROS, Best Actress in a Leading Role –  Alba August / BECOMING ASTRID, Best Supporting Actor in a Leading Role – (TIE) Mark Moses / MAPPLETHORPE and Brader Musiki  / ZAGROS, Best Supporting Actress in a Leading Role – Marianne Rendon / MAPPLETHORPE, Best Documentary Film – THE DEVIL WE KNOW

2019The 2019 Festival was meant to lay the groundwork for our future Festivals. If only we had a crystal ball… In our 19th season, we exhibited 50 feature films from 15 countries. We opened with MARRIAGE STORY and closed with FORD V FERRARI. In between those box office faves were several well-known films including: CLEMENCY, HONEY BOY, KNIVES OUT, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, THE REPORT, THE SONG OF NAMES, THE TRUTH, THE TWO POPES and WAVES. The Phoenix Film Critics Society Jury Awards went to: Best Film – AFTERLIFE, Best Director – Willem Bosch / AFTERLIFE, Best Screenplay – AFTERLIFE, Best Actor In A Leading Role – Hannu-Pekka Bjorkman / THE HUMAN PART, Best Actress In A Leading Role, – Sanaa Giwa / AFTERLIFE, Best Supporting Actor – Jan-Paul Buijs / AFTERLIFE, Best Supporting Actress – Ria Kataja / THE HUMAN PART, Best Documentary Film –UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA. The Audience Awards went to: Best Film – BALLOON, Best Centerpiece Film – FORD V FERRARI, Best Domestic Film – KNIVES OUT, Best Documentary – LOVE THEM FIRST: LESSONS FROM LUCY LANEY ELEMENTARY.

2020Words starting with the letter “u,” like unprecedented and uncertain were used and probably overused in 2020. We believe that our 20th anniversary season was an entirely different words starting with “u.” Indeed, we contend that our 20th season was nothing short of unique and unusual! While it’s true that hundreds of festivals held online streaming events during the pandemic, this was our first ever streaming Festival –and the rousing response from our patrons made it an unqualified success. We featured 20 films from around the globe which played 24-hours per day over five days. The virtual attendees built their own viewing schedules and streamed 20 films from the safe and comfortable confines of their own homes. Amongst all of the highly-curated offering were the Phoenix Film Critics Society’s Jury Award selections for:  Best Film  – BOY MEETS GUN, Best Director – Joost van Hezik / BOY MEETS GUNBest Screenplay – TIE between BOY MEETS GUN and WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT, Best Actor in a Leading Role  Heikki Nousiainen / ONE LAST DEAL, Best Actress in a Leading Role – Emma Suárez / WINDOW TO THE SEA, Best Supporting Actor in a Leading RoleAkilas Karazisis / WINDOW TO THE SEA, Best Supporting Actress in a Leading Role – Elisa Thiemann/EFFIGY / POISON AND THE CITY and Best Documentary Film – ASSASSINS.  The Audience Award for Best Film went to WINDOW TO THE SEA and the Audience Award for Best Documentary went to ASSASSINS.