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"Best films ever" at Phoenix Film Festival 2023

The Phoenix Film Festival came to Scottsdale last week, marking the 23rd anniversary of the movie celebration.

Jason Carney has been the Festival’s Executive Director since 2005, but he said this year felt different.

“I'm just so excited … to have such a great batch of films coming in,” Carney said in an interview. “I think we're pretty close to having our best films ever.”

Over 100 shorts and features were screened at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 location across the 11-day event.

The Festival aims to highlight communities on the big screen, Carney said. Among those screened were films highlighting the Native American, Asian American, African American, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ communities.

There were also categories for women, Iranian women, horror, sci-fi, and documentaries.

Carney said this year almost every category had its highest number of films since 2019.

“The audience just ate them up,” Carney said. “They just loved all the films and the filmmakers loved each other's films. It’s just a great feeling to accomplish that.”

The Arizona Shorts are a fan favorite. These pieces are directed by Arizonans and filmed in-state. This year’s Shorts featured 18 films, the most ever for the category.

That points to a growing culture of film in Arizona, Carney said.

“I think it's just creating more awareness in the community,” Carney said. “We just want to keep giving these filmmakers an opportunity to keep getting bigger and better lineups.”

Every night the Festival screened a “Centerpiece” feature. Among the big names shown through these films were Judy Blume, Stephen Curry, Molly Ringwald, Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Anna Camp, and Michael J. Fox.

Every Centerpiece sold out.

Carney chuckled as he cited the popularity of the Festival. “We love how many sold out screenings we have,” Carney said. “It's a lot of films.”

A full list of films can be found on the Festival website:

Now in his 18th year with the Festival, Carney said there’s no sign of slowing down for him or the annual movie celebration.

“It's always moving forward,” Carney said. “I want to go to work and ask, ‘what's next?'"

What’s next may be intimidating; It’s no easy task to organize a schedule of hundreds of films and nightly events. But Carney said he isn’t one to back away from the challenge.

“Now we're back to square one, and we're going to start from scratch and do it all over again,” Carney said. “But that's part of the challenge.”

Carney said he has passion driven from being able to help filmmakers and actors get their name on the big screen.

“It's such a big deal for the local filmmakers,” Carney said. “People that come out just love seeing new films, and they are hungry for the great stories these filmmakers deliver with an independent film.

“That's the best part about this; Great stories made by great people.”

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