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Benton Park Film Festival

Courtesy Benton Park Film Festival
A scene from Skippers.

St. Louis has a strong tradition of locally made films, thanks to the St. Louis Filmmakers Festival and the St. Louis International Film Fest, not to mention the Hollywood productions that have shot here, from White Palace to Escape from New York. But there's always room on the calendar for another film festival — Franki Cambeletta just didn't expect he'd be involved in the newest entry.

The director of the new Benton Park Film Fest credits Dick Pointer, the owner of Lemp Mansion and Lamp Grand Hall, for both the idea and the venue. It wasn't a completely out-of-the-blue suggestion. Not only is Pointer a filmmaker, but Cambeletta is one himself (with his partners John Bolduan and Jeremy King, he owns the production company Shift Films, with Ryan Foizey as a creative partner). When Pointer suggested it, Cambeletta quickly agreed, and a new festival was born.

"I wanted to do something more boutique. We're not the size of SLIFF," Cambeletta points out. "We're a different outlet for local, national and international filmmakers, and we're doing it locally."

"We had 936 submissions from more than sixteen countries," raves Cambeletta. "And that was in the first three days. We accepted 103 of those, and they'll screen on both days of the fest."

Four screening rooms will be organized thematically. Hall one is for features and shorts, hall two screens the feature documentaries and student documentaries (on Saturday only). Hall three is the founders hall, screening films by Cambeletta and Pointer, and experimental films, musical shorts and animation entries will be in hall four. Food and drink will be sold on site as well, so you can maximize your film watching.

"We wanted the Benton Park Film Fest to be approachable for beginning and intermediate filmmakers," promises Cambeletta. "If you're an actor, or a musician or a writer or a would-be filmmaker, come meet some people and make some connections."

The Benton Park Film Festival takes place from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday (March 29 and 30) at the Lemp Grand Hall (1817 Cherokee Street; www.bpfilmfest.org). Tickets are $25 and are good for both days and all films.

— Paul Friswold

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