Savannah fest fun SAVANNAH, Ga. If you want to know what this city is like, a good place to start might be the opening shot of Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis' iconic 1994 film that stars Tom Hanks as a slow witted, pure hearted innocent who lives through (and stands witness to) some signal events in American history. That opening sequence consists of an elaborately choreographed crane shot in which the camera pans and tracks the halting descent of a white feather from the empty overcast skies above this city until about two minutes and 20 seconds later it touches down to lean against the grimy Nike trainer of the title character (Hanks in a tan poplin suit and a raw haircut). It's an exquisite little piece of filmmaking, even 20 years later. (You've likely seen it before, but if you need to refresh your memory you can easily find the clip on YouTube.) These days we might be a little quicker to realize that it's a composite shot; the dancing feather was filmed in front of a blue screen, buffeted by an unseen fan and manipulated by a wrangler who held onto a monofilament fishing line that had been attached to it. But for our purposes, pay no attention to the feather but look at the background, the spire attached to the Greek Revival church, the modest buildings, the squared off nature of the streets caught in the wide shot beyond. Forrest is sitting in Chippewa Square in the heart of the downtown historic district although it doesn't appear in the shot, the Savannah Theater, the oldest continually running theater in the United States, is on Forrest's left. Savannah feels like a run on small town mainly because of the way it was laid out by Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733. It is America's first planned city, and Oglethorpe who intended it to be the capital of the colony of Georgia designed it as a series of contiguous neighborhoods centered around squares like Chippewa, each surrounded by four residential blocks and four "trust" (commercial or government) blocks. Oglethorpe started with four squares. By the mid 19th century, 24 squares stood in downtown Savannah, 22 of which remain today. In large part because of the squares and the efforts of those concerned with historic preservation Savannah is a city where people actually live downtown. Add in the impact of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which has no centralized campus but occupies more than 60 buildings throughout the downtown area, and a burgeoning tourist trade and you get a hip, vibrant little city Williamsburg draped in Spanish moss. While populationwise, Savannah is about 27 percent smaller than Little Rock (142,772 to 197,357), downtown Savannah at least during the city's annual film festival feels like a major urban center. And while the Savannah Film Festival which is presented by SCAD is in its programming less adventurous than either the Little Rock Film Festival or the re invigorated Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, it is a well run and enjoyable experience that's more fan centered than some festivals. You're far more likely to catch a screening of something like Big Hero 6 than Jean Luc Godard's innovative 3 D debut Goodbye to Language. Cinephiles have the Film Society of Lincoln Center; this is a democratic festival. I find it refreshing that you don't see too many media or industry types at the Savannah Film Festival; the screenings are generally full of regular moviegoers and SCAD students. And while this festival might seem a little too interested in attracting red carpet celebrity attendees (Matt Bomer, Asa Butterfield, Ashleigh Tipton and Gena Rowlands received awards at this year's festival; Rene Zellweger was also scheduled to appear to accept an award but canceled the week before the festival began for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with Internet speculation about her altered appearance), it's also refreshingly free of the inside baseball cynicism one often encounters on the periphery of a film festival. Savannah is a place where no one makes snarky remarks about the cast of Magic Mike 2 when it's announced that they're in attendance at the Foxcatcher screening; it's a place where you can feel genuine disappointment in the air when the SeannWilliam Scott talk back after the screening of Courtney Cox's directorial debut Just Before I Go (which stars Scott as a suicidal Everyman) is canceled. The Savannah Film Festival is an earnest, sweet event that mostly occurs in two large theaters steps away from each other (they run a trolley to the other venue, the SCAD Museum of Art, a 15 minute walk away). It's ideal for first time festivalgoers; there's nothing intimidating about Savannah's negotiability (there's crime, but common sense should keep you safe) or prices. (Rooms at the Marshall House, which is one of nike shoes zumiez the city's most upscale hotels and is about a block from the main venues, can be had for around $190 nike shoes 1995 a night, maybe less.) It also has at least a couple of big deal screenings the best film I saw at this year's festival was (sorry, Foxcatcher) Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman, a revisionist Western that stars an unglamorous Hilary Swank as a Nebraska territory spinster who volunteers to drive a trio of mentally damaged women back east. While I'll review the film when it opens, it's notable for Rodrigo Prieto's widescreen cinematography (which often seems to evoke the paintings of Andrew Wyeth) and Arkansas native Merideth Boswell's stunning production design. Some of you know I was born in a building just off one of these squares; my parents' first date was to see The Ten Commandments in the Savannah Theater (disappointingly not a festival venue) a few steps from where Forrest Gump opened that box of chocolates but even if I didn't have a personal connection nike outlet estero to this city, I think I'd come back. This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Inc. Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. 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