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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Curtain rises on Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo

Originally published in L'Attitudes section of the Upper Keys Reporter and Keynoter.

Curtain rises on Bogart Film Festival

Here's looking at you, Key Largo. On Thursday, May 2 cinephiles from around the world will flock to the Upper Keys for the inaugural Humphrey Bogart Film Festival.

Hosted by Stephen Humphrey Bogart, the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the four-day festival will feature a cocktail party, 38 film screenings, workshops, a memorabilia exhibit, rides on the original African Queen and a formal ball. Film critic, Leonard Maltin, will appear as a special guest.

The festival opens on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception and an outdoor screening of Key Largo at the bayfront Murray Nelson Cultural Center. Bogart and Maltin will be on hand for the opening remarks. Maltin said that he became involved with the festival because Bogart is his "all-time favorite actor."

In addition to putting Key Largo on the map as a tourist destination, the 1948 movie is the fourth and final film that Bogie and Bacall made together, showcasing their legendary on- and off-screen chemistry.

"Key Largo has a strong storyline and a great cast, working under the direction of John Huston," said Maltin. "It deals with such timeless subjects as power, ambition, and integrity."

The festival theme is film noir, a genre in which Bogart excelled during Hollywood's classic noir period of the 40s and 50s. Screenings will include 10 Bogart films and 10 other iconic films within the genre. Additional venues include Tavernier Cinema 5, Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo Bay Marriot Beach Resort, Hilton Key Largo Resort and Founders Park.

"We have a great slate of movies," said Bogart. "My father worked for Warner Brothers for a long time, so they've given us access to a lot of films."

On Friday night, fans can choose between two outdoor double features. Event coordinator Suzanne Holmquist said that the Bogart Family Estate pushed for the outdoor screenings in order to highlight the tropical beauty that makes Key Largo a unique destination.

At 8:15 p.m. "The Maltese Falcon," Bogart's original hardboiled detective Sam Spade, and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," Bogart as a down-on-his luck prospector in Mexico, will be shown at Founders Park. Maltin will introduce the films.

At 9 p.m. "The African Queen," Bogart's only Oscar-winning role as steamboat captain Charlie Allnutt, and "Casablanca," the actor's first real romantic lead as Rick Blaine, will screen at the Murray Nelson Center. Bogart will provide the introduction.

Sue Woltanski of Tavernier said that she plans on making the screenings a family affair. "I'm hoping to introduce my kids to these classic films," she said. "Living in the Keys, I feel they should see 'African Queen' and 'Key Largo.' Black-and-white films are so much better on the big screen. I don't think watching the videos at home will have quite the same impact."

Saturday, May 4 is packed with special events in addition to movie screenings and two more outdoor double features. At 10 a.m. inside the Murray Nelson Center, critically-acclaimed documentary film director, Billy Corben, will discuss his cult classics like "Cocaine Cowboys," as well his features for ESPN, The U and Broke.

"Billy Corben is a dynamic character, and he'll share behind the scenes information and clips that haven't been seen yet from his projects," Holmquist said.

At 12:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, Bogart and Maltin will discuss Bogie's life and career. They will also share the stories behind memorabilia items on exhibit such as letters, signed contracts, movie posters and awards.

At the Holiday Inn docks, people will be able to book trips on the recently restored African Queen, the boat featured in the namesake movie. Stephen Bogart recently took his first voyage.

"It was fun to sit in the same spot as my father and Katharine Hepburn," he said. "It's something that everyone can do that was really part of cinema history."

At 6 p.m. the Casablanca-themed Bogart Ball at the Hilton Key Largo Resort will include a red carpet cocktail reception in a casino setting, a Moroccan-themed dinner and dancing. Maltin will give a presentation on the actor's trademark persona - the cynic with a noble side.

"Bogart played anti-heroes so well-and that kind of character never goes out of style," Maltin said. "In his best roles he projected a kind of honesty that's very appealing."

The festival was made possible by a joint effort between the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and the Bogart Family Estate, and according to Craig Cope, chamber president, they have already sold tickets in 27 different states and six foreign countries.

Georgia Lagounaris from Australia has been a passionate Bogie fan for over 42 years, and she decided to make the long journey to Key Largo when she saw the festival details on Facebook. "I knew this would be like a dream come true," she said. "To be with other die-hard Bogart fans and Stephen Bogart was too good an opportunity to miss, and I understand that the Florida Keys are incredibly beautiful. I'm looking forward to the Bogart Ball the most, but whenever I think about just being there at any of the events, my excitement level goes straight through the roof."

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