The world-class Fairhope Film Festival, one of the area’s most wonderful fall events, starts Thursday, Nov. 12. The Alabama premier of the electrifying “What Lola Wants,” a sexy thriller worthy of David Lynch but set in Alabama, kicks off four days of incredibly eclectic narrative and documentary film selections.

The only thing these varied films have in common is this: They are the best of the best.  All of the selected films have been winners or finalists at national or international film festivals in the past year. Four screening venues within walking distance of one another will transform charming Fairhope into a veritable cinema village with panels, parties and more than 40 award-winning films.

At the Faulkner State College Centennial Hall, the USA Baldwin County Performance Center, the Fairhope Public Library and the Lyon’s Share Gallery, films will be shown throughout the four-day period. Tickets are sold individually and in eight- and four- packs.

(Photos/ “What Lola Wants” is the story of a teenage runaway on a mysterious journey to Mobile.

(Photos/ “What Lola Wants” is the story of a teenage runaway on a mysterious journey to Mobile.

“What Lola Wants” features enough excitement and romance for the most discerning of film fans: the sexy teenage daughter of a famous couple goes on the run and draws a handsome young pickpocket into her plan to escape to Mobile, Alabama.

The impressive cinematography brings a sun-drenched, dreamlike quality that captures the girl’s mental state, and action sequences are world-class stuff. The lead actors are riveting. The filmmaker will be here for a Q&A after the screening at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Faulkner venue.

Also set close to home, “Counting for Thunder” is inspired by the three years when Phillip Irwin Cooper, unlucky in work, money and love, returned home to the Alabama Gulf Coast when his relationship with Caroline, a UCLA college professor, hit the skids — at the same time his mother received a dire medical diagnosis. The filmmaker will also be present for this screening, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the Faulkner venue.

I don’t think a single news outlet has failed to praise the Amy Winehouse documentary, “Amy,” and we finally get a chance to see it Friday at 6 p.m. at the USA venue. Some of my favorite music documentaries have been about musicians I didn’t know much about, so fans and non-fans should be in for an amazing experience with this film, in which only Winehouse is shown throughout.

French films “Gemma Bovary,” which plays with the classic story when two contemporary people move to the village where Madame Bovary is set, and “Three Hearts,” a love triangle boasting Catherine Deneuve and Charlotte Gainsbourg in its cast, are just two films you can’t see on the big screen anywhere else. Indian, Thai and German films are represented by “Margarita with a Straw,” “How to Win at Checkers Every Time” and “Phoenix,” respectively.

A documentary of regional interest, “61 Bullets” explores the controversy around the assassination of Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long. “County Fair” is an intimate story of rural youth and the 4-H Club fair. “Handmade with Love in France” is about the French artisans who work in the haute couture ateliers of Chanel and Dior. Explore the story of sake in the Japanese documentary “Birth of Sake.”

These are just a few of the films to choose from over this four-day festival. At just $40 for a four-pack of tickets, you will pay less than you would at a big movie theater, and get to see an amazing film you can only watch here. Visit to pore over the full schedule and try to narrow down your favorites. You can buy tickets on the festival web site or in person at the festival box office, 20 N. Section St. in Fairhope. If you have questions, call 251-990-7957 or 251-929-4626.

And lest we forget, there is an outdoor screening and opening night party ($35) on Thursday night. On Saturday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a red-carpet reception ($35) with heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer followed by a ceremony to announce winners of the jury and audience favorite awards. The party will be held at the Eastern Shore Arts Center, 401 Oak St. in Fairhope; the awards ceremony begins at 9 p.m. If you’re in a rut, you use this opportunity to throw together a seriously classy date weekend. You’re welcome.