To describe the inaugural iteration of the Fairhope Film Festival as “The Best of the Best,” is no mere PR tagline — it becomes evident as you drool over the amazing lineup of narrative, documentary and short films, that it is absolutely accurate. With a selection process unique to this event, organizers culled films from the best, most recent festival winners, so any film you go see has already been voted the best in some category at a major film festival.

Promising “40 Fantastic Films. 4 Walkable Venues. 4 Fall Days,” the festival appeals on so many levels, not the least of which is indeed its walkability throughout our best weather season. And, as festival co-founder and self-avowed football fan, Phillip Norris points out, the festival’s downtown location and flexible ticket structure means that one could duck into a bar to catch a game, then hop back into the swing of the festival without missing a beat. Every element is aligned to ensure that there is something for everyone.

It’s a celebration of diverse, quality films enjoyed throughout everyone’s favorite little arts community, venues including the Fairhope Public Library, the Faulkner State Fairhope Campus, a lovely downtown facility called “The Venue,” and of course the University of South Alabama Baldwin County Performance Center on St. James Avenue, which is really where it all began.

That picturesque former church was the home of the Fairhope Film Series for almost 15 years, and for founders Mary Riser, Phillip Norris and John Gautier this new event is the next step, as well as the fruition of a dream more than a decade in the making. Even with years of experience running the film series, organizers brought in consultants from the Crested Butte and Telluride film festivals before embarking on such an ambitious project.

The consultants visited Fairhope in December 2012 and were thrilled with what they saw in both the city and the area. Citing the beautiful, walkable venues, extraordinary accommodations, transportation, shopping, dining and nightlife, and nearby natural and historic sites, the consultants deemed Fairhope an ideal location for a great film festival experience.

“The outpouring of support has been tremendous,” said Fairhope Film Festival Executive Director Mary Riser. “It is clear that our local, regional and state communities recognize the value of the Festival, not only for what it adds to the arts and cultural community, but also for its positive economic impact.”

The Fairhope Film Festival is expected to draw thousands of filmgoers, not only from the Bay area, but regionally. A preliminary economic impact analysis by Don Epley with the University of South Alabama’s Center for Real Estate and Economic Development anticipates an economic impact on the Baldwin County economy alone of between $1.2-1.75 million in the Festival’s inaugural year.

Of course, film is what this is all about, and festival goers will see work from Gulf Shores to Denmark to France to Argentina, from breakthrough first-time filmmakers to lauded luminaries like actress Sarah Polley (“Stories We Tell”) and skateboard legend Stacey Perralta (“Bones Brigade.”)

There are movies you’ve wanted to see, like “The Sapphires,” “The Spectacular Now” and “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” the documentary about back-up singers. And there are movies you never knew you wanted to see until you read the description, at which point they instantly become must-sees, such as “Her Master’s Voice,” a “ventriloquial docu-mocumentary requiem” by puppeteer Nina Conti, or maybe “Bury the Hatchet,” an amazing insiders’ look at the Indian chiefs of New Orleans Mardi Gras, or you might decide you need to see the talented Elle Fanning in a dysfunctional family drama entitled “Ginger & Rosa.”

There are also Short Film selections, divided into four major categories: Animated, Drama/Narrative, Documentary, and Alabama Shorts. All films in each category will be screened together.

With your appetite whetted, head to www.fairhopefilmfestival.org for detailed descriptions and trailers of all 40 films, as well as a printable schedule. Online ticket sales are currently underway at the site. Film screening tickets are available in “packs”: $55 for a 6-pack pass, and $80 for a 10-pack pass. Those prices will last through Nov. 6, after which the festival will close sales through the website.  

From Nov. 7 onward, all ticket sales will be exclusively through the event box office on site, located in the Welcome Center in downtown Fairhope at 20 N. Section Street. Box office hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday. This is also where online tickets are picked up. You can direct all ticket and pass related inquiries to tickets@fairhopefilmfestival.org or call 205-253-3384.

In addition to film screenings, there are festival events, costing $30 per person per event. The Red Carpet Party is a chance to mingle with movie goers and movie people. They will be serving “food and drinks.” Two beverage tickets come with each party ticket. Casual attire. Friday night 7:30-9:30 at the Eastern Shore Art Center, 401 Oak St., Fairhope.

The Awards Night Party is a reception and awards ceremony with dessert, champagne and awards. There will be judged awards announced at 8:30 and a special presentation at 9 p.m. Casual attire. Saturday night 7:30-9:30 at Eastern Shore Art Center, 401 Oak St., Fairhope. The Film Festival is supported in part by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Film Office as well as a host of other sponsors.

DOCUMENTARIES

America’s Amazon
Bayou Maharajah
Bones Brigade
Contradictions of Fair Hope
Eye on the Sixties
Go Grandriders
Good Ol’ Freda
Her Master’s Voice- ventriloquism
Hollywood Hair
Love & Other Anxieties
Our Nixon
Persistence of Vision- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Remote Area Medical- pop up healthcare
Stories We Tell-
The World Before Her
Twenty Feet From Stardom

NARRATIVES

7 Boxes
A Hijacking
A Royal Affair
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Clandestine Childhood
Clutter
Ginger & Rosa
In the House
Last I Heard
Le Week End
Prairie Love
Short Term 12
Shun Li & The Poet
Starbuck
Swim Little Fish Swim
Teddy Bear
The Angels’ Share
The Jewish Cardinal
The Sapphires
The Spectacular Now
War Witch