Phoenix Film Festival Returns with More Than 250 Documentaries, Dramas and Fantasy Films

M.V. MoorheadMarch 23, 2023
Share This
Still from ‘Little Richard: I Am Everything,’ premiering on March 24

When it comes to this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, slated from March 23 to April 2, executive director Jason Carney has an opinion: “I think from top to bottom, this is the best we’ve had. It’s on the level of any film festival out there.”

Then he makes a qualification. “Except for South by Southwest [in Austin]; we’re not trying to compete with that. But any regional film festival.”

No argument here. The schedule for this year’s edition, held as usual entirely at Harkins Scottsdale 101 (with a few parties at Duelies Bar & Grill across the parking lot), is as strong as I can remember in the annual fest’s more than two-decade history. The program is full of movies I would actually like to see.

For Carney, this bounty includes a fine selection of nonfiction films.

“The documentaries!” he crows. “We’ve got so many great documentaries.” He rattles off the subjects of these portraits: “Michael J. Fox, Judy Blume, Steph Curry, Yogi Berra! Great humans. And how about Little Richard?”

The ’50s-era rock titan’s life is indeed chronicled in Little Richard: I Am Everything, playing on Friday, March 24.  “He was pulling off being flamboyant back when that wasn’t a good thing,” Carney observes. “Being black and flamboyant.”

Not that there is any shortage of fiction films this year. When asked what his favorite movie of the fest is, Carney cites the opening night selection, Ray Romano’s feature directorial debut Somewhere in Queens, costarring Laurie Metcalf.

“Romano is just a great natural actor, and he directed it, too,” Carney says. “It’s a nice movie, and I mean that in a great way. It’s a great movie for parents, for sure.”

At the other end of the schedule, the festival’s closing night selection on Sunday, April 2 is a bona fide big studio Hollywood premiere: Renfield, from Universal, starring Nicolas Cage as Dracula and Nicholas Hoult in the title role as the Count’s deranged servant, front and center at last.

“It’s our big closing night movie,” Carney enthuses. “It’s crazy! Nicolas Cage playing a vampire!”

In between, along with more than 250 films, are special events like a “Ukraine Awareness Day,” an evening with Oscar-winning documentarian Ben Proudfoot, a Kids’ Day, an intriguing program called “The Art of the Trailer,” various parties and more. For tickets and details call 480-513-3195 or go to

And as in past years, the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival will take place on the same dates, in the same venue. Go to for details. Appropriately enough, it shares Renfield with PFF as its closing night feature.


For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.