Orlando Film Festival showing more than 250 films downtown

An annual celebration of cinema returns to downtown Orlando for its 18th year, drawing filmmakers from around the country and world for a week of festivities.

The Orlando Film Festival is showing a total of 257 feature-length films, documentaries and shorts at the CMX Cinemas Plaza Café 12 in downtown Orlando. With single-day and 7-day passes available, Central Floridians can explore the range of cinematic offerings Oct. 26-Nov. 2.

“Orlando Film Festival is a film festival for filmmakers by filmmakers. Every single person on my staff is a filmmaker,” said Daniel Springen, a 20-year veteran of the film industry and the festival’s executive director who personally watches every film submitted.

The opening night film, “Art Thief,” premieres at 8 p.m. Oct. 26 and is a fictionalized account of the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Other feature-length films tell stories centered on action, grief, identity, mental health and more.

The festival also shows a swath of documentary films on topics from cannabis cultivation, African-American music, picky eaters and how the military plays a role in Hollywood. “Downwind” is a feature-length documentary examining how nuclear testing in Nevada impacted Native American communities.

This year’s event draws films from around the world, including Japan, China, Australia, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Macedonia and Costa Rica.

Throughout the weeklong festival, an estimated 12,000 attendees will see screenings of films that are all vying for 40 different awards.

“We’ll give out awards for everything if it’s deserving,” Springen said. “We’re going to give our filmmakers in the festival the best advantage they can when they leave the festival.”

The films chosen for best feature, best short and best screenplay all receive deals with Valencia College for equipment and labor to produce a movie.

Springen said though film festivals might seem like they’re for a certain demographic, they are accessible to everyone.

“Film festivals are so important to the culture of an area. I think there’s this misconception that you have to be a film snob to go to a film festival,” he said. “We show good movies, we laugh a lot, we hang out and make friends. There’s nothing stuffy about what we do here.”

If you go

The 18th Orlando Film Festival is Oct. 26-Nov. 2 at 155 S. Orange Ave. in Orlando. A one-day pass costs $20, and a seven-day pass costs $100. VIP passes are also available. For more information and a full schedule, visit offvirtual.com.

Find me @PConnPie on Instagram or send me an email: pconnolly@orlandosentinel.com.