Life Screenings International Film Festival: Depicting a Better World

By Leslie C. Halpern

With so many annual film festivals around the world, it’s easy for them to blend together – apart from definitive fests such as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, and our own Florida Film Festival. That’s why Life Screenings International Film Festival is so refreshing. Focusing primarily on shorts that are 15 minutes are less, this 90-minute experience presents between four and seven films each third Sunday of the month at the Winter Park Public Library in Winter Park, Florida.

This truly is a unique festival for three reasons:

  • Life Screenings International Film Festival is a monthly event, rather than an annual gathering. Featured local filmmakers are often in attendance to talk about their work and international filmmakers participate in question-and-answer sessions and discussions by Skype following the screening of their films.
  • Each month’s festival is free and open to the public, although advanced tickets must be reserved to ensure seating. Other festivals typically charge for screenings other than a few selected freebie films.
  • These film shorts range in style, subject, and length, but all depict “a world we want to live in,” according to host, curator, and founder, Banks Helfrich. This distinctive feature is the antithesis of the dark, dreary, disturbing fare that most edgy festival programming directors seek for their events.

A World We Want to Live In

Helfrich, a Central Florida-based actor and independent filmmaker currently working on his 10th feature film, started the festival in February 2016 after first experimenting with Living Room Screenings, which (as the name implies) presented short films in a home setting to a handful of people. Although it began locally, now only about ten percent of the submissions are from Florida filmmakers as the festival has gained international exposure.

As interest grew, so did the festival. Now based in the Winter Park Public Library, the event has changed rooms over the years to accommodate growth, and technical director Jesse James was brought on to keep things running smoothly. Attendees are not necessarily typical movie goers. “These are people who like to think, to question, to learn and to connect,” Helfrich says.

Banks Helfrich

He usually receives about 19 submissions each month and chooses about six of them to screen. No good submission gets ignored, however, although it might be saved for future use. Any submitted film that impresses him with its high quality filmmaking and positive message will get screened at some point. “This is not a competition,” he says. “I will take them all if I like them all. It’s dependent on how they move me.”

So what exactly is a world Helfrich wants to live in? “I want a world where I’m inspired all the time and where people are kind to each other. It’s the world of a child filled with beauty and wonder.”

To that end, he’s working on another new experimental show at the same library this fall. On October 10th, he’s planning “No Assumptions,” a live interactive event in the round where people with opposite views discuss their ideas in front of an audience. “Whenever they disagree and conflict arises, music will begin to play, and they must dance away the tension,” he says. “I’m hoping that art wins.”

Life Screenings Film Submission Process

Leslie C. Halpern is the author of Scantily Clad Truths: Essays on Life with Clothes (and without) and 200 Love Lessons from the Movies.

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