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Fort Myers Film Festival programming runs March 20-13 at select venues

Fort Myers Film Festival opens March 19 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
Fort Myers Film Festival opens March 19 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
Courtesy of Fort Myers Film Festival.

On March 19, the Fort Myers Film Festival returns for its fourth annual gala and fete. Whether you’re a serious indie cineaste or just mildly curious, this 5-day film frenzy affords a unique opportunity to meet ascendant filmmakers, aspiring actors and actresses and hundreds of passionately engaged film fans in a small town atmosphere that boasts temperate climes, sun-kissed palms and more historic buildings than you’ll find in a single place just about anywhere outside of London, New York or, say, Telluride or Park City.

The festival opens at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on March 19 with a red-carpet gala and swank VIP after-party, but the programming itself runs from Thursday, March 20 through Sunday, March 23 at the Alliance for the Arts and the magnificent Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in the picturesque and completely refurbished downtown Fort Myers River District.

Originally opened in 1933 as the local post office, the building that houses the Davis Art Center recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. The neoclassic revival building served as the model for the Jefferson Memorial, and stands on the most historic site in town. The historical marker outside the Art Center says that before Juan Ponce de Leon landed in “La Florida” in 1513, Calusa Indians lived on the site. In 1841, the spot was chosen for Fort Harvie, and when Fort Harvie was replaced in 1850 by Fort Myers, it became the location of the commanding officer’s quarters.

If legend is correct, Fort Myers’ first non-native daughter was born on the site, and the town’s earliest settler converted the commanding officer’s quarters into a home for him and his family in 1866. After that, the home was occupied by several of the town’s leading families, including Harvie Heitman and his wife Florida.

The site is a place with a tradition of making history, and history will be made during the course of this year’s film festival as dozens of smart, edgy independent films are screened for adventurous fans and equally engaged cineastes on the gleaming marble floors of the restored and rehabbed Davis Art Center. Film tickets cost just $6, but seating is limited. To reserve your spot, please visit www.sbdac.com or telephone 239-333-1933.

The 4th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival takes place March 19-23, 2014 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Lee County Alliance at the Arts and the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, with parties and dinners taking place in such select and magical venues as Twisted Vine Bistro, Ford’s Garage, The Firestone and Bennett’s Fresh Roast. To buy tickets, please visit www.bbmannpah.com/. Tickets for the gala are just $19, or $99 for the VIP experience, with film sessions costing just $6 throughout the rest of the festival. For more information, please visit http://www.facebook.com/events/269050286459230.