Philadelphia Film Festival: Julia Roberts' 'Ben is Back' to open, Teddy Pendergrass doc to close

ByDigital Producer Brock Koller WPVI logo
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Trailer: 'Ben is Back'
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Trailer: 'Ben is Back.'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The curtain is about to rise on another Philadelphia Film Festival and 6abc has the exclusive details on the big Opening Night and Closing Night screenings.

'Ben is Back' will open the 27th Philadelphia Film Festival on Thursday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Philadelphia Film Center, formerly the Prince Theater.

Director Peter Hedges is scheduled to be in attendance.

The film stars Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton.

The Philadelphia Film Society describes the film as:

"Directed with a quiet urgency by Peter Hedges, this gripping family drama stars Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges as a mother and son who must grapple with a history of addiction and broken promises on Christmas Eve. When Holly (Julia Roberts) told her son Ben (Lucas Hedges) that all she wanted for Christmas was to have him out of treatment and back home for the holidays, she never expected to find him knocking on the front door on Christmas Eve. 11 months clean, Ben assures her that he's doing great in his program and that this time will be different. Listening to her heart before her head, she wants nothing more than to believe him and welcomes Ben back home despite the protests of his teenage sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) and his stepfather, played by the stalwart Courtney B. Vance. Eventually a yuletide détente is reached and, with several rules in place and Holly's jewelry hidden away, the reunited family cautiously carries on, even as all-too-recent memories of past broken promises and relapses threaten to spoil their seasonal celebrations. Returning from a church pageant later that evening to find their house ransacked, Holly and Ben head out into the crisp, chilly night - him, ruefully determined to make things right and her, steadfast in her hope that this time, finally, she can save him. An intimate, personal take on the effects of the ongoing opioid crisis, Ben Is Back makes one family's struggle so real and immediate it's easy to forget these are actors and not your own neighbors. Roberts gives a career-best performance as a mother torn between her abiding love of her son and the realities of the disease he's fighting against, while Lucas Hedges demonstrates once again that he's one of the most gifted actors of his young generation. Together, the two make Ben Is Back a riveting story of love, forgiveness and redemption."

Here is a clip from 'Ben is Back':

A clip from the film 'Ben is Back.'

'Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don't Know Me' will be the 2018 Closing Night film. The screening will take place 7 p.m. on Friday, October 26 at the Philadelphia Film Center.

A live performance is scheduled after the movie.

A second screening will also occur that night at 7:20 p.m. at the Ritz East theater.

The documentary is directed by Olivia Lichtenstein.

The film is described as:

"Detailing the extraordinary story of Philadelphia's own Teddy Pendergrass, this moving doc examines his brilliant career, inspiring story, and unique contribution to popular music. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Teddy Pendergrass rose to fame after landing a gig with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Initially the group's drummer, Teddy's striking baritone voice and undeniable presence quickly moved him to the group's front man, responsible for such unforgettable hits as "Don't Leave Me This Way," "If You Don't Know Me By Now," "Love T.K.O," and "Close the Door." Striking out on his own, Teddy was an instant success, becoming one of the most in-demand performers in the world as well as the first male African American artist to record five consecutive platinum albums in the U.S. Poised to become the biggest R&B artist of all time, Teddy's career was threatened when he suffered a tragic accident, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down and changing his life forever. Featuring interviews with Teddy's family and friends, as well as industry legends including Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and rarely seen archival footage, Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don't Know Me is not only a tribute to the career and life of Teddy Pendergrass, but an affirmation of the power of perseverance, courage, and triumph over adversity."

Teddy Pendergrass passed away in 2010. Here is video from the Action News archives:

Teddy Pendergrass funeral. John Rawlins reports during Action News on January 23, 2010.

"2018 has proven to be an incredibly strong year for new film, and we're thrilled to bring many of the most anticipated, exciting and original films to Philadelphia first," Executive Director, J. Andrew Greenblatt said. "From our powerful, socially relevant and incredibly timely Opening Night screening of Ben is Back to the definitive look at Philadelphia music legend Teddy Pendergrass for our Closing Night selection, and the incredibly diverse line-up in-between, the films premiering in this year's Festival will be discussed and remembered for a long time to come.

The 27th Philadelphia Film Festival runs October 18 to 28.

Visit for more details leading up to and throughout the festival.


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