When the Movieville International Film Festival began three years ago, there was no talk about moving it to Bradenton.
"One of the challenges in this area is that if we used the conventional movie houses, it split up the festival," said Alan Bailey, the founder and executive artistic director of the festival. "We'd have the films on Cortez, for example, and other events downtown, instead of having everything in one area."
Bailey said the opening of the Manatee Performing Arts Center helped make moving to Bradenton a logical decision.
"The Manatee Performing Arts Center is a magnificent building," he said. "We're thrilled that they opened their doors to us."
And because the festival can screen its films at the center, parties and other events can be held within a few blocks.
The move is just one of the big changes in this year's festival.
The official name has changed to the Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival. That's to indicate not just the location change, but a move toward inclusion of other art forms.
"My image was always to expand the film festival to include other kinds of art," Bailey said. "We had some music last year, but not much."
This year's festival kicked off last week with a concert that included Rick Derringer and country signer George Wallace Jr. There's also a closing gala at the DaVinci Machines Exhibition at the Bradenton Auditorium.
That's about it for non-film arts for this year, but Bailey said more variety of arts is in store starting next year.
"Next year, we'll continue to expand," he said. "We'll have a week of music, dance and live theater, and then a week of films."
But films -- and independent films in particular -- are still the focus of the festival. Part of the Movieville concept, Bailey said, is to enhance the independent film culture in the Bradenton/Sarasota area by bringing in films and filmmakers, and helping local film students make industry connections.
The festival hosts four days packed with films, mostly at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, starting today.
"We have about 40 films this year," Bailey said. "That's not a lot, but it's enough."
Some of the filmmakers will be on hand, and some are well-known in the independent film world, Bailey said.
The biggest mainstream star who is scheduled to attend is Jon Lovitz, who stars in "Coffee Shop," which screens a 2 p.m. Sunday.
The BAMFF Facebook page and some media outlets have said that Lovitz will definitely be there. Bailey said this week that he's "hopeful" Lovitz will be in Bradenton for the screening, but that he's not sure he will.
This year, almost all the films are screening during the daytime, because Manatee Players already had productions planned for both the theaters in performing arts center in the evenings. For next year, Movieville already has two weeks in June reserved for evening events and screenings.
Among the films that Bailey said he's most excited about this year are "God' Ears" and "Mother of George."
"God's Ears," the first film of the festival (noon today) is a film that centers around and autistic boxer. Playwright David Mamet called it a "masterpiece of fimmaking."
"Mother of George" follows at 2 p.m. today. It's won awards at Sundance and several other prestigious festivals.
The only two evening films are in the Bishop Planetarium at the South Florida Museum. "Belief" and "Heart of the Shore" are screening there tonight, with live entertainment and a party following.
People who can't make it to the film screenings can still enjoy the inaugural year of the Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival. BAMFF on Main Street Live! is set for Friday on Old Main Street, with live entertainment from local acts. Saturday brings a BAMFF party at Pier 22. The Old Main Street event is free; the Pier 22 party is $25.
Details: Various times through May 18, Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton, and other locations in downtown Bradenton. Tickets: Film screenings $15 a day for adults, 410 a day for students; other events various prices. Information: 941-749-1111, movievillefilmfestival.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow