I'm in Savannah, Georgia to spend a week as a guest blogger for the Savannah Film Festival, an eight-day fest hosted in the historic Southern town by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). [Read my entries in the "Voices from the Fest" section on the festival website.] As the town prepares to kick off the 12th annual festivities with the Iraq film, or rather post-Iraq film, The Messenger, I'm wondering how SFF's growing success might reflect or even influence the rise of film festivals that similarly fall somewhere in between the biggies (Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Venice) and the little guys.

For starters, a brief look at SFF's line-up and star-studded guest list. The festival begins today, October 31, with The Messenger, a Sundance entry that has Oscar possibilities but more likely will make a run at the Indie Spirit Awards. Stars Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster will be in attendance. (I will be attempting to run into them at the local Starbucks or wherever it is that Hollywood actors hang out when they visit other cities.) Another Oscar hopeful, the Emily Blunt-starring period biopic The Young Victoria, is screening the following day.

And then there are the almost certain Oscar pictures: George Clooney in The Men Who Stare At Goats; Lone Scherfig's An Education; Michael Haneke's Cannes winner The White Ribbon; Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, with star Jeremy Renner in attendance; and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which will bring both director Lee Daniels and his star Gabourey Sidibe to town.

Read on for more about this year's Savannah Film Festival.