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Film Fest is an Eckhart family reunion

It's not every day that the average moviegoer has the opportunity to talk with celebrities about their movies, or to take pictures with them by the red carpet.

But last Friday, indie film enthusiasts gathered outside the Stuart Street Playhouse in the theater district for the red carpet international premiere of "To Be Friends," an independent film about the delicate balance between friendship and intimacy, produced by "The Dark Knight" and "Thank You For Smoking" actor Aaron Eckhart. The film was directed by Eckhart's little brother.

The premiere of "To Be Friends" opened the 26th annual Boston Film Festival, a weeklong series of short film and movie screenings that ends on Thursday.

The dozen fans that lined up along the red carpet outside the venue had a chance to meet the cast and crew of the film, including lead actor Todd Stashwick, lead actress Joelle Carter and the Eckhart brothers. The cast members greeted both fans and reporters, and accepted pictures from those who asked.

"We're honored to be here to open the festival," Stashwick said.

"I can't wait to see the movie," said indie film lover Scott Nalibow, who drove from East Providence, R.I. to attend. "I don't really care who's in the movie, as long as it's good. I need good dialogue and good plot."

Around 150 people filled the theater for the movie premiere.

Eckhart's parents, who helped with the writing of the script, attended the premiere as well, and cheered their son on as the movie opened.

"To me, this [film] is a conversation between man and woman. I'm not saying it's the only conversation that can take place, but it's a conversation," Jim Eckhart said.

Many in the audience gave a standing ovation as the premiere came to a close, and during the question and answer session after the movie, audience members particularly applauded director Jim Eckhart for his deep dialogue and cinematography.

"["To Be Friends'] was born of laying too many hours in the fetal position, not being able to get out of bed on a particular day... and saying life is about making a choice, either I make a stand now or I don't, [to] pull something out of yourself and put it in a public domain and see what happens," Jim Eckhart said.

Many audience members were also excited to be in the company of Aaron Eckhart, who famously played Harvey Dent in 2008's "The Dark Knight."

When asked about what input he gave to the make the film the way it is, Aaron Eckhart replied that he didn't give any.

"My contribution was to just write a check," he said. "This was all Jim, and I think that makes it all the better."

Jim Eckhart said he couldn't have been more pleased with the end result.

"This was an independent film in every sense of the word," he said.

Many in the audience agreed, and said it was this indie spirit present throughout the screenings that drove them to come to the festival.

"Blockbusters? No thanks," Nalibow said.

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