SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The country’s largest university-run film festival kicked off its 22nd year on Saturday.

The Savannah College of Art and Design hosted opening day of the 2019 SCAD Savannah Film Festival, the annual celebration and recognition of cinematic excellence.

Saturday’s events included screenings of documentaries like “Well Groomed,” writer and director Rebecca Stern’s look at the world of competitive dog grooming, as well as director Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” the 1700s-set story showing an evolving companionship between a bride-to-be and the woman commissioned to paint her wedding portrait. 

Fans of and newcomers to the beloved classic “Forrest Gump,” which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, were treated to a screening of the film at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts.

Lifetime Achievement Award in Composing honoree and composer of “Forrest Gump” Alan Silvestri introduced the film’s screening on Saturday at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts.

Film composer Alan Silvestri, who’s being honored at the festival with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Composing, introduced the movie to the audience. He shared a story of what happened after an audience first viewed an unfinished version of “Forrest Gump.” 

“You never know what’s going to happen there, you may think you have a great movie or not, but the audience is really going to tell you what you’ve got,” Silvestri told the crowd.

He said it was an experience he’ll never forget. 

“The film ended and you could hear a pin drop, and that’s not always a good thing,” Silvestri recalled.

“Lights came up and the entire audience stood up, and they knew that the filmmaker, [director Robert Zemeckis], was in the room.”

He said the crowd turned to face the back of the room.

“They all began to spontaneously applaud, which was an amazing launch for ‘Forrest Gump,’” Silvestri said.

Viewing the 25-year-old film on the big screen was likely a brand-new experience for some viewers, who chuckled along with every humorous moment and fell into silence for every emotional one. 

Over at Trustees Theater, a portion of Broughton Street was sectioned off for festivities as the opening day block party and “The Aeronauts” red carpet event got underway.

A portion of Broughton Street in front of Trustees Theater was blocked off during the event.

Digital Reporters Ashley Williams and Claire Going caught up with a number of red carpet guests, including “The Aeronauts” director Tom Harper, who shared advice for current SCAD students.

“I think the main thing about being a filmmaker is you’ve got to make films, so it’s just in whatever form you can, it’s not about the money, it’s not about having the perfect idea,” Harper told News 3.

“It’s as much about the process as anything else,” he said.

Local news crews lined up on the red carpet to cover the 2019 SCAD Savannah Film Festival.

“In making films, you grow and you learn from that, you meet great collaborators, you come up with great ideas and you move forward, but you’ve got to be in it to win it.”

Harper’s “The Aeronauts” seemed well-received by audience members in the packed theater, which was filled to capacity. 

Throughout the film, engaged audience members gasped, laughed and, when the film ended, applauded. 

“The Aeronauts” director Tom Harper answered audience questions during a post-screening Q&A session.

Following the 7:30 p.m. screening of  “The Aeronauts” at Trustees Theater, Harper sat down for a Q&A session, where he answered questions from the audience.

Prior to the screening, actress Danielle Macdonald, who has been featured in films including “Dumplin’” and “Bird Box,” was presented with the Rising Star Award.

“There’s so much happening this weekend, the city feels so alive and electric,” Macdonald shared on the red carpet about her first time visiting Savannah.

“I’m so excited to be here!” she said.

WSAV will be covering the SCAD Savannah Film Festival throughout the week. 

The festival runs through Nov. 2.