Written by: FFT Webmaster | June 20th, 2011
While it may seem counter-intuitive, Los Angeles is a notoriously difficult town to generate excitement for films. As a company town that lives, breathes and eats cinema, it has been, over the decades, rather indifferent to its own local film festivals. While L.A. professionals certainly love to travel to festivals abroad or to such exotic locals as Park City, Miami, Austin or New York, events taking place in the city of Angels has often been met with a shrug and a disinterested look. However, the Los Angeles Film Festival, which is produced by the nonprofit group Film Independent, has seem to have come up with a winning formula that has made it an object of curiosity and interest in a blasé town.
With its particular fondness for American indies and challenging international titles, the LAFF has made its mark in recent years as a bellweather for interesting trends and a showcase for new talents. The Oscar-nominated THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT began its long journey to the Kodak Theater at last year’s event. From June 16 to 26, the Los Angeles Film Festival is showcasing more than 200 films, music videos and shorts from over 30 countries (including 27 world, North American and U.S. premieres). Organizers successfully moved the festival from its longtime home in Westwood to downtown Los Angeles last year, and this year the majority of screenings will again be held at L.A. Live.
Movie lovers in Los Angeles who were unable to make the trek to Utah in January for the Sundance Film Festival, have an opportunity in the next week to view a good number of films that first made their start in Park City. Among the Sundance titles that are getting a work out in Los Angeles are Mike Cahill’s upcoming Fox Searchlight release ANOTHER EARTH; actress-turned-director Vera Farmiga’s religious drama HIGHER GROUND; PAGE ONE, a documentary about the behind the scenes drama of newsmaking at the New York Times; TERRI, a quirky coming of age drama starring John C. Reilly; TYRANNOSAUR, a dark British indie starring Paddy Considine; and THE FUTURE, the sophomore effort of artist/director/actress Miranda July.
As one would imagine, a good number of the films are by local filmmakers and use the distinctive Los Angeles cityscape as a backdrop. Films with an L.A. pedigree include CRIME AFTER CRIME, which raises questions about District Attorney Steve Cooley’s role in the appeal of a 1982 murder case; LEAVE IT ON THE FLOOR, an African American musical; LIFE HAPPENS, about roommates in the trendy Silver Lake district; MAMITAS, a coming-of-age story shot against L.A.’s downtown skyline; and HOW TO CHEAT, a comedic look at an L.A. couple’s struggle to get pregnant. The Festival’s International Spotlight this year is focused on four films from Cuba.
The heart of the Festival is the Narrative Competition, which includes films from Argentina, Germany, Peru, Canada, Austria, Iran and the United States, many making their US Premieres at the event. The Documentary Competition features a number of World Premieres including ONCE I WAS A CHAMPION (Gerard Roxburgh), PARAISO FOR SALE (Anayansi Prado), SALAAM DUNK (David Fine), UNFINISHED SPACES (Alysa Nahimas and Ben Murray), UNRAVELED (Marc H. Simon) and WISH ME AWAY (Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf). The 18-film International Showcase features films from Spain/Paraguay, United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, Ghana, Brazil, Thailand, Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Chile and The Netherlands.
With so many film companies and distributors based in Los Angeles, the visibility can be substantial for the films on tap. Of course, it will require the pros being able to leave their offices or looking up from their Blackberries, which is not the easiest thing to do. However, after many years of neglect (and a few worthy festivals of note including the AFI Film Festival, OutFest and the LA Latino Film Festival), film events in the company town are finally getting some respect. For more information on the Festival, the films, the filmmakers and all the excitement unfolding in downtown Los Angeles this week, visit: www.LAFilmFest.com