Welcome to L.A., the entertainment capital of the world. Film is so engrained in the fabric of the city that if you want to keep up on entertainment you need to read both the Calendar and the Business sections of the paper. It’s not unusual to see filming going on in the streets of every part of the city and even into the suburbs. It stands to reason that Los Angeles should have a great film festival, and it does. (Actually more than one, but let’s focus on the now.) The L.A. Film Festival is underway at L.A. Live and other venues downtown. The opening night film is Woody Allen’s newest, To Rome with Love. The festival also will be showing other big name films, including hosting the world premiere of the new Disney-Pixar film, Brave. Other gala events will include It’s a Disaster, People Like Us (also a world premiere) , Beasts of the Southern Wild (which won prizes at both Sundance and Cannes), and the world premiere of the Steve Carell and Keira Knightly comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
The big names are a draw, but the meat of the festival is the many films that you probably haven’t heard of that will be showing as well. The festival is presented by Film Independent, the organization that produces the Spirit Awards. Film Independent is an important part of the indie film environment, creating an atmosphere that helps creative talent find their voice. Among the films that are part of the Narrative Competition are Dead Man’s Burden, a dark western; All Is Well, from Portugal as two sisters from Angola struggle to survive alone in Lisbon; and A Night Too Young from the Czech Republic about two boys headed to an adult party.
There is a Documentary Competition as well. A Band Called Death chronicles a 70’s rock band that never took off—until 30 years later. Sun Kissed takes us to the Navajo reservation to discover a rare genetic disease that shows up much more frequently there. The Iran Job is about an American playing pro basketball in Iran. Words of Witness looks at a young woman reporter during the Arab Spring in Egypt.
One of the films I’m anticipating seeing is The Queen of Versailles, about a flamboyant billionaire couple who are set on building the biggest house in the world—until the 2008 financial collapse. I’m sure there will be many discoveries I find during the festival as well.
LA Film Fest also has a series of Coffee Talks on Sunday, featuring sections for actors, composers, directors, and screenwriters as part of Film Independent’s educational program, as well as a wide range of discussions about various aspects of the film industry.
The festival also hosts a variety of FREE screenings, including G-Dog, about Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries; The Invisible War, about sexual abuse in the military; a couple classic films, E.T. :The Extra-Terrestrial and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; and in California Plaza, a Dance-Along showing of Dirty Dancing.
I’ll be reporting on many of these films and more as the festival continues.