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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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Los Angeles Film Festival 2006 Wraps

Los Angeles – In a city that is driven by the filmed entertainment business the festivals offered to Angeleno’s have been hit or miss over the years. This year the homegrown Los Angeles Film Festival made the bold move of uprooting itself from its Hollywood base and moving to the UCLA village of Westwood. This was the latest in a series of changes that began when the festival shifted dates from spring to summer back in 2002. Next, Rachel Rosen was scouted from the venerable San Francisco Film Festival as the director of programming in 2003 and IFP Los Angeles (the non profit that operated the festival) recently split from its organization to form Film Independent or FIND. All of this is good news for film festival patrons here in L.A. Westwood offers a cluster of vintage theaters, plenty of parking and a ‘neighborhood feel’ that is difficult to generate in the urban sprawl of the city of angels. The move didn’t hurt attendance either as the number of festival goers soared to nearly 80,000. This years festival screened 265 films and music videos chosen from among 4,300 submissions. Artist in residence Danger Mouse and guest director George Lucas each each chose three vintage faves as well. The diverse and eclectic program ranged from big budget PIXAR animation to underground indie cult films at a variety of venues.


THE FILMMAKERS
Featured filmmakers included, Iran-born Parviz Sayyad (who presented his 1983 production "The Mission") Hong Kong native Cecile T'ang Shu-shuen (1972's "The Arch") and Korean auteur Shin Sang-ok.

T’ang Shu-shuen, local restaurateur of Los Angeles eatery Joss, was a beacon of Hong Kong cinema in the '70s. "Arch" was her debut effort and a benchmark film that elevated Hong Kong's profile in the eyes of international cinema fans.

Shin Sang-ok was one of South Korea's most prominent directors. You may remember reading about the kidnapping of Shin and his actress wife on orders from Kim Jong Il, a fan of their work. The pair escaped in 1986 and Shin remained active as a filmmaker in Los Angeles. The festival screened his 1961 production "My Mother and Her Guest," which many consider his finest film

Programmer Rachel Rosen couldn't be more excited. "It's a celebration of what I think is so fascinating about this city, which is how diverse it is and how many hidden stories there are," she says.

One of the joys of attending any film festival is the opportunity to meet the filmmakers and learn the back story. I caught up with writer director Rick Wilkinson at a Sunday afternoon screening of “Journey Into Sunset” . Rick’s short documentary addresses the plight of the ‘night commuters’; children forced to flee their homes each night to avoid being kidnapped and recruited into the rebel armies.

The film started when Rick was invited to attend a screening of Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle in Kampala. Rick and Don worked on a Nightline piece that focused on the Sudan and Journey Into Sunset was born out of that previous collaboration. Truly an ‘indie’ effort – the crew waived their fee’s and the total budget was far below most short subjects produced for the festival circuit.

With Don Cheadle on board as narrator Rick set out to write something quite different than the standard television news piece . The music, editing style and structure serve the story well and stood out at this years shorts program.

“This film is a trip with someone you know to a place you haven’t heard of and the story of 30,000 children kidnapped over the past 20 years.” States director Rick Wilkinson. More information is available at http://www.journeyintosunset.com


THE FILMS
As for the rest of the 2006 program , films range from short subjects by high school students to studio fare as Fox's festival opener "The Devil Wears Prada." The Meryl Streep vehicle opened this years festival. The centerpiece premiere was Sundance award winner "Quinceanera," which serves as is a perfect example of the L.A’s multiculturalism as a defining element. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland shot their low budget feature in Los Angeles' Echo Park and Sony Picture Classics will release it later this summer. The best studio purchased indie by far was the closing night comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" - the saga of beauty pageants and family dysfunction starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell had the packed house at the Wadsworth theater howling with laughter.

Other films that are worth mentioning are:

ANALOG DAYS – First-time feature director Mike Ott delivers an authentic, contemporary coming of age tale driven by an amazing pop soundtrack. ANALOG DAYS characters work at Video Depot, go to community college, struggle with jocks and townies, and do their best to understand politics in this provocative study of a group of friends negotiating the difficult transition from youth to adulthood.

NARROW ALLEYS – writer director Ali Zamani Esmati’s story is told through the eyes of a young girl who loses her most valuable possession ; a tape deck that contains the recording of her dead fathers voice. While the young girl searches the alleys of her town to recover her tape recorder we meet an array of the most comical , dynamic characters presented at this festival as they go about their day to day life in modern Iran.

13 Tzameti – This black and white noirish tale is sure to be retold by an American director. It reminded me of Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” in that it was written to keep you on the edge of your seat and the filmmakers made the most of a minimal budget. These characters were expertly cast, the director found some great faces. Definitely worth seeing if you enjoy thrillers in the vein of ‘Irreversible”, “Hard Candy” etc.

THE VENUES
One of the most interesting venues at the festival is an intimate outdoor arena carved in the Hollywood Hills. The John Ford Amphitheater offers festival goers the opportunity to see a film outdoors under the stars on a warm summer night.

This years screenings at the Ford included Richard Linklaters “SCANNER DARKLY” and Julien Temples Sex Pistols Documentary “The Filth and The Fury” Set in the not too distant future after America's long-running war on drugs has been lost, A Scanner Darkly tracks the reluctant efforts of an undercover cop to monitor the activities of his friends - and also himself. It's a dark and absurd world where identities and loyalties are impossible to decode. The film, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner) is presented in a mix of live action photography and Linklaters signature interpolated rotoscope animation technique that adds to the druggy surreal tone of the film. Another highlight of the Ford screening was Julien Temples 2000 rock Documentary ‘The Filth and the Fury” The film tracks the 2 year career of the band that kick started a musical revolution as the press, industry and audiences struggled to adapt to the birth of punk. The screening was hosted by ex-Pistol Steve Jones who looked well fed and tanned as he kicked an autographed soccer ball into crowd.
The event featured live performances by the Like and The Vacation as well as a string quartet played "God Save the Queen,"

THE AWARDS

Steve Collins “Gretchen” was honored with the TARGET Filmmaker Award for best narrative feature and Amy Berg’s “Deliver Us From Evil” won Best documentary –both filmmakers received the largest cash prize awarded by an American festival $50,000.00 each.

“Gretchen” revolves around an awkward 17 year old student and “Deliver Us From Evil” is an account of a pedophile priest that includes shocking interviews that explore the indefensible evil.

The festival has really grown into a world class event and set itself apart from the proliferation of festivals here in the entertainment capitol of the world.


Article By Dane Allan Smith
Photo’s courtesy of Image.net and Desiree Asher

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Chatelin Bruno
(Filmfestivals.com)

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