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Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival line up

Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, the Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival is proud to announce its line-up of more than 60 films to be screened at the upcoming Festival November 5th through 8th in several venues throughout Ojai and at Ventura’s Brooks Institute. For a complete, downloadable schedule of all films and pass and ticket purchase information, visit

Celebrated for its consistently high quality and provoking slate of documentary, narrative and animation films, this up-and-coming destination film festival was lauded as the “next Telluride” by mega-producer Peter Guber (The Color Purple and Rain Main) at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

“The industry has already taken note of the excellence of this Festival and this year we are going to great lengths to raise the public awareness about the cutting-edge nature of our films by screening a diverse cross-section of the types of films being made today by some of the world’s already established and currently rising stars, including a strong film school contingent,” says Festival Artistic Director Steve Grumette.

Featuring a mix of films that epitomize the Festival’s mission to ‘enrich the human spirit through film,’ attendees of the 2009 event will be delighted, inspired, challenged and, perhaps, disturbed by the films screened this year, several of which will premiere or come to the Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival having already won awards and accolades at other major film festivals across the world.

The Festival begins with a provocative bang as organizers proudly present a special screening of Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, followed by a rare question and answer session with Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, the famed whistle blower widely credited for catalyzing the demise of the Nixon presidency and end of the Vietnam war. This opening night film was chosen for its timely look at current issues of war, national security and the people’s “right-to-know” what happens behind the closed doors of our nation’s government. The first screening, which is free, takes place on Thursday, November 5 at 7 p.m. at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, Calif. A second screening of this film will also take place on Friday, November 6 at 5 p.m. at Brooks Institute.

In addition to the opening night screening, the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival has also coordinated two additional special screenings of films hand-picked by the Festival’s 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees—actor Peter Graves and Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
• For his special screening, Graves selected the satirical spoof of the disaster film genre, Airplane! In the movie Graves plays the food poisoned Captain Oveur, who must relinquish control of his plane to an ex-fighter pilot with an intense fear of flying.
• Wexler’s special tribute screening will be his breakthrough documentary Who Needs Sleep?, which examines the overlooked topic of sleep deprivation, especially as it relates to the cast and crew members in the film industry. Inspiration for the movie came after a colleague fell asleep while driving, after working a 19 hour day on the set of a movie. This event catapulted Wexler on a mission to uncover the implications of America’s culture-wide obsession for working excessive hours.
• After their screenings, audience members will have the opportunity to ask Graves and Wexler questions in rare and intimate Q & A discussions.
• Wexler also will co-lead a panel discussion with actress Diane Ladd called “The Partnership” about the collaborative relationship between cinematographers, directors and editors at Brooks Institute on Saturday, November 7 at 12 p.m.

The Documentary Short category at this year’s Festival features several stand-out films, two of which are by local filmmakers, with distinctly local stories.
• Produced and directed by Ojai-resident Rich Reid, a former visual journalism professor at Brooks Institute and passionate environmentalist and co-produced by the Environmental Director for Ventura’s Surfrider Foundation, Watershed Revolution is a documentary short that answers the question, “what is a watershed?” Set against the backdrop of the Ventura River and laced with interviews of “watershed heroes” working to protect Ventura’s watershed, the filmmakers learn how few people truly know where their water comes from. Watershed Revolution will enjoy its world premiere at the Festival.
• Entering the festival circuit for the first time at the Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival, Passion for Music, directed by USC Film School grad Jordan Bloch and produced by Anthony Strauss and Ventura residents Ivor and Sally Davis, is a documentary short about the dramatic return home of Soprano Nicole Cabell, who grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks,” paying for her vocal lessons by cleaning her music teachers’ houses, but eventually rose to become only the second American to win the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World award. Passion for Music chronicles Cabell’s triumphant homecoming as the closing night singer in the Ventura Music Festival.

The Documentary Feature category contains several films exhibiting the Festival theme -- “Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film.”
• One of the standouts is the film Changing Keys produced and directed by Suzanne Jurva and starring acoustic guitar sensation Billy McLaughlin. The documentary exemplifies McLaughlin’s courage and perseverance as he teaches himself to play left-handed once an incurable neuromuscular disease left him unable to play with his right hand.
• An Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival 2009 and winner of the Human Rights Watch Nestor Almendros Prize for Courage in Filmmaking, My Neighbor, My Killer is a gripping look at the citizen-based justice which Rwandans put into place to deal with the crimes of the 1994 genocide. The film is an examination of the process of justice and reconciliation as Producer/Director Anne Aghion followed this gacaca system over a period of nine years.
• Winner of the Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival, The Power of the Powerless, directed by Cory Taylor and narrated by famed British actor Jeremy Irons, examines the harmful effects of erasing history, twenty years after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.

In the Narrative Short category, moviegoers will be pleased with a range of films, with genres, themes and acclaim run the gamut of the independent film landscape.
• Acholiland, a film by American Film Institute student Dean Israelite, has won four film festival awards, including the award for Best Short Film at the Ashland Independent Film Award in Oregon, chronicles the story of a U.N official faced with the decision to play by the rules and watch children die or risk the lives of a refugee camp in Northern Uganda, with the hope of saving them.
• Alexandra Fisher’s Desert Wedding has won numerous awards including the Audience Impact Award for Best Short Film at the Angelus Awards Student Film Festival for its touching look at what happens when a ‘bridezilla’s’ momentous day falls apart after an unexpected tragic event en route to her wedding.
• A romantic comedy with a dark twist, True Beauty This Night, written and directed by Peter Besson and produced by Stephen Sweeney, comes to the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival as a veteran on the festival circuit ,delighting audiences at the Palm Beach, San Diego, Connecticut and Reno film festivals and having won numerous awards. It follows Rhett Somers’ attempt to convince the love of his life that she’s ‘the one,’ which proves to be a difficult feat.

In the Narrative Feature category, several stand-out films come to the Festival having won major prizes elsewhere along the film festival circuit including:
• A Quiet Little Marriage, a film about a husband and a wife struggling with each other’s deception, won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance.
• Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, is a drama about two families from opposite socio-economic strata whose lives converge for the love of a little boy, Like Dandelion Dust has already won ten major film festival awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Las Vegas International Film Festival.
• Directed and produced by actor Giancarlo Esposito (Spike Lee’s School Daze, Mo’ Better Blues and Malcolm X), Gospel Hill starring Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Julia Stiles and Esposito, was recently awarded the Rosetta Miller Perry Award at the Nashville Film Festival and is a story about the human spirit overcoming pain, division and hatred against the backdrop of a South Carolina town grappling with the unresolved murder of a civil rights activists and a conniving developer driving people from their generational homes.

The Animation category at this year’s festival contains a mix of burgeoning, up-and-coming and veteran talent including several student films.
• A heartwarming vignette of transformation, Déjà Vu, by student filmmaker Sean Hannon from New York’s School of Visual Arts, is about an elderly man and his dog, each of which is struck by déjà vu during a Central Park stroll.
• Abridged, by filmmaker Arjun Rihan of University of Southern California film school, is a love story set on the Golden Gate Bridge and inspired by the foggy weather during a visit to San Francisco, in which a balance must be struck between love and duty.
• A special treat to Festival attendees this year is a screening of Horn Dog, the latest in the Oscar-nominated dog series by one of the world’s most celebrated animators, Bill Plympton. In this episode Dog finds true love, which, as usual for him, goes terribly wrong.

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