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LA Film Festival: A Quick Preview of Films, Panels and Coffee Talks

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The LA Film Festival opens Wednesday, and runs through June 9 at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood and Culver City, with additional screenings at LACMA, the Theatre at Ace Hotel and Figat7th. Film Independent—the organization behind the festival—has programmed a diverse array of films, with a planned 56 feature films, 58 short films and 13 short episodic works representing 28 countries.

The festival kicks off tonight at the Cinerama Dome with the world premiere of Ricardo De Montreuil’s Lowriders, starring Eva Longoria, Demián Bichir, Melissa Benoist, Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori and Gabriel Chavarria. The film focuses on a second-generation East L.A. family, with car culture as a backdrop. The U.S. premiere of Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto, a suspense-thriller with Gael García Bernal as a Mexican migrant fighting nature and a deranged vigilante for survival along the U.S.-Mexico border, will close out the festival.

Even though the films bookending the festival are open to passholders only, there are a number of other worthwhile films, programs and events happening throughout the festival’s run. The LA Muse Section, which highlights quintessentially L.A. stories, is always fun. We’re also looking forward to checking out Episodes: Indie Series From The Web—a showcase of web series on the big screen.

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Among the dozen films in the US Fiction Competition, Amber Tamblyn makes her directorial debut with the drama Paint It Black, as does Grecian Olympic hopeful Alexi Pappas who co-directs and stars in Tracktown. The festival’s Buzz section celebrates the L.A. premieres of films that have gotten noticed at other festivals around the world. Writer/director Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice, a comedy about a struggling improv group, is screening in the Buzz section, along with Justin Tipping’s Kicks, a coming-of-age story spurred by a stolen pair of Air Jordans.

Screening in the glamorous Limelight section are David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out , which stars Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello and looks scary AF, along with FREE CeCe!, which was directed by Jacqueline Gares and co-written with Laverne Cox (who also produces). The documentary tells the story of CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman who survived a brutal attack, only to be incarcerated for defending her life.

Other happenings at the LA Film Festival:

Special Screening
The world premiere of Susan Bonds and Alex Lieu’s’ Zedd True Colors on June 2 at 8 pm at The Theater at Ace Hotel. The film follows EDM artist Zedd as he creates his latest album True Colors. The screening is followed by a Q&A with the musician and directors and a short acoustic performance by Zedd and special guests Kesha, Aloe Blacc and Sydney from Echosmith. Tickets: $25-$65.

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Free Screenings
The festival offers a couple of outdoor, free screenings at Figat7th: Ghostbusters (the original) on June 3 and Independence Day on June 4. There’s also a free screening of Shrek on June 4 at the ArcLight Culver City.

Coffee Talks
On Sunday, June 5 at the Culver Hotel, the festival holds its popular Coffee Talks series, where filmmakers, writers and actors discuss their craft with peers. Participating directors include Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), Tim Miller (Deadpool), Lucy Walker (Waste Land) and Patricia Riggen (Miracles from Heaven, The 33), and screenwriters Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead), Phil Johnston (Zootopia, Cedar Rapids) and Phyllis Nagy (Carol, Mrs. Harris). The actors’ panel includes John Cho (Star Trek Beyond, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Tony Hale (The Angry Birds Movie, Veep) and Paul Scheer (Opening Night, The League).

Other Talks
There are other conversations and programs that sound just as interesting as the Coffee Talks: Nate Parker's Labor of Love: The Birth of a Nation at ArcLight Culver City on June 2; Ryan Coogler: Crafting the Sounds and Score of Creed and Women Behind the Lens: Spotlight on Cinematographers both on June 4 at the ArcLight Culver City, along with An Evening with...The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story on June 7 at LACMA.

The ArcLight Culver City serves as the festival’s new home base, but please check your tickets for other venues. Individual tickets are still available and run $13-$25; passes start at $315-$350.