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The LA Film Festival Is Sick Of Movie Execs Ignoring It

A still from the Fire on the Hill, one of the films selected for the L.A. Muse program
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The L.A. Film Festival kicked off Thursday at the Ford Theatre. Movie-industry execs travel to remote destinations like Toronto and the French Riviera to scout potential breakout films, but asking them to do the same in their hometown can often be a hard sell, according to festival director Jennifer Cochis. She added that the festival's location is the exact reason why we should be supporting it.

"I have to have the participation of our industry. I spent this past year going into the offices of these places saying, Look, we're your hometown film festival, I'm in your backyard, there's absolutely no excuse for you to not come out and support these budding filmmakers."

The festival kicked off this year with documentary Echo in the Canyon, an intimate look at the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene. Echo in the Canyon is one of several movies in the festival trying to illuminate parts of our city's culture and history. A subsection of the festival called "L.A. Muse" is dedicated to movies inspired by Los Angeles or shot by L.A.-based filmmakers.

Jakob Dylan in Echo in the Canyon
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Cochis said that L.A. Muse is putting an emphasis on representation.

"It runs the gamut, it's as diverse as the city itself," Cochis said. "We've got these cowboys from Compton. We've got a film called El Chicano, which is a superhero origin story."

It wasn't difficult to curate a selection of unique, L.A.-focused movies.

"If you can think of a neighborhood in Los Angeles, there's probably a movie being made in it while you and I are talking to each other," Cochis said. "People who love movies live here and the craftspeople and storytellers live here. And come here either to learn the craft at some point, or certainly pass through our city in the hopes of maybe moving here later on down the road."

Some other L.A. Muse movies to keep your eyes out for are documentary the Advocates, a deep, intersectional look at the socioeconomic factors behind our city's homeless crisis, and Staycation, telling the story of two Asian American millennials in downtown L.A. working to redefine the conventions of romantic relationships.

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A still from the Advocates

The festival's expanding beyond movies this year -- they're also debuting some feature podcasts.

"I'm looking at where good storytelling is coming from. And our film festival should be about celebrating the best in story," Cochis said. "It's giving a different type of storytelling a platform."

The venues are scattered across the city, with a selection of free programs for the public to attend.

"By having programming throughout different pockets of Los Angeles, it's being in service to our citizens," Cochis said.

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Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here on KPCC's The Frame.

Other easily accessible programming includes free VR installations set up in Playa Vista, with free movies playing at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

LAFF runs from now until Sept. 29. Find more info about the festival's programming here.

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