What To Watch At The Los Angeles Film Festival
Talk about binge watching. From June 10-18 The Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) takes over Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 (and a few other special event venues), bringing with it 74 feature films, 60 short films and more than 50 new media works from 35 countries. LAFF also includes six competitive categories with selections screening in between the pre-festival screenings of Dope and Inside Out on Monday and Tuesday, opening night gala film Grandma, written and directed by Paul Weitz and starring Lily Tomlin, and the not-yet-announced closing night film. Since this is the LA Film Festival, expect a lot of star power at many of the screenings and other surprises throughout the week.
It’s impossible for most people to catch all the films, so we’ve put together a list of some of the titles that caught our attention.
Films in Competition
The US Fiction Competition features 10 feature films from both established and emerging indie filmmakers. That includes Too Late (World Premiere), which is directed by Dennis Hauck, and starring John Hawkes as a Southern California private eye.
The Documentary Competition includes 12 character-driven non-fiction films from both the U.S. and around the world. One of the films, Missing People (U.S. premiere), is a mystery about Martina Batan, a New York art gallery director, who’s haunted by her brother’s murder 40 years ago. She also becomes obsessed with the outsider art of Roy Ferdinand whose violent, sexually graphic work “controversially chronicles African-American cultural identity in pre-Katrina New Orleans.”
The 10 films of LA Muse are a mix of fiction and documentary films that tell the quintessential L.A. story. While there are a number of films that will appeal to Angelenos, Zoe R. Cassavetes’ Day Out of Days has its world premiere. The film follows a 40-year-old actress as she navigates the cutthroat world of Hollywood. A “strange and humiliating turn of events” gives her a comeback chance—but at what cost? It has a cast that includes Alexia Landeau, Eddie Izzard, Melanie Griffith, Cheyenne Jackson, Alessandro Nivola, Brooke Smith, Bellamy Young, Vincent Kartheiser, Ione Skye, Matt Letscher, Josh Stamberg and Myndy Crist.
The World Fiction Competition screens eight international fiction films curated for L.A. audiences that are from both emerging and established filmmakers. The category includes the U.S. premiere of A Midsummer’s Fantasia (Han-yeo-reum-ui Pan-ta-ji-a) from South Korean director Jang Kun-Jae. In the film, a Korean director’s visit to a rural Japanese village inspires an “exquisitely gentle love story about a Korean actress and a local Japanese persimmon farmer.”
The Nightfall lineup features eight thriller, horror or just bizarre films best watched after dark. While Dude Bro Party Massacre III might have the most creative title in the category, we’re looking forward to checking out the World Premiere of first time feature director Viet Nguyen’s Crush the Skull. In the film, thieves find themselves trapped within a house they intended to rob—but the they’ve wandered into the house of a deranged serial killer.
The Zeitgeist competition features six films that embody the spirit of American indie filmmaking with a slate that features “hard knock, coming of age stories.” It includes the world premiere of A Girl Like Grace, directed by Ty Hodges. With a cast that includes Meagan Good, Paige Hurd, Raven Symone, Garcelle Beauvais and Ryan Destiny, the film features on 17-year-old Grace who’s devastated by her best friend's suicide. She turns to her friend’s sister and encounters a dark world of sex, drugs and rebellion.
Though not in competition,the Buzz category has 13 buzzworthy films that are making their L.A. premieres. Among them are:
» Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall (UK/Ireland/France), which takes place in Ireland as the country’s on the brink of a Civil War. “Jimmy Gralton’s sin was to build dance hall - a place where people come to argue, to dream and to dance.”
» The Duplass brothers produced writer-director Patrick Brice’s The Overnight. Starring Adam Scott, Judith Godrèche, Jason Schwartzman and Taylor Schilling, a couple from Seattle gets invited to a family playdate. After the kids go to bed, the evening becomes increasingly more unorthodox (aka it turns into a swinging sex party).
» J. Davis’ Manson Family Vacation stars Jay Duplass and Linas Phillips as a brothers—one’s a dedicated family man and the other is obsessed with Charles Manson.
Other films of note
» Director G.J. Echternkamp’s Frank & Cindy features a cast that includes Rene Russo, Oliver Platt, Johnny Simmons, Jane Levy and Marc Maron. The comedy is based on the director’s mom and stepdad (and an earlier documentary). Cindy married a rock star, Frank, in 1983, but instead of the rock’n’roll, life gets in the way. Their son is amused by what he sees and takes a video camera to their lives. “In an attempt to mock his one-hit-wonder stepfather, G.J. unintentionally creates a candid portrait of the pursuit of happiness—and love.”
» I Am Thalente (world premiere) is an look at one of the promising young skaters in the world. Thalente Biyela balances a hardscrabble life in the skateparks of Durban, South Africa to Venice, California. The documentary follows homeless Biyela as he catches the skate world by storm when a DIY video of him skating goes viral.
» Benson Lee's Seoul Searching has a Gala Screening at LAFF. The film is an ‘80s romantic teen comedy about a group of Korean high school students from around the globe. They meet at a government-run summer camp in Seoul, "to learn what it means to be Korean - a side to them they know little about."
Tickets: Individual tickets range from free $11-$15; passes from $350 to $2,500.