Tag Archives: American Film Institute Film Fest

How AFI Fest honors trailblazing women along with its gala premieres

Posted by Larry Gleeson

 The 30th AFI Fest hits Hollywood Boulevard Thursday with, appropriately enough, a strong emphasis on movie history.

Of course, the American Film Institute’s L.A. film festival will also bring its usual program of glitzy award season premieres, fantastic foreign and independent productions, new discoveries and live talent from all over the world to the Chinese Theatre complex and other venues along the boulevard by the time it concludes on Nov. 17.

But from its opening night gala premiere — Warren Beatty’s ode to Howard Hughes’ Hollywood of the 1950s Rules Don’t Apply — to the local bow of acclaimed contemporary musical La La Land and even a 75th anniversary restoration of the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane, AFI Fest 2016 will be honoring the past while looking toward the future.

“Showing Rules Don’t Apply and La La Land together is almost like fish in a barrel,” notes the fest’s director of programming, Lane Kneedler. “They’re about our town.”

And then there’s the event’s most beloved tradition: Once again this year, AFI Fest will be free to the public.


“There’ll be a few other things that are special,” festival director Jacqueline Lyanga understates about the 30th anniversary edition. “We’re featuring three trailblazing women from cinema history; Ida Lupino, Anna May Wong and Dorothy Dandridge; we’ll be showing their films in our Cinema’s Legacy section.”

Asked if the honoring of pioneering actress-turned-director Lupino and early Asian- and African-American stars Wong (an L.A. native, by the way) and Dandridge indicated an emphasized diversity theme this year, Lyanga provided perspective.

“For us, it really represents the scope and the range that is showcased at AFI Fest,” she explains. “Across the program, we have a remarkable amount of diversity in terms of women (33 of the nearly 120 features and shorts were female-directed) and in terms of filmmakers and artists and actors of color. It’s not something that’s special, actually, for this year, it’s something that we’ve seen in the programming year after year. We just look for great work; we don’t look for specific quotas.”

Among the splashier stuff they’ve come up with, AFI Fest’s programming team has added

Natalie Portman portrays Jacqueline Kennedy in the Kennedy biopic, Jackie.

the Natalie Portman-starring Kennedy biopic Jackie, a tribute to Annette Bening with a screening of her upcoming 20th Century Women, another tribute to French national treasure Isabelle Huppert with her Paul Verhoeven-directed Elle and, for closing night, Mark Wahlberg’s Boston Marathon bombing docudrama Patriots Day to its Galas list.

The festival’s Special Screenings section offers the first local glimpses of other upcoming hot properties such as the Robert De Niro-starring The Comedian, Jessica Chastain’s showcase as a high-powered D.C. lobbyist Miss Sloane, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest creepfest Split, acclaimed German comedy and Oscar entry Toni Erdmann and the premiere of Disney’s animated Polynesian spectacular Moana.

“ Moana is going to be a fantastic evening,” Kneedler promises. “We’re going to have all of Hollywood Boulevard Moana’d-out that night.”

Anticipated international auteur films making their L.A. debuts at AFI include Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation from Romania, Brit Ken Loach’s Cannes Film Festival prize-winner I, Daniel Blake, Spanish bad boy Pedro Almodovar’s latest Julieta, Pablo Larrain’s Chilean biopic Neruda, Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, South Koreans Kim Ki-duk’s The Net and Hong Sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours and the Philippines’ Lav Diaz’s Venice Film Fest winner The Woman Who Left.

And many, many more. Plus a lot of stuff even the most devoted followers of the international movie scene probably haven’t heard about. There are films from 46 countries at AFI this year.

“One of the goals of the festival is to contextualize the year in cinema as best we can, in a place where people who are in the industry, the filmmakers, the general public, the cinephiles, the movie fans, everyone can come together and talk about movies,” Lyanga explains. “And, also, to not only think about the films that have won awards and are known about and lauded at Sundance, Berlin, Cannes or Telluride, but to bring to light films that we think are incredible that may have been off the radar. That’s part of what you’ll see in our New Auteurs, American Independents and World Cinema sections.”

Some titles Kneedler and Lyanga advise checking out include the American indies Always Shine by Sophia Takal, Buster’s Mal Heart by Sarah Adina Smith and starring Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek, and the Kris Avedisian-directed and -starring Donald Cried. They also suggest sampling Brazil’s Kill Me Please, Kenya’s Kati Kati, the French/Qatari co-production Divines and the Austrian/Italian Mister Universo amid the bounty of imported offerings.

The festival also will host a technology showcase, panels with the year’s outstanding indie and documentary talents, family- and student-oriented programs and, in case you need more classic movie connections, documentaries on film’s ultimate samurai Toshiro Mifune and mother/daughter icons Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

For the full schedule, to reserve tickets and all other stuff, go to afifest.afi.com.



(Source: http://www.presstelegram.com)

First South Bay Film and Music Festival opens in Hermosa Beach

Michael Hixon / The Beach Reporter

The first South Bay Film and Music Festival, which takes place from June 1 to 5, is billed as a celebration of the arts, jam-packed with an eclectic blend of cinema, music and art.

Highlighted by a 50th anniversary screening of the iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer,” SBFF showcases social impact, sport and music documentaries, features and short films. Question-and-answer sessions and panels with filmmakers take place throughout the event that has its headquarters in Hermosa Beach, with some events in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes.

Jon Fitzgerald, SBFF executive director, said there will be a “lot of discovery with filmmakers and musicians” at the festival.

“Beyond the quality of film and music, I believe we’re really going to create some unique experiences,” said Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay and is a film industry professional who has directed numerous film festivals.

Fitzgerald said the community has opened its arms to the festival and the city has given him “universal support.”

“It’s nice when you come into a town and the city and the local government and officials all want to roll up their sleeves and help,” Fitzgerald said. “It makes it more rewarding and less challenging frankly. Anybody can go into a city and rent a theater and print a poster and say, ‘I’m going to show movies.’ But if the city is not behind it, it’s really harder to gain traction.”

“The South Bay Film and Music Festival is bringing a variety of stellar evenings to our beach city,” said Hermosa Beach Mayor Carolyn Petty, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to support the festival for five days, and encourage our community members from the South Bay and beyond to come enjoy an evening—or five—in Hermosa Beach.”

Opening night

The opening night Gala for SBFF Wednesday, June 1, starts with Taste of the South Bay, from 5 to 7 p.m., which features culinary specialties from more than 20 local restaurants, at the Hermosa Community Center, at the corner of Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. The evening also includes an art exhibition featuring surf artists and photographers and a performance from a jazz band.


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Making its premiere at 7 p.m. is “Voyagers Without Trace,” a documentary about a French couple and their friend who took their cameras on a kayaking trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1938. Director Ian McCluskey will be in attendance for a question-and-answer session.

Thursday special presentations

Classics from the silent film era and a modern classic from a horror icon highlight the Thursday, June 2 festivities.

A 30th anniversary screening of “Stand By Me,” Stephen King’s story of four friends who stumble upon a dead body, begins at 8:15 p.m., at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes. A reception takes place from 6 to 8 p.m., prior to the screening.

Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo hosts a 90th anniversary screening of “The General,” starring Buster Keaton, beginning at 7 p.m. Bill Field, who re-opened the theater in 1968 as a silent movie theater, 47 years after its original opening, will accompany the 1926 film with a Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that was built in 1925 and brought from Long Beach.

‘Endless Summer’

Iconic surf filmmaker Bruce Brown will he honored with the first “Action Sports Pioneer Award” before the screening of his classic documentary, “The Endless Summer,” about two surfers and their world travels, Saturday, June 4.

The day begins with a “Sea to See” reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m., which features more than 50 pieces of artwork from notable surf artists and photographers. The tribute to Brown takes place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by “The Endless Summer” screening.

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(Photo courtesy of SBFF)

Surf Film Showcase

Aside from “The Endless Summer,” nine other surf films, short and feature length will be screening at SBFF.

Subjects range from a 9-year-old Brazilian surfer who moved to California to pursue his dreams to a profile on India’s first female surfer.

Shorts Program

Three shorts programs takes place June 2, 3 and 4, at 9:30 p.m. The first program, on Thursday, June 2, features “Cause Cinema,” “where the movies engage and inspire,” according to Fitzgerald, who founded Cause Pictures and wrote his first book in 2012, “Film making for Change: Make Films That Transform the World.”


Thirteen films are competing in the documentary film competition. Subjects range from an Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion to the lives of three gay Palestinian friends. The films are screening throughout the festival.

Hazing to an 11-year-old boy competing at the World Paper Plane Championship are the subjects of two of the nine films up for Best Narrative Film.

Closing night

SBFF closes Sunday, June 5, with an awards ceremony and a screening of awards winning films.

The awards ceremony takes place from 7 to 7:30 p.m. and features awards for Jury Prize – Best Narrative Film,” “Jury Prize – Best Documentary Film,” and audience awards for narrative, documentary, Cause Cinema Spotlight and Surf Film Showcase.

A dessert reception takes place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by screenings of award winning films from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Music showcases

SBFF also features plenty for the music fan beginning Thursday, June 2, with singer/songwriters Isla June and Nick Shattuck performing at the South Coast Botanic Garden from 6 to 8 p.m. The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach hosts Salt Petal, Nick Valentini Collective, Dream Vacation and Niantic, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. the same evening.

Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach hosts a showcase, presented by World Arts, Friday, June 3, from 5 to 9 p.m., starring Gracie Gray, Marchan Noelle, Carlos Calvo and Frankie Bourne.

Hoist the Colors headlines the Standing Room Showcase in Hermosa Beach Saturday, June 4, from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with Braeves, Foxtrax and Short Stories also performing.

A Music Pass is available for $75 that allows access to all music related films (about six in total), music showcases, panels and music–related receptions. A pass holder also receives complimentary wine and beer from sponsors during the happy hours in the Hospitality Suite at the Hermosa Community Center.

A music and film panel will also be offered that details how to get a song into a film or on television.

“It’s not as easy as you think,” Fitzgerald said. “There are roughly 10,000 independent films made a year now, almost all of those movies have music … where do they get their music? They’re not going to call up Universal Music and get Imagine Dragons.”

There are also plenty of networking opportunities.

“I’m going to have each of the musicians contribute one of their tracks and do a compilation CD,” Fitzgerald said. “That CD will be given to all the filmmakers and industry professionals that come through so that they can potentially be licensing some music.”

South Bay Sessions

South Bay Sessions takes place June 4 and 5. Each session highlights a “technology driven idea, project or company, that promotes social consciousness.” Four sessions, which will include tech demonstrations, will focus on the four categories including food/nutrition; environment/water/community resources: artistic expression/media impact; education/literacy/digital citizenship.

Working with the city

The festival’s founding partners include the City of Hermosa Beach and the Hermosa Beach Arts Foundation, which both contributed $15,000 to the founding of SBFF, under the umbrella of the Hermosa Cinema Society. The festival has had an ongoing presence in the community since last year with monthly screenings at the Hermosa Community Center.

Hermosa is the heart of the festival as Fitzgerald sees its expansion over the first several years. Fitzgerald was brought in as the film festival’s executive director after more than 20 years of directing numerous film festivals, including American Film Institute Fest, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, as well as being a co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival.

Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay, said bringing the festival to his hometown makes it “more special” than other film festivities he’s worked for in the past, even with the long hours. And being a “start-up” there’s little budget.

“The fact that the community really wants this, makes it that much more rewarding for me because I know I’m bringing something to this community that they really embrace,” he said.

For more information, visit southbayfest.com or hermosacinema.com.