Once a year, cinephiles in Los Angeles can fully experience what they love best in the form of nearly 200 feature films, shorts and music videos from more than 40 countries throughout the L.A. Film Festival (June 13 through 23) from Film Independent, a nonprofit group that promotes independent filmmakers. Centered at L.A. Live downtown, the festival, now in its 19th year, also offers movie premieres, panel discussions with top moviemakers, gala celebrations and more. Here’s what not to miss:
The North American premiere of Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited! opens the festival with 90 minutes of bawdy comedy involving a psychic, a hit man, a dominatrix, a crooked businessman and a soap star aboard a disaster-prone aircraft. Additional screenings include the North American premiere of Only God Forgives, which reunites filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn with his Drive star Ryan Gosling in a film about an American expat in Bangkok’s brutal underworld forced to deal with his mother’s obsession for vengeance after his brother’s murder; Fruitvale Station, from first-time feature filmmaker Ryan Coogler, offers the true story of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man who was killed by Oakland’s BART transit police; and the world premiere of the documentary Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture, screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the artist’s famed boulder resides. The festival concludes with The Way, Way Back, a funny and touching coming-of-age story that follows 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his daughter (Zoe Levin).
On June 14, in one of the festival’s two master classes, pick the brain of musician, actor and comedian Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids) as she shares some of her favorite comedy scenes and reveals how physical comedy, comic timing and the perfect joke align to create “funny.” In the June 15 class, learn about what goes into composing Oscar-winning music through a discussion with award-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who has scored highly regarded films such as Biutiful, Babel and Brokeback Mountain.
Music In Film Nights
Head to the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live on June 18 for the festival’s Music In Film programming, which features a live performance from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble in addition to a discussion with the jazz group. The evening also showcases clips from the documentary about the ensemble, The Brothers Hypnotic, which is part of the festival’s Summer Showcase.
Free Community Screenings
Highlights of this series include a 20th anniversary screening of Dazed and Confused from director Richard Linklater, and a dance-along showing of John Waters’ Hairspray in honor of the cult classic turning 25.
Celebrate costume designers and the inauguration of the Academy’s Costume Designers Branch during “The Iconic Moment” on June 20. The program explores the intersection of art, design and film. Movie costume designers get the spotlight in a panel discussion, followed by a reception and outdoor screenings of Alex Prager’s Alfred Hitchcock-inspired short film Despair and Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
“Women in the Cut: A Celebration of Women Editors” is a panel discussion on June 22 that gives an up-close look at the creative process of filmmaking. A select group of women editors will chat about their craft and their collaborations with directors. Panelists include Sandra Adair (Before Midnight, Bernie), Maryann Brandon (Star Trek, Star Wars: Episode VII, Super 8), Academy Award nominee Pamela Martin (Hitchcock, Ruby Sparks, The Fighter) and Kim Roberts (Waiting For Superman; Food, Inc.), among others.
Photos Courtesy of LA Film Fest