Spotlights

LA Film Festival 2018: Introduction

We are currently in the midst of 2018’s Fall Festival Season, with heavy-hitters Venice, Telluride, and Toronto having finished up, and the likes of New York, Chicago, London, and Austin coming up soon. (For genre fanatics, Fantastic Fest also starts today). Suffice to say, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for cinephiles, with premieres of hotly anticipated films, glamorous red carpets, and a constant stream of cinematic buzz perhaps only rivaled by the soon-to-follow awards season discourse.

For my part, I have spent the better part of the last week sequestered in the Film Independent Screening Room for the LA Film Festival, which starts today and runs till the 28th. I have watched seventeen movies so far, with plenty more on my plate, and this being my first official film festival, I’m happy to report: I’m having a blast!

First, a little primer on the LA Film Festival. Since 2001, it has been run and organized by Film Independent, a local nonprofit dedicated to—you guessed it—independent cinema (they also host the annual Independent Spirit Awards). This year finds the festival at a sort of crossroads: up until this year, it has traditionally been a summertime event. Jennifer Cochis, the festival’s director, hopes the move will prove reinvigorating.

“I am trying to create a film festival that’s accessible for Los Angeles… I want people to be able to drive from their job or their home and be like, ‘I can participate without having to figure out how to take the family vacation to a film festival,'” she told the Los Angeles Times.

LAFF_50

So what’s on the schedule? Film Independent has broken the oeuvre into some key groups:

  • U.S. Fiction — Pretty self-explanatory, though this doesn’t cover all the U.S. created fiction as you’ll soon see. A few examples: Mark Jackson’s This Teacher, in which “A young Arab-French woman on an introspective journey visits her childhood friend in New York City before heading to the woods upstate”, and Ann Lupo’s In Reality, a wild blend of autobiography, comedy, and drama about unrequited love.
  • Documentary — Once again, self-explanatory, and once again, not all the documentaries on deck. I have to say, I’ve been extremely impressed by what I’ve seen so far. I always love a good doc, and this block is delivering. Highlights include Katrine Philp’s False Confessions, a harrowing look at “the complex and manipulative tactics of US police interrogations”, and José Pablo Estrada Torrescano’s Mamacita, an endearing portrait of his 95 year old grandmother.
  • World Fiction — I’m an avid foreign film fan, so it should come as no surprise that my favorite movie I’ve seen so far (and really, I’ll be shocked if it is topped) is found in this section. Look out for my review later this weekend, but for the time being just know that South Korean filmmaker Jeon Go-Woon’s debut feature, Microhabitat, is a sublime slice of pure melancholy and joy. The Day I Lost My Shadow (Syria) is another gem, and I’m looking forward to Sweden’s Border.
  • LA Muse — A program dedicated to films about my hometown, the City of Angels. LA is as diverse a place as there is, and the films representing the city reflect that. Fire on the Hill is an illuminating documentary about the Compton Cowboys, a group of South Central based equestrians who turned to horses to escape the pressures of the inner city. Funke profiles Evan Funke, an acclaimed chef whom many say is making the best pasta in the country. El Chicano jumps on the superhero bandwagon in hopes of creating a Latino superhero.
  • Nightfall — All things creepy and gory, this is the block for horror fanatics. The Dead Center, about a mysterious John Doe who somehow revives while in a morgue, stars Shane Carruth of Primer and Upstream Color fame. Deep Murder is a murder mystery that takes place in an alternate reality where everything is based on cheesy old school porn tropes.
  • Premieres — Some cool films having their world premieres: We Have Always Lived in the Castle—a gorgeous adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name, featuring a suitably creepy performance from Crispin Glover—and Tea With the Dames, a humorous and breezy afternoon hangout sesh with British icons Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins.

And that’s just a taste of what’s to come! I have a lot on my plate, obviously, and I’ll try to deliver my reviews as close to embargo as possible, but with such a large selection don’t be surprised if my coverage extends past the 28th. Let’s do this!

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