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Los Angeles Film Festival Makes Its Downtown Premiere

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 11:36AM
LA Film Fest Signage Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Pedestrians pass by L.A. Film Fest signage off of L.A. Live's Nokia Plaza on Tuesday.

If all goes to plan, Downtown and the Los Angeles Film Festival should create quite a symbiotic relationship. The festival, long a westside staple, is looking to tap into the energy of a revived center city that has seen vibrant growth but still has an image problem with those who remember its recent past.

Both are striving for the same sweet spot: that perfect mix of grit and glam.

The festival, now in its 16th year, opens on Thursday evening with a screening of Lisa Cholodenko's comedy-drama "The Kids Are All Right" and ends June 27 with year "Despicable Me," the Universal comedy starring Steve Carell that opens this summer. In-between are over 200 feature, shorts, and documentaries representing more than 40 countries; including a number of regional, national, and world premieres.

While screenings will be centered on the L.A. Live campus at the 14-screen Regal Cinemas, the festival will light projectors across Downtown, making use of the Orpheum, REDCAT, Downtown Independent and California Plaza.

What will be on the screen is the work of Los Angeles Film Festival artistic director David Ansen, the former film critic for Newsweek. This week he chatted with blogdowntown via email about what he hoped to achieve.

ED FUENTES: Did you consider renaming the event the Los Angeles International Film Festival? It seems there is a lot of foreign fare this year.

DAVID ANSEN: The festival has always had a strong international flavor. We're simply building on that strength. What's new this year is that over half of the narrative competition films are from outside the U.S.

I wanted to make every section of the festival as strong as it could possibly be, and that meant opening up the competition to all candidates. And our new Gala presentations has a very strong international presence: "Animal Kingdom" from Australia, "Mahler on the Couch" from Germany/Austria and "Revolucion" from Mexico.

The documentary competition may seem more international but that's partly because American filmmakers are making movies in and about other countries-- Laos ("Camera, Camera"), Mexico ("Circo"), Uganda ("Where Are You Taking Me") and Russia ("Vlast (Power)"). In fact, only two of the documentaries -- "Farewell" from the Netherlands and "Life with Murder" from Canada, can properly be considered foreign.

EF: The word diversity is almost overused in Los Angeles, but was there a conscious attempt to show a range of international filmmaking styles in a town that's big on formula films?

DA: Absolutely. Los Angeles movie-lovers deserve better than what the studios are giving them. In a summer where most of the fare has a 2, 3 or 4 at the end of the title, we want to show that movies can break formulas and change the way we look at the world.

But we embrace genre movies as well -- we've got horror movies, political thrillers, mysteries, musicals, and even a monster movie--though we guarantee that "Monster" isn't quite like any you've seen before.

And when we show a romantic comedy, like "The Kids are All Right," or "Cyrus," it's one that takes the genre in a fresh new direction. The one thing a good film festival should NOT be giving you is the same old, same old.

EF: Are you keeping an eye on how the Film Festival and Downtown can develop a shared identity, as you see at Cannes, Sundance, or Tribeca?

DA: We feel the new revitalized Downtown, with its incredible artistic (not to mention culinary) energy is a perfect fit for our vision of the festival as both cutting edge and reflective of the incredible diversity -- there's that word again-- of the city.

The wonderful L.A. LIVE campus gives the festival a real hub and heart, and I do think it will help solidify LAFF's identity as a destination festival--- not just for Angelenos but for those people who will travel a long way to see great movies in state of the art theaters.

It's our hope that we'll be as good for Downtown as Downtown will be for us.

EF: I hesitate to ask what films you consider a must-see. However, which films had you so excited when they were confirmed, you spilled coffee on your lap?

DA: I'm still cleaning off the coffee stains from confirming "The Kids Are Alright" as our opening night film. It strikes the perfect opening tone: a movie that is both enormously entertaining, brilliantly crafted, and daring (and set in 21st century L.A.).

But this is a loaded question: we think all of our movies are must-sees. Of course we're always excited when we land World Premieres -- we've got more of them than ever this year-- but we also wanted to bring to Los Angeles the very best from other festivals, and I think we've done that.

Now we want audiences to have that sense of spill your coffee excitement--just dont mess up those wonderful new seats at the Regal cineplex!

Los Angeles Film Festival 2010 / Opens Thursday, June 17 / Next: Some films to catch during the 16th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival.


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