Here it is folks, another big budget Hollywood production is upon us, this time coming only to theatres in its home town of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) has arrived, bringing with it a new acronym for us to twist our tongues around. I do love the film fest acronyms — LAFF, BiFF — if only someone would start an international film fest in St. Tropez…
But I digress. If you live in Los Angeles you can't help but know about LAFF, as its appropriate, although a touch obvious, palm-tree banner seems to adorn every lightpost throughout Hollywood. Luckily it's shaping up to be a pretty fun-filled fest. Featuring an opening-night screening of David Jacobson's Down in the Vallery (starring Edward Norton) at my favorite cinema, the Arclight Cinerama Dome, and a closing night showing of the aptly-titled Happy Endings (a Don Roos pic featuring the ever-adorable Maggie Gyllenhaal), the LAFF seems to know how to please an audience. Sundance favorites 2046, Junebug and Me and You and Everyone We Know populate a strong 'Summer Previews' section. However, perhaps the most interesting and eagerly-anticipated movie in this block is Gus Van Sant's Last Days, which chronicles the final days of fictional rock star Blake, inspired by the still-relevant Kurt Cobain.
The festival seems obsessed with featuring as many different types of ‘themed screenings' as is humanly possible. As well as the aforementioned ‘Summer Previews’ there are Ford Amphitheatre screenings under the stars, Dark Wave screenings of scary films, tribute screenings, special screenings, free screenings and guest director/artist in residence screenings to name but a few. It can only be hoped that these gimmicks do not distract from the quality of the films being showcased. Los Angeles gets all of these indie treats, but only eight narratives, eleven docs, and a bunch of international and short film screenings comprise the official competition. Though lacking in what this reporter would classify as 'true independent' flix, there are plenty of events for independent film makers to take in, including poolside chats with Elvis Mitchell, conversations with Julia Sweeney and coffee talks with all types of filmmakers. For a few bucks there's also a low-budget conference ($115) on Friday, June 24th, although, ironically, those hoping to hone their skills at the financing conference on Saturday, June 25th, have to pay more ($220).
So, to see some fun films and check out the independent scene beating within the heart of the studio hive, get out to Hollywood and check-in with the Los Angeles Film Festival.