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L.A. Film Festival: Documentaries on UFC's Evan Tanner, Iraqi women's sports and Ukrainian orphans

June 21, 2011 |  6:00 am

From Ultimate Fighting to Iraqi women's basketball to Ukrainian orphans, documentaries provide a window into some exotic niche worlds at this year's L.A. Film Festival.

"Once I Was a Champion" tracks the enigmatic path of former UFC champion Evan Tanner, who died in 2008 at age 37 after a solo trip into the desert. Through archival footage of Tanner and interviews with his friends and opponents, director (and former fighter himself) Gerard Roxburgh attempts to solve the mystery of whether Tanner's death was accidental or a suicide. "Salaam Dunk" follows the women's basketball team at the American University of Iraq -- a culture where the idea of women playing sports is unthinkable to many and even subversive. "Family Portrait in Black and White" questions the motives and methods of Olga Nenya, a single Ukrainian woman raising 20 foster children on her own.

The L.A. Times is a presenting sponsor of the festival, and Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the festival’s downtown Filmmaker Lounge, we continue our series of free lunchtime talks. (You can watch the chat live here at latimes.com.) Roxburgh, David Fine (the director of “Salaam Dunk”) and Julia Ivanova  (writer-director of “Family Portrait in Black and White”) will be there to talk about their films in a conversation moderated by Rebecca Keegan.


LAFF: Ti West's 'Innkeepers' aims to mix humor with horror

LAFF: Kate Bosworth's 'L!fe Happens' follows 'Bridesmaids' down the aisle

LAFF: Four Chinese adoptees in search of themselves in 'Somewhere Between'

--Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Evan Tanner. Cred: L.A. Film Festival

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