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Category: Los Angeles Film Festival

L.A. Film Festival: Kazan, Dano mix business with pleasure in 'Ruby Sparks'

June 18, 2012 |  5:39 pm

Ruby Sparks stars Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano

Zoe Kazan was midway through writing the screenplay for the new film "Ruby Sparks" when her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, raised an important question: "You're writing this for us, right?"

"I guess I am," Kazan replied.

Her finished product tells of a novelist named Calvin and his girlfriend, Ruby, a woman of his own invention who appears to literally come to life for him, and the film received a warm audience reception at the Los Angeles Film Festival during a secret screening Sunday evening.

But in a question-and-answer session after the Fox Searchlight movie, which opens in theaters July 25, Kazan said finding filmmakers who would back the script with her and Dano in the leading roles proved to be a challenge.

While both actors have appeared in a slew of positively-reviewed independent films — he in "Little Miss Sunshine," both in "Meek's Cutoff" — neither is exactly considered a box office draw.

"Everyone I met with said, 'We'll never get this made with you and Paul in the leads — it's impossible,'" recalled Kazan, 28.

Eventually, though, they did secure funding and "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris signed on to helm the film. But Kazan struggled with giving them the freedom they and her castmates needed to play with her script.

"It was very easy for me to be present with Paul — saying lines wasn't so hard, it was having actors drop full portions of things and not have that register on my face at all which was hard," she said.

Dano, meanwhile, insisted he had no trepidation about working with his romantic partner.

"When I watch the movie, it doesn't look like us to me, which is a real blessing, I think," the 27-year-old said. "Sometimes on the drive home from work, one of us got a little cranky: me."

"Paul and I had already been together almost four years," Kazan said of the experience. "So I liken it to having a baby. It was really stressful and wonderful and meant so much to us. But I don't know if I want a second baby."

— Amy Kaufman



A musical mystery in 'Searching for Sugar Man'

L.A. Film Festival: William Friedkin's ferocious sensibility

Photo: "Ruby Sparks" stars Zoe Kazan, left, and Paul Dano. Credit: Fox Searchlight.

L.A. Film Festival: A musical mystery in 'Searching for Sugar Man'

June 18, 2012 |  8:00 am

In 1970, a Detroit-based singer-songwriter who went by the one-name moniker Rodriguez released an album titled “Cold Fact.” A collection of frank, politically minded folk songs, the record earned favorable comparisons to the work of Bob Dylan and stellar reviews -- Billboard gave it four stars. Despite the acclaim, it was a commercial failure. A follow-up, “Coming From Reality,” suffered a similar fate. Rodriguez was dropped from his label and faded into obscurity.

Except in South Africa.

Half a world away, “Cold Fact” slowly amassed a cult following, and in the unlikeliest of events, protest music penned by a poor, inner-city Mexican American poet became a cultural touch-point for a young generation of white liberals disillusioned by the repressive policies of South African apartheid. Rodriguez’s fans knew little about him, however -- only that he had committed suicide onstage during a concert performance.

INTERACTIVE: Cheat Sheet -- Los Angeles Film Festival

The documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” which screens Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live as part of The Times-sponsored Los Angeles Film Festival, follows the efforts of two South African fans -- one, a former jeweler-turned-record store owner, the other a journalist -- to uncover the truth about the mysterious performer who, as people in the film say, was “bigger than the Rolling Stones.”

The stranger-than-fiction tale of how an artist could become a superstar in one country while remaining a complete unknown elsewhere fascinated first-time feature filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, a Stockholm-based television director and producer who stumbled across the story during a six-month research expedition in 2006.

Continue reading »

LAFF 2012: Woody Allen gives Rome (if not himself) some love

June 15, 2012 |  6:30 am

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love," starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Allen, opened the Los Angeles Film FestivalWoody Allen stood up in front of a Los Angeles Film Festival audience and offered a  glimpse into his self-flagellating mindset. Then he left the podium, and his movie pretty much did the same thing.

Unveiling his new Italy-set ensemble romantic comedy, "To Rome With Love," on the festival's opening night at Regal Cinemas in downtown L.A., Allen told the audience -- perhaps only half-jokingly -- that he was very sensitive to criticism. "If you hate it and think it was a waste of time, don't let me know. I get depressed easily," the 76-year-old Oscar winner told the crowd.

Allen's English- and Italian-language film, which features countless shots of Rome  bathed in a golden light, shows a set of parallel characters teetering on the brink of their own uncertainties.

INTERACTIVE: Films playing at the L.A. Film Festival

Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) uneasily contemplates an affair with his girlfriend's best friend (Ellen Page). Young newlywed Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) wrings his hands as he tries to avoid being caught in a series of lies with a brassy prostitute (Penelope Cruz). His wife Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) self-consciously flirts with an unctuous movie star (Antonio Albanese) as she considers her own affair.

Allen himself even turns up, as a malcontented father of a young American woman marrying into an Italian family. He then questions himself and needles everyone around him -- particularly wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) -- in the manner of countless Allen characters before.

But perhaps no character betrays what Allen the director is thinking more than Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), in a vignette that's both a criticism of reality-TV fame and an exhumation of Allen's own complicated relationship with celebrity. Perhaps the most boring man in all of Rome, Leopoldo leaves his house one morning to find himself besieged by paparazzi and talk-show hosts obsessing over details as mundane as his breakfast and shaving rituals.


Some of this satire seems clearly aimed at a Kim Kardashian famous-for-being-famous brand of celebrity. But Allen's ambivalence about his own public profile is never far from the surface.

INTERACTIVE: Films playing at the L.A. Film Festival

Though it is as serious as a sprinkling of Parmesan -- the new user-friendly title, which replaced the more cryptic "Nero Fiddled" and even more esoteric "Bop DeCameron," seems fitting -- the movie also distills seemingly every Allen preoccupation of the last three decades. Fidelity! Mortality! Sex! Celebrity! (On that last score, Allen does give the final word to a character who says that being a celebrity is "better" than the alternative. And Allen did show up to LAFF, something he didn't do for the Oscars in February.)

"Rome" hits theaters on June 22 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. Allen and the distributor of course last brought out the time-jumping 'Midnight in Paris," the French stop on Allen's global tour (he next shoots in San Francisco) and an Oscar-anointed blockbuster.

After that warm reception for "Paris," the early reviews of "Rome" have, perhaps inevitably, been mixed, with some holding it up unfavorably to his 2011 best picture nominee.

Allen told the LAFF crowd, "I had a wonderful time making this picture in Rome. That does not mean you will enjoy it," perhaps alluding to those early reviews.

No matter the reaction, Allen shows little sign of letting up. At several points in the new film, Davis' Phyllis tells Allen's Jerry that he "equate[s] retirement with death. As Allen prepares to shoot his eighth (!) movie since turning 70, one gets the sense those words are close to the filmmaker's heart.


Los Angeles Film Festival puts diversity on the screen

When Woody Allen got funny at the Academy Awards

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" to open Los Angeles Film Festival

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Fabio Armiliato, Judy Davis and Woody Allen in "To Rome With Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

L.A. Film Fest adds Duplass movie, Korean animated 'King of Pigs'

May 15, 2012 | 12:08 pm

King of pigs
The latest movie from filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, an edgy South Korean animated film, and "Safe House" director Daniel Espinosa's "Easy Money" will screen at the L.A. Film Festival next month, organizers said Tuesday.

The Duplasses' "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon," will be presented in a special screening open only to members of Film Independent, which puts on the festival. The movie, which will open in theaters in July, focuses on  two adult brothers who during a weekend family reunion rekindle a homemade competitive sporting event from their childhood while trying to keep it a secret from their relatives. 

Yuen Sang-ho's animated "The King of Pigs" will have its North American premiere at the festival. The  cold-blooded adult tale explores the underside of human nature at an all-boys middle school in Seoul. The school is a microcosm of society, a harsh environment where there is no escape from constant bullying and violence.

“Life is unfair, and that’s the reality,” Yeun, a chain-smoker with oversize glasses whose previous short films focused on life’s gloomier moments, told the L.A. Times in an interview last year. “I just wanted to show what the current society is like.”

The director funded the $150,000 project himself, with assistance from various art foundations. The film, with computer and hand-drawn animation, is purposely crude and rough, with plenty of graphic head-turning moments.

"Easy Money" is the previous film from “Safe House” director Daniel Espinosa, which was acquired by the Weinstein Co. two years ago.

“Easy Money” is based on a novel from Swedish author Jens Lapidus and stars Joel Kinnaman ("The Killing") as a Stockholm taxi driver who becomes enmeshed in a drug-running operation.

The festival will also host a free community screening of "Question Bridge: Black Males" and a panel discussion looking at women in animation. Panelists will include Kristine Belson, executive producer of "How to Train Your Dragon"; Karen Rupert Toliver, 20th Century Fox Animation's vice president of production; Katharine Sarafian, producer of Pixar's "Brave"; and Michelle Murdocca, producer of Sony Pictures Animation's "Hotel Transylvania."


‘Safe House’ director’s prior film coming to theaters July 27

Film Independent announces lineup for Los Angeles Film Festival

‘King of Pigs’: Korean filmmaker Yeun Sang-ho explores dark side

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: A scene from "King of Pigs."  Credit: Adamspace.

William Friedkin to serve as L.A. Film Fest's guest director

May 15, 2012 | 11:09 am

Killer joe matthew mcconaughey
William Friedkin, the Academy Award-winning director of 1971's "The French Connection," will serve as guest director of the Los Angeles Film Festival and will screen his new NC-17 movie, "Killer Joe," on June 15, organizers said Tuesday. "Killer Joe" will be shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Friedkin will participate in an onstage interview.

The film follows 22-year-old Chris (Emile Hirsch), who is in debt to a drug lord. He must hire a hit man to dispatch his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister (Juno Temple). Chris finds Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a creepy Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. When Chris can't pay Joe upfront, Joe sets his sights on Dottie as collateral for the job.

Festival organizers also announced that composer Danny Elfman, chef Michael Voltaggio and record producer Raphael Saadiq would serve as the festival's artists-in-residence, curating screenings and conversations related to their specialties. Elfman will present hand-picked film clips featuring his favorite scores on June 16, and will discuss how film music has shaped his career. Voltaggio, the famed "Top Chef" who owns the award-winning restaurant Ink in Los Angeles, will present Bib Giraldi's "Dinner Rush" on June 20, followed by a conversation.

Saadiq will present a screening of his choice on June 15, followed by a conversation with KCRW-FM's Chris Douridas.

The L.A. Film Festival runs from June 14 to June 24.


Woody Allen's 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

Film Independent announces lineup for Los Angeles Film Festival

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Matthew McConaughey stars as the title character  in William Friedkin's movie "Killer Joe."  Credit: Skip Bolen/LD Entertainment

Film Independent announces lineup for Los Angeles Film Festival

May 1, 2012 | 10:00 am

"Magic Mike" at L.A. film fest

"Magic Mike," Steven Soderbergh's dramatic comedy set in the world of male strippers, will have its world premiere as the closing night program of the Los Angeles Film Festival next month.

The film, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum, opens theatrically on June 29.

The festival, June 14-24 at L.A. Live's Regal Cinemas downtown as well as at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and REDCAT, announced its lineup Tuesday morning.

Film Independent, which presents the festival, previously had announced the opening night presentation (Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love") and its three galas ("Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Middle of Nowhere" and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World").

The fest, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, will screen more than 200 features, shorts and music videos. [For the record: An earlier version of this post mistakenly had the number of films as more than 300.]

Ten films are featured in the Narrative Competition category, including several world premieres:

"Breakfast With Curtis," from writer/director/producer Laura Colella

"Dead Man's Burden," from writer/director Jared Moshe

"Four" from writer/director Joshua Sanchez

"Pincus" from writer/director David Fenster

"Red Flag" from writer/director/producer Alex Karpovsky

There are also several world premieres in the Documentary Competition category, including "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives," "The Iran Job:,"  "A Band Called Death,"  "25 to Life,"  "Sun Kissed" and "Vampira and Me."

Among the15 films in the International Showcase are France's "The First Man," based on Albert Camus' autobiography; Argentina's "The Last Elvis," Switzerland's "Sister," which won the Silver Bear in Berlin, and "Summer Games"; and France's "Unforgivable," from veteran director Andre Techine.

The Summer Showcase programming includes the documentary "About Face," featuring fashion models from the last 60 years; "Celeste and Jesse Forever," with Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg; the documentary  "Neil Young Journeys," directed by Jonathan Demme; and "Robot and Frank," directed by Jake Schreier and starring Frank Langella.

Classic films will also be screened at the festival, including 30th anniversary presentations of Steven Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

There's also a "'Dirty Dancing Dance-A-Long," the world premiere of "Ballads, Blues and Bluegrass," a 1961 impromptu concert film that had not been released until now and the newly restored 1950 classic drama "The Breaking Point," with John Garfield and Patricia Neal, based on Ernest Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not."

Rounding out the festival are shorts programs, a future filmmakers showcase and music videos.

For a complete list, go to http://www.lafilmfest.com


"'To Rome With Love" to open the L.A. Film Festival

— Susan King

Photo: Alex Pettyfer, left, Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum star in "Magic Mike." Credit: Glen Wilson/Warner Bros.



Steve Carell's 'Seeking a Friend' to premiere at L.A. Film Fest

April 23, 2012 | 10:00 am

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, will be among the gala screenings at the L.A. Film Festival, organizers announced Monday. The Sundance award-winning "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Middle of Nowhere" will also have gala presentations at the June festival in downtown Los Angeles.

"Seeking a Friend" will be having its world premiere at the fest. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (who adapted "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"), the movie follows two neighbors (Carell and Knightley) who strike up an unlikely friendship as the Earth is faced with extinction because a giant asteroid is hurtling toward the planet. The movie, being released by Focus Features, will be released nationwide June 22.
"Beasts" is a magical realism tale of a defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee. It focuses on a 6-year-old girl on the brink of orphanhood whose world is upended by a violent storm. The movie, directed by Benh Zeitlin, won this year’s Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was recently selected to play in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Fox Searchlight will release the film June 27. 

"Middle of Nowhere," written and directed by Ava DuVernay, follows a woman struggling to hold together her marriage when her husband goes to prison. The film garnered DuVernay the Best Director Award at this year’s Sundance; AFFRM and Participant will release the film Oct. 12.

As announced earlier, Woody Allen’s "To Rome With Love" will kick off the festival June 14. Additional galas and the rest of the major lineup of the June 14-24 festival will be announced May 1. Passes are on sale at lafilmfest.com


Sundance 2012: 'Beasts' sparks a flood of strong reaction

Sundance 2012: Meaty roles for black actors in 'Middle of Nowhere'

Woody Allen's 'To Rome With Love' to open L.A. Film Festival 

— Julie Makinen

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome with Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

April 12, 2012 | 11:05 am

To rome with love

After whisking audiences to France last year with “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen is bringing another Europe-set comedy to the big screen with this year’s “To Rome With Love.” Film Independent announced Thursday that the new movie will open the Los Angeles Film Festival on Thursday, June 14.

Written and directed by Allen, “To Rome With Love” marks the filmmaker’s first on-screen role since 2006’s “Scoop.” Also starring Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Greta Gerwig, the film depicts the romances and adventures of people in Rome. The cast plays a collection of Americans and Italians.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off this year’s festival than with the original independent filmmaker himself, Woody Allen. It’s a true honor for Los Angeles to host the North American premiere of 'To Rome With Love,'” Festival Director Stephanie Allain said in a statement.

The festival's screening at L.A. Live's Regal Cinemas will be the film's North American premiere.

“To Rome With Love” opens in Italy on April 20, and Sony Pictures Classics will distribute the film in the U.S. for a limited release on June 22.

The Los Angeles Film Festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, runs June 14-24 and will screen over 200 feature films, shorts and music videos. Passes are currently on sale to past festival attendees and Film Independent members, and will be available to the general public on April 22.


Indian Film Festival highlights emerging directors

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest to kick off with 'Shanghai Calling'

Oscars 2012: When Woody Allen got funny at Academy Awards

— Emily Rome

Photo: Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in "To Rome with Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Movie producer Stephanie Allain named director of L.A. Film Festival

January 25, 2012 | 10:50 am


Veteran film producer Stephanie Allain has been named the new director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. She succeeds Rebecca Yeldham, who recently stepped down from the position she had held since 2009.

Allain, best known for her work as a producer on such films as "Black Snake Moan" and "Hustle & Flow,"  has served on the Film Independent Board of Directors since 2007 and recently chaired the Spirit Awards Nominating Committee. Film Independent runs both the Spirit Awards and the L.A. Film Festival.

"Stephanie has a clear vision for the festival, a stellar track record as a producer and a deep commitment to the Festival's filmmaker-centric focus," Film Independent co-president Sean McManus said in a statement.

Yeldham oversaw the transition of the Los Angeles Film Festival from Westwood to its new location in downtown Los Angeles. In addition to her role at Film Independent, Yeldham is an independent producer who recently completed her third project with director Walter Salles, "On the Road," an adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel.

Allain will work closely with festival Managing Director Gloria Campbell and festival Artistic Director David Ansen to pull together the 2012 film festival slated to run June 14-24.

"The Los Angeles Film Festival is a unique celebration of cinema and a hub for filmmakers and film lovers, especially for those of us who live and work in the film industry," Allain said in a statement. "I can't wait to dive in and develop creative ways in which we can expand the festival and its programs."


Film Independent names Sean McManus and Josh Welsh co-presidents

Film Independent honcho named CEO for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Stephanie Allain on the set of "Hustle & Flow'" with writer-director Craig Brewer, left, and producer John Singleton Credit: Alan Spearman / Paramount Classics


L.A. Film Festival: Audience favorites coming soon to a theater near you

June 26, 2011 |  1:39 pm


Audiences and jurors at the L.A. Film Festival this year seemed partial to international entries and those with a musical bent -- filmmakers from Canada, Iran and England were among the prize winners, as were films about the band A Tribe Called Quest and country singer Chely Wright.

If you missed the festival, which wraps up Sunday, you'll soon be able to catch some of the award-winners in theaters, among them "Attack the Block," which won the audience award for best narrative. The British comedy from director Joe Cornish, about a group of London teens fending off invaders from outer space, arrives in theaters July 29.

"Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest," which won the audience award for best documentary, will open in limited release July 8. "Senna," a documentary about Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna, which was named the audience favorite for international feature and has been raking in millions at the box office overseas, also comes to U.S. theaters Aug. 12.

See our rundown of all the winners.


'Beats, Rhymes & Life' premiere turns emotional

Teenagers take on extraterrestrials in 'Attack the Block'

Tears and thrills from the Formula One racetrack in documentary 'Senna'

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Scene from "Senna." Credit: Courtesy L.A. Film Festival


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