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Highlights of the Los Angeles Film Festival

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Film Independent's annual Los Angeles Film Festival screens hopefuls for the Spirit Awards, the indie film community's answer to that other big awards show. This year, the non-profit arts organization is trading in the festival's usual West Side theaters for venues around Downtown. Considering how difficult it's become to distinguish between bona fide "indie" films and studio-backed mainstream cinema, the switch is turning out to be fortuitous. Like Downtown itself, LA Film Fest reminds us that great independent projects are still being made, and as usual, they're having trouble scoring the publicity they deserve. With that in mind, here are just a few highlights of this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, whose panoply of world premieres, panel discussions, showcases, and special programming can be as difficult to navigate as the festival's official website.

Documentary Competition


One Lucky Elephant (USA, 2010)

Circus producer David Balding realizes his star African elephant Flora has lived a limited existence in St. Louis, and sets out to find options that would relocate her to a more natural environment. 18 years after first rescuing the orphaned baby pachyderm, Balding's genuine fondness for the animal begins to have unintended consequences as he begins to wrestle with the ethical consequences of confinement. A touching account of one man's love for a creature of the wild, One Lucky Elephant is the true story of a majestic animal and the emotional and moral repercussions of captivity.

$12
Friday June 25 (5pm)
Saturday June 26 (1:45pm)
Regal Cinemas LA LIVE Stadium 14
1000 West Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Gala Screenings


Animal Kingdom (Australia, 2009)

Following his mother's heroin overdose, 17-year-old Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) is unwittingly thrust into the core of a criminal underworld where lawbreaking is a way of life. The Australian family crime drama chronicles its teen protagonist's series of harrowing adventures as he sets out on a rocky path to adulthood. The film features an impressive debut by Frecheville, who beat out 500 other contenders for the role of "J," as well as top-notch performances by Guy Pearce as Detective Leckie; Jacki Weaver as Janine 'Smurf' Cody; and Ben Mendelsohn as the diabolical chief outlaw, Andrew "Pope" Cody.

$12
Wednesday June 23 (8pm)
Friday June 25 (4:45pm)
Regal Cinemas LA LIVE Stadium 14
1000 West Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

International Showcase

Eyes Wide Open (France, Germany, Israel, 2009)

One of the documentary highlights of last year's LAFF was City of Borders, Yun Suh's portrait of a gay bar in Jerusalem. This year, the taboo subject of same-sex relations in the city's mega-orthodox community is further explored in a narrative: Eyes Wide Open. After Ezri, a mysterious drifter, wanders into a butcher shop looking for work, the proprietor, an upstanding family man, begins to experience the moral, communal, and spiritual consequences of desire. Directed by Haim Tabakman, the film's provocative subject matter is handled with sophisticated restraint while effectively exploring the tenuous religious implications of homosexuality.

$12
Thursday June 24 (10pm)
Regal Cinemas LA LIVE Stadium 14
1000 West Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
July 2-8 at Laemmle's Sunset 5

The Beyond

Separado! (Wales, 2009)

Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals have transcended the restrictive "Brit Pop" label ever since they first took to the stage in 1996, sharing the bill with the likes of the Prodigy and Stone Roses. More than a decade later, their psychedelic tunes continues to integrate classic electronic elements for a sound that defies genre. Now, the group's frontman, Gruff Rhys, chronicles the search for his "long lost Patagonian uncle" in his debut feature-length documentary, Separado! LA Film Festival's "The Beyond" series is reserved especially for films "that dare to be different," and Separado! certainly fits the description. In many ways, the film's visuals echo the band's protean, kaleidoscopic sound, and luckily for audiences, they have the same effect.

$12
Thursday June 24 (10:15pm)
Saturday June 26 (10pm)
Regal Cinemas LA LIVE Stadium 14
1000 West Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Music Videos


Tsugou no ii Karada: Shiina Ringo
Director: Yuichi Kodama (Caviar)

Big in Japan: A Selection of Japanese Music Videos

The first, and perhaps best-known song by Alphaville is their 1984 debut: "Big in Japan." While the German synth pop band's paramount single has nothing to do with tonight's program of 21 Japanese music videos, it does evoke the issue of globalization and cultural appropriation. Alphaville took their name from Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 alternative sci-fi film about a multichannel, Orwellian existence, and tonight, Los Angeles, Alphaville's real-life counterpart, hosts a program with lighthearted yet mind-bending videos that are not satirically, but genuinely, big in Japan.

$12
Wednesday June 23 (9:45pm)
GRAMMY Museum
800 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

 
 
 

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