MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie: LAFF 2017

The Los Angeles Film Festival begins a second year in Culver City, following stints downtown and in Westwood Village. Putting aside the dilemma of finding a geographic locale with sufficient screens to sustain a program, is location a cause of LA Fest’s declining admissions?

My gut says no. And LAFF’s new artistic director Jennifer Cochis has been on the stump about taking the event in a new direction, as well as widening its accessibility with events and screenings at the Los Angeles County Museum, the Arclights in Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A..

It doesn’t sound that radical – fewer world premieres, a willingness to slot films that have played other showcases and a focus on new filmmakers, regardless of gender or ethnicity. It also appears to have expanded its global representation after several years of cutbacks. Apart from a decision to scrap repeat screenings, it’s all theoretically sound.

The bottom line for LAFF is that it will live or die based on its film selection. LAFF is not not a film market with the industry eyeing film acquisitions and emerging talent, and it’s not a series of social events sustained by deep-pocketed patrons.

Maudie, one of the only selections I’ve seen, is superb. Detailing the life of primitive painter Maud Lewis, it rises above the genre norm in great part to the sublime performance of Sally Hawkins in the title role. But it’s playing Thursday, and in the words of Cochis, “If you miss it, you’ll be sorry.” Or, maybe not, since Maudie opens at arthouses in a few weeks.

The film landscape has changed radically since the FilmEx era of the 1970s. The city has grown from a viewer base with limited access to movies outside the Hollywood mandate, to the availability cinematic visions both grand and minute from every corner of the globe. Perhaps only Paris supercedes this town in that respect.

Only last week, there was the Dances with Film fest as well as the Greek Film week and Outfest follows on the tails of LA Film Fest. Then there are continuing programs of new and vintage movies from UCLA, LACMA, Cinefamily, the American Cinematheque, the New Beverly, etc., etc.

Keeping up with all of this requires otherworldly stamina and I suspect most Los Angelenos suffer from degrees of film fatigue. But no outlet has to appeal to every movie diehard, just to enough of a crowd to fill whatever number of seats one has.

Probably the one thing that would benefit LAFF is more razzle-dazzle. Just a bit of “look at me” as in I can do “this” and you can’t. It is admittedly an ill defined something extra but in an arena this competitive and with a jaundiced media horde, extraordinary measures are mandatory. And one thing more: deliver the goods.

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Klady

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“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch

To me, Hunter S. Thompson was a hero. His early books were great, but in many ways, his life and career post–Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is a cautionary tale for authors. People expected him to be high and drunk all the time and play that persona, and he stuck with that to the end, and I don’t think it was good for him. I always sort of feel mixed emotions when I hear that people went and hung out with Hunter and how great it was to get high with Hunter. The fact is the guy was having difficulty doing any sustained writing at all for years probably because so many quote, unquote, “friends” wanted to get high with him … There was a badly disappointed romantic there. I mean, that great line, “This is where the wave broke, the tide rolled back … ” This was a guy that was hurt and disappointed and very bitter about things, and it made his writing beautiful, and also with that came a lot of pain.
~ Anthony Bourdain