7th Downtown Film Festival L.A., July 22-26, Announces Feature Films
Half Of All Films Screening, Including Claudia Sparrow’s Opening Night Film ‘I Remember You,’
By Women Directors
5-Day event in historic core of DTLA features array of cutting-edge concert films, dramatic features and political documentaries
LOS ANGELES – June 29, 2015 – Organizers of the nonprofit Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles announced its 7th annual feature film line-up, today. The five-day event, July 22-26, will be held in venues throughout downtown L.A.’s historic core with The Regent theater, 448 S. Main St., serving as the festival’s primary venue.
Known for presenting cutting-edge indie cinema, the festival this year will present 11 feature films, most Los Angeles or world premieres, ranging from contemporary and historical dramas and music concert films to documentary features on issues at the forefront of progressive politics.
“Downtown L.A. has become an international brand for creativity, and that was reflected in the more than 500 submissions from around the world that our programming team reviewed this year. The result is a film line-up that we’re exceedingly proud of,” said festival director Greg Ptacek.
Earlier this year, the festival announced it would program half of the films at this year’s festival by women directors, and it has met the commitment. “This year’s feature line-up is testimony to the fact that there’s no shortage of talented women filmmakers. Our hope is that by providing a showcase for their films in Los Angeles, it will help crack the industry’s glass ceiling,” said programming director Carolyn Schroeder.
The 2015 festival’s Opening Night Film, receiving its world premiere, is “I Remember You,” a dramatic feature directed by Claudia Sparrow. Leah and Samuel, two complete strangers who are involved in the same accident, are soon haunted by an overwhelming sense that they have met before. The film stars Stefanie Butler and Joe Egender.
In the music film category, the festival will present the world premiere of director Kathy Kolla’s “Who Is Billy Bones?” the story of the seminal L.A. punk rocker, and the L.A festival premiere of “Hardcore Devo Live,” director Keirda Bahruth’s live concert film of the post-punk art rockers’ 2014 tour. “Devo Hardcore Live” will be presented as the festival’s Centerpiece program, while “Who Is Billy Bones?” will be the festival’s Closing Night Film.
The spotlight turns to a local perspective in two feature documentaries about race, social justice and urban degradation in the City of Angels. In the Los Angeles premiere screening of “East LA. Interchange,” filmmaker Betsy Kalin explores how the city’s freeways have defined, and now threatens Boyle Heights, the historic working class, immigrant community adjacent to DTLA. In the world premiere screening of “Radicalized,” director Sam Slovick’s intimate film follows the lives of a post- Occupy L.A. group of young activists as they create their own anarchist collective.
The focus expands to a national scope in “Freeway: Crack In The System,” director Marc Levin’s searing look at the federal government’s complicity in the crack cocaine epidemic that nearly destroyed inner-city neighborhoods throughout the nation in the Nineties, L.A. included. Narrated by Oscar-nominee James Cromwell, “Imminent Threat,” receiving its Los Angeles premiere, is director Janek Ambros’ documentary about the gross violations of civil liberties in the name of the U.S. government’s War on Terror (launched in the wake of 9/11).
On a lighter note, two dramatic features with heavy doses of underworld satire will have their Los Angeles premieres at the festival. Director Mikki del Monico’s “Alto” is your basic coming-out-to-family story except in this case her mob relatives are The Family. Director Jillian Armenante’s “Kittens In A Cage” has a familiar “babes behind bars” storyline but with a twist, as a ukulele-playing bad girl gets muscled into prison, only to discover that the secret to her escape lies in the warm embrace of her pyromaniac cellmate.
Also making its Los Angeles premiere is “ A Sort of Homecoming,” a dramatic feature that is “Spellbound” meets “Perfect Pitch.” Filmmaker Maria Burton takes the audience into the subculture of high school debate clubs to reveal universal themes.
Wrapping up the feature line-up is the festival’s Heritage Film presentation and world premiere of director Wes Wheadon’s “When Bette Met Mae,” a docudrama about the first encounter between two proto-feminists icons of Hollywood’s Golden Era – Bette Davis and Mae West. The meeting took place late in both of their careers, and contemporary look-alike actors are used to reenact the event. However, in what may be a cinematic first, the dialogue heard by the audience are the actual voices of Davis and West, which were secretly recorded at the time. The result is a fly-on-the-wall chance to eavesdrop on two of cinema’s most fascinating and celebrated figures, as they dish on the leading Hollywood and political movers-and-shakers of the day, the conversation getting more randy as the cocktails continue to pour.
The festival’s short films program will be announced at a later date. Tickets to festival screenings will go on sale this week. For more information, visit the festival website: www.dffla.com.
2015 DOWNTOWN FILM FESTIVAL L.A. – FEATURE FILMS
A SORT OF HOMECOMING – DRAMATIC FEATURE / DIRECTED BY MARIA BURTON / 2014 USA / BLU RAY /1:22 MIN
“Spellbound” meets “Pitch Perfect” in this charming film set in the seemingly arcane world of high school debate clubs, but which reveals its own universal truths. Amy (Michelle Clunie) unexpectedly returns to Louisiana at the request of her high school debate coach (Kathleen Wilhoite). Their strained reunion brings back memories of her senior year of high school. Re-examining the past, we follow young Amy (Laura Marano) and her debate partner Nick (Parker Mack) on the highly competitive national debate circuit as they meet competitors (Katherine McNamara) from top high schools around the country. A national championship is in reach but personal troubles are not far behind.
“ALTO” – DRAMATIC FEATURE / DIRECTED BY MIKKI DEL MONICO / 2015 / USA / BLU RAY/ 101 MIN
The mob and family non-conformity pave the way to laughter in this character-rich story that explores what happens when these worlds collide. Francesca “Frankie” Del Vecchio is adamant about life. Caught between her planned marriage to Tony and her attraction to Nicolette, Frankie is discovering that “choice” is a relative term, especially when the bargaining chip is the mob. In the process, she learns that the most surprising discoveries often come when we least expect it, in the midst of great personal distress, federal investigations, and oh yeah, lots and lots of lasagna.
“EAST L.A. INTERCHANGE” – FEATURE DOCUMENTARY / DIRECTED BY BETSY KALIN / 2015 USA / BLU RAY /120 MIN
The East Los Angeles freeway interchange is the busiest in world, and sitting next to it is Boyle Heights, the historic, working-class immigrant community just over the river from downtown L.A. The documentary explores how the freeways – a symbol of the city ingrained in America’s popular imagination – impact Boyle Heights’ residents: literally, as an environmental hazard and structural blockade and figuratively, as a conversational interchange about why the future of their beloved community should matter to us all.
“FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM” – FEATURE DOC / DIRECTED BY MARC LEVIN / 2014 / USA /B LU RAY/ 103 MIN
Set against the backdrop of America’s War on Drugs in the 1980s, this is the story of drug dealers, dirty cops, and government complicity. More compelling than fiction, it’s the real story behind how crack cocaine flooded inner cities, taking with it scores work of working class neighborhoods across the country. At the center of it all is the rise and fall of Freeway Rick Ross, a street hustler who became the King of Crack, and journalist Gary Webb, who broke the story wide open of the CIA’s involvement.
“HARDCORE DEVO LIVE!” – FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – CENTERPIECE FILM / DIRECTED BY KEIRDA BAHRUTH / 2015 / USA / BLU RAY/ 85 MIN
Among the most thought-provoking bands to emerge in the aftermath of punk, Devo scored a chart-topping hits like “Whip It” but has remained over the last three decades devoted to the exploration of art and music. Influence by punk, the band’s early work, recorded in worked in the basements and garages of Akron, Ohio, was a raw, unfiltered music that the group called “Hardcore DEVO.” In the summer of 2014, DEVO did 10 shows performing these seminal pre-fame songs, created between 1974 and 1977 and rarely played since then. Shot at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California, this exciting concert film captures these groundbreaking artists performing the songs that started it all, interwoven with interviews revealing the history of the band.
“IMMINENT THREAT” – FEATURE DOCUMENTARY / DIRECTED BY JANEK AMBROS / 201 / USA / DCP 4K, BLU RAY / 73 MIN
From the Authorization to Use Military Force passed by Congress immediately after 9/11 to the 2014 NSA revelations from Edward Snowden, the documentary looks at the violations of our civil liberties and gradual deterioration of political discourse. Interviewees cross party lines and include members of the U.S. Congress, Code Pink, A.C.L.U. and the Cato Institute.
I REMEMBER YOU – DRAMATIC FEATURE – OPENING NIGHT FILM / DIRECTED BY CLAUDIA SPARROW / 2015 / USA / BLU RAY, DVD/86 MIN
In this romantic drama, Leah and Samuel are two complete strangers whose paths cross when they are involved in the same accident. But soon they are haunted by an overwhelming sense that they have met before.
“KITTENS IN A CAGE” – DRAMATIC FEATURE / DIRECTED BY JILLIAN ARMENANTE / 2015 / USA / BLU RAY / 116 MIN
In this comedic twist on the tried-and-true “babes in prison” genre, ukulele-playing bad girl Junie Butler gets muscled into prison by her rat fink friends. Abandoned by all, she turns to the warm embrace of her pyromaniac cellmate as they plot to escape from a power hungry prison matron and an axe-murdering beauty queen.
“RADICALIZED” – DOCUMETARY FEATURE / DIRECTED BY SAM SLOVICK / 2015 / USA / BLU RAY / 120 MIN
What happened to the activists of Occupy Wall Street and its offshoot, Occupy L.A.? In this revolutionary film about political resistance in Los Angeles, the camera intimately follows the lives of a new generation of radicals in the social justice movement, where ideology meets reality and collides with the powers that be. Note: This film contains footage of graphic police violence.
“WHEN BETTE MET MAE” – DOCUDRAMA FEATURETTE – HERTIGAGE FILM / DIRECTED BY WES WHEADON / 2014 / USA / BLU RAY / 63 MIN
Bette Davis and Mae West come alive again in this cleverly conceived, artfully deceiving film recounting the real-life occasion of the first meeting of these legendary proto-feminist icons in Hollywood at a party in 1973. The meeting took place late in both of their careers, and contemporary look-alike actors are used to reenact the event. However, in what may be a cinematic first, the dialogue heard by the audience are the actual voices of Davis and West, which were secretly recorded at the time. The result is a fly-on-the-wall chance to eavesdrop on two of cinema’s most fascinating and celebrated figures, as they dish on the leading Hollywood and political movers-and-shakers of the day, the conversation getting more randy as the cocktails continue to pour.
“WHO IS BILLY BONES?” – FEATURE DOCUMENTARY – CLOSING NIGHT FILM / DIRECTED BY KATHY KOLLA / USA / BLU RAY / 77 MINS
The Billy Bones is an American Punk Rock band and a fixture on the L.A. punk scene that emerged in the last 1970s. The band features Steven William “Billy Bones” Fortuna, formerly of The Skulls, guitarist Alex Mack, drummer Alex Gomez, formerly of U.S. Bombs, tenor saxophone Bad Otis Link, visual artist Bass Easy Lou Jones, and rhythm guitarist Dustin “Damone” Snodgrass. The definitive documentary about one of the most enduring bands on the L.A. music scene, this is simple essential viewing, and listening, for anyone interested in the roots of punk rock.
ABOUT DOWNTOWN FILM FESTIVA L.A
Established in 2008, Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles is a nonprofit arts organization that provides a showcase for independent film in the historic core of the Film Capital of the World. The festival strives to reflect the unique cultural and ethnic diversity in the neighborhoods that comprise DTLA.
Greg Ptacek -Downtown Film Festival L.A.
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