MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Los Angeles Film Festival 2016 Wrap

The Los Angeles Film Festival will wind down tonight with Desierto. The Mexico-France co-production grapples with the hot button issue of illegal border crossings into the U.S.

The good news for my LAFF 2016 experience is a relatively strong program, albeit based upon my limited personal experience. I’ll just add the fact that I didn’t see as many films as I had hoped. Still, such films as Blood Stripe, Kicks and 11:55 fulfilled a mandate of diversity without employing it as a crutch.

This year’s juried award winners included Blood Stripe, about a female Marine coping with her tours of duty in Afghanistan. Documentary winner Political Animals focused on gay politicians in California. The latter film also won the audience award with the audience nod going to Green/is/Gold, a tale of brothers taking control from errant parents.

The festival move to Culver City was a marked improvement from the Downtown years. In addition to a more convivial environment such niceties as parking and access proved to be relatively low-stress experiences. The downside for the event is it’s not well run. Screenings begin 20 to 30 minutes late and that ought to be addressed with a better training program for its volunteers. There’s disarray within the Arclight complex with no sense of anyone steering the fest. An element as simple as signage is frustratingly absent. It resulted in one instance of being directed to the wrong auditorium. The “wrong” movie was likely better than the one planned out in my schedule but serendipity isn’t a sufficient defense.

Another major hurdle for the LAFF is bringing up its profile. My ad hoc survey found that almost no one outside the media and Film Independent membership was aware that a major film festival was going on this week. Its media sponsor the Los Angeles Times ran an opening day story and only two subsequent profile pieces on individual films. It felt very much like a disconnect between the corporate decision makers and reporters unenthused by the program.

The seemingly more receptive alternative L.A. Weekly appeared to be boycotting the LAFF. Last week’s issue, where one would anticipate a guide to the “hot” titles not to be missed, merited not a single mention about the event or its contents. My other ad hoc survey revealed that about 80% of attendees were Film Independent members. That might be a sufficient base to sustain the program. Preaching to the converted does little to expand the audience for alternative moviegoing.

The limited media exposure the LAFF received stressed diversity in respect to the films directed by minorities, women and other under-represented folk. There’s no question that emphasis is laudable and necessary. Still when you lead with your rationale, the content is going to suffer. The actual films got shunted off to the side or were referenced not in terms of quality or invention but in how they fit into a programming niche.

There’s long been an “us” and “them” stance embodied by Film Independent. Its annual Spirit Awards show revels in taking easy swipes at Hollywood studios and mainstreamers. Yet it strategically takes place on Oscar weekend to ensure that high profile names will be available and its broadcast revenue secured.

The choice to create a combative pose is simply not honest. There’s enormous overlap between the myriad haves and have-nots of the film industry that often blur the lines that are supposed to separate the sectors. The time has come to embrace the inter-relationship and champion the best, not the neediest.

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One Response to “Los Angeles Film Festival 2016 Wrap”

  1. Jim B.Clarke says:

    Appreciate your positive comments about LAFF moving to Culver City for the first time. As mayor of Culver City I thank LAFF for choosing our city and we look forward to hosting LAFF again next year during the City’s Centennial. (What better way to celebrate a city that was founded upon the movie industry.) Thanks also to The Culver Studios, the Culver Hotel and our downtown restaurants for being so welcoming to the LAFF staff and the festival participants. – Jim B. Clarke, Mayor, City of Culver City


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon