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Los Angeles Film Festival
It's a transitional year for the LAFF -- or is it? In November, longtime director Richard Raddon resigned amid controversy after it was revealed he donated $1,500 to support Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage California state initiative. After a long search, former Sundance senior programmer Rebecca Yeldham stepped into the breach last month. Although she's found herself "bombarded with a gazillion ideas," she's decided that, for now, she intends to largely stay the course set by her predecessor.
"I just want to try to find ways to enhance that, broaden the reach of the festival, elevate the quality," Yeldham says, "and take advantage (of the fact) that the film industry is the backbone of our city and there are all sorts of extraordinary artists living here who want to take pride of ownership in this festival."
According to director of programming Rachel Rosen, there will be an added emphasis on Mexican films this year, reflecting the L.A. region's large Mexican population, but for the most part, the 15th edition of LAFF will look like the 14th. It will be returning to its Westwood Village base with a program of about 110 features and 100 shorts, featuring the usual mix of the independent and the commercial (last year's LAFF opened with the world premiere of the big-budget actioner "Wanted").
Although big name sponsors Target and Netflix are onboard again, along with presenting sponsor the Los Angeles Times, the tough economic times might necessitate some belt-tightening, and that's most likely to affect the fest's annual Filmmaker Retreat, which has traditionally been held at Skywalker Ranch in Northern California.
"We're trying to find a sponsor to partner with Skywalker to enable us to go back," Feldham says. "If we're unable to do that, then we'll host something in Los Angeles, even if it's a 24- to 36-hour in-town retreat."
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Established in 1946, Karlovy Vary is the second-oldest film festival in the world after Venice, but it spent much of its history working under a Soviet-imposed cultural blackout. So one of its post-Velvet Revolution traditions has been helping Czech audiences play catch up with "New Hollywood" films from the 1970s and '80s. This year, that task will be carried out by "There Ain't No Cure for Love: A Tribute to Alan Rudolph," featuring five films -- from 1978's "Remember My Name" to 2002's "The Secret Lives of Dentists" -- presented by the writer-director himself.
"It's going to be the first time that the audience is going to be able to see those films on the big screen," says festival programmer Karel Och.
The festival also is looking to launch a new tradition with the minisection titled "A Female Take on Russia," which will feature "Nothing Personal," directed by Larisa Sadilova, and "Everybody Dies But Me," the debut feature from Valeria Gai Germanika. It also will be taking a look at new Japanese independent cinema with films from the Tokyo FilmeX festival screening as part of its "Another View" section, including: the four-hour "Love Exposure" from filmmaker and poet Sion Sono; "Passion," written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi; and "Non-Ko," written and directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri.
Behind the scenes, Och and Karlovy Vary executive director Krystof Mucha have been making annual forays to Los Angeles for the past five years, pitching the fest as a launch pad for the Central and Eastern European release of Hollywood films, as well as a fantastic place to discover the region's wealth of emerging filmmaking talent.
"They can see as many interesting films at Karlovy as in Cannes," Och says. "Maybe a different type of movie, but just as interesting."
Sarajevo Film Festival
"The idea is to put young talents from the region together in one project and support them to shoot their first feature," explains festival director Mirsad Purivatra. "We're going together with our partners to invest almost €200,000 ($264,500) as a base money fund for filmmakers to shoot five or six short films and to one low-budget feature film."
City of Film is an outgrowth of the Sarajevo Talent Campus, a program of lectures, workshops, discussions and screenings held during the festival, open to young filmmaking talent from Southeastern Europe.
Now entering its third year, it previously attracted such noted guest lecturers as Alexander Payne, Michael Moore, Charlie Kaufman and Kevin Spacey.
Sarajevo has yet to lock down this year's slate of films, but it has announced that it will be mounting an in-person tribute to Chinese director Jia Zhang Ke, whose body of work includes acclaimed documentaries such as 2006's "Dong" and last year's "24 City."
While the festival is happy to welcome talent and projects from around the globe, in the coming years it intends to focus more on the region's emerging filmmakers with programs like City of Film and CineLink, which is designed to help usher homegrown film projects through development and find potential partners.
"Together, the regional stars, the regional media and the festival have produced a completely new atmosphere here," Purivatra says. "It's an area with fantastic talents."
Venice Film Festival
Perhaps Venice artistic director Marco Mueller took those complaints to heart -- he already has made several key changes for this year's fest. The first is the return of Giorgio Gosetti to oversee Venice Days, the well-regarded sidebar he founded in 2004, focusing on new projects from up-and-coming directors. The second is the addition of the sidebar Controcampo Italiano, focusing on new trends in Italian cinema, which had been a fixture of the fest in the 1980s under then-artistic director Carlo Lizzani. It will feature seven fiction and nonfiction films in competition, all world premieres, with the winner receiving €40,000 ($52,500) in film stock from Kodak.
The program of films won't be announced until July, but several other key elements have been set. This year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement will go to Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, while the jury will be chaired by director Ang Lee, who won the Golden Lion for "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005 and "Lust, Caution" in 2007.
If history is any indication, filmmakers should be able to count on good crowds.
"The audiences there are so passionate," says Scott Franklin, producer of last year's Golden Lion winner "The Wrestler." "I think a lot of people come in from around Italy just to go to the festival and see films, so you get a real authentic audience, as opposed to a lot of other festivals where the audience is entirely industry."