At 10, CineVegas keeps gambling on renegade fare


CineVegas has never been for stuffed-shirt cineastes.

The film festival -- running today through June 21 at the Palms Casino Resort and other Sin City venues -- boasts a screening of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami's animated short "Planting the Seeds" on the Lake of Dreams waterfall at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel. A midnight filmmakers bowling party is planned at the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino.

"Come on, how many film festivals go bowling at midnight?" CineVegas president Robin Greenspun asks. "Those are the kinds of things we've done forever, and that's what makes us different."

Although the festival is celebrating its 10th edition, it didn't begin to come into its own until the 2002 hiring of longtime Sundance Film Festival senior programmer Trevor Groth, who ratcheted up the quality of the films. In his role as CineVegas artistic director, he has brought edgier fare to the desert -- as well as some big-ticket events.

This year, the festival opens with the world premiere of Fox's "The Rocker" and closes with a screening of "The Great Buck Howard," starring Colin Hanks and John Malkovich. Inspired by last year's screening of "Ocean's Thirteen," which raised $2.5 million for relief efforts in Darfur, Groth has also scheduled a screening of Warner Bros.' "Get Smart" to benefit Dwayne Johnson's The Rock Foundation. And its awards gala honorees are pure Hollywood: Anjelica Huston, James Caan, Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Viggo Mortensen and Sam Rockwell.

For hard-core festivalgoers, the main attractions are the special sections, such as Jackpot Premieres (world or U.S. premieres of films seeking distribution), Area 52 (underground films) and La Proxima Ola (films by first- and second-time Mexican directors).

This year, Groth has added Pioneer Documentaries, showcasing films about people who defy odds and expectations. Highlights include Abel Ferrara's "Chelsea on the Rocks," a doc about New York's notorious Chelsea Hotel, featuring Dennis Hopper, who first came to the festival five years ago and signed on as chairman of its Creative Advisory Board.

"CineVegas will show films that other festivals probably wouldn't show for various different reasons," Hopper says. "It's probably a little more daring and a little more on the edge."

If CineVegas has a major shortcoming in the industry's eyes, it's that no significant acquisitions have been made there. But Groth isn't too concerned.

"The notion that if a film festival doesn't have any sales, it's not a success, is misguided," he says. "Some of the best films that I've seen in my life have been ones that didn't get theatrical distribution for whatever reason. I love the challenge of finding these wonderful, fascinating and innovative films and trying to do what I can to get them seen by as many people as possible."

For a complete CineVegas to-do list, go to the next page.

CineVegas To-Do List
Tributes, parties, Jackpot Premieres and other special events in the desert

Thursday, June 12
7:30 p.m. Opening night film: world premiere of Fox's "The Rocker"
9:30 p.m. Opening night party (Palms)

Friday, June 13
6 p.m. World premiere of "Big Heart City"
8:30 p.m. World premiere of "Your Name Here"
9 p.m. CineVegas 10th anniversary party (Palms)

Saturday, June 14
1 p.m. World premiere of "She Unfolds by Day"
2 p.m. Screening of "Ano Una" (The Year of the Nail)
3:30 p.m. World premiere of "South of Heaven"
6 p.m. World premiere of "Happy Birthday, Harris Malden"
8 p.m. Screening of Focus Features' "Deficit"
8:30 p.m. World premiere of "Dark Streets"
9 p.m. Benefit concert for the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation (Palms)

Sunday, June 15
1:45 p.m. Charity screening of Warner Bros.' "Get Smart" (Planet Hollywood)
3 p.m. Screening of HBO Documentary Films' "The Black List: Volume One"
4 p.m. U.S. premiere of "Chelsea on the Rocks"
7 p.m. World premiere of "Memorial Day"
9 p.m. Viva! CineVegas party at Dos Caminos (Palazzo)

Monday, June 16
7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Screenings of "Takashi Murakami: Planting the Seeds" (Wynn)

Tuesday, June 17
2:30 p.m. Screening of Arthouse Films' "The Cool School"
5 p.m. "Marginal: Art for Its Own Sake" panel
9 p.m. Party at Tao (Venetian)
12 a.m. Filmmakers bowling party (Gold Coast Bowling Center)

Wednesday, June 18
5 p.m. Screening of IFC Films' "The Last Mistress"
9 p.m. Evening at the Beatles Revolution Lounge (Mirage)

Thursday, June 19
1:30 p.m. Screening of ThinkFilm's "Momma's Man"
9 p.m. Freemont Street Drive-In party (Downtown Cocktail Room)

Friday, June 20
4 p.m. Tribute to Don Cheadle
4:30 p.m. Screening of Strand Releasing's "Help Me Eros"
6 p.m. Tribute to Viggo Mortensen
6:30 p.m. Screening of Fox Searchlight's "Choke"
8 p.m. Honoree awards ceremony and reception (Planet Hollywood)
8 p.m. Tribute to James Caan (Planet Hollywood)
9:30 p.m. Screening of Sony Pictures Classics' "The Wackness"

Saturday, June 21
1 p.m. Screening of "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"
1 p.m. Tribute to Rosario Dawson
3 p.m. Tribute to Sam Rockwell
5 p.m. Tribute to Anjelica Huston
7 p.m. Closing night film: "The Great Buck Howard"
9 p.m. Closing night party (Palazzo)

Unless otherwise noted, all screenings and tributes take place at the Brenden Theatres at the Palms Casino Resort. Schedule subject to change.