Penny Marshall Being Honored at Hollywood Film Festival

Penny Marshall - H 2015
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The festival, which runs Sept. 23 to 27, is now focusing on socially relevant films.

Penny Marshall will be honored as a Social Impact Cinema Icon at this year’s Hollywood Film Festival, which kicks off today at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood. Marshall is expected to join HFF CEO and executive producer Brad Parks and executive director Rod Beaudoin on Thursday night when the festival will showcase four opening night films, which will be followed by a “Female Friday” program on Sept. 25.

The Sept. 24 line-up includes Pearly Gates, a comedy musical directed by Scott Ehrlich and starring Uzo Aduba, Illeana Douglas, Bonnie Somerville, Peter Bogdanovich and Lainie Kazan; Waffle Street, directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms and starring James Lafferty and Danny Glover in the true story of Jimmy Adams, an exec at a $30-billion hedge fund who loses his job and winds up working as a waiter at a waffle shop; Outliving Emily, a look at a long-term marriage directed by Eric Weber and starring includes Olympia Dukakis, Louis Zorick, Andre Braugher, Zosia Mamet and Alexis Bledel; and Ghost Town to Havana, the story of two baseball coaches who strike up a friendship in an online gaming room, directed by Eugene Corr and Roberto Chile.

Four other films are scheduled to screen during the course of the evening, including F for Franco, a portrait of James Franco, directed by Francisco J. Ricardo.

The Hollywood Film Festival — which was created by Carlos de Abreu in 1997 and eventually came to serve as an adjunct to the Hollywood Film Awards — has undergone a change of leadership since its last edition. Last year, Jon Fitzgerald’s advocacy organization CineCause acquired the festival from de Abreu with a plan to reorient it around films devoted to social activism. Parks — who spent more than a decade as a vice president of The Hanleigh Companies, an underwriter for Lloyds of London, specializing in entertainment, professional sports and high net worth corporate risk management — was involved in funding the acquisition, becoming a majority investor, with an option to fully acquire the company.

“After the somewhat unexpected public success of our inaugural 2014 event, the leadership of CineCause conducted an extensive market study and corporate review over the first half of 2015,” Parks said. “Upon completing that process, we accepted Jon Fitzgerald's offer to acquire his remaining equity in CineCause and further expand our investment in the future of the Hollywood Film Festival as a global platform for social impact independent filmmakers. Jon returned his full focus to his true passion, cause-based independent filmmaking.”

Beaudoin, who joined Parks last year in producing HFF, is a film fest veteran, who previously launched the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Iowa with Parks.

Continuing to focus on socially relevant films, the two have adopted “See Good/Do Good/Feel Good” as the motto for this year’s festival, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 27. The schedule includes 20 narrative features, 29 documentaries, 38 shorts and a sampling of TV programming.

In honoring Marshall, Parks said, “This year our theme is Female Filmmaking.  We had such an unprecedented amount of films by women, that we are dedicating an entire day to women. Our Female Friday films are all directed and/or produced by women. Penny Marshall is a great role model for female filmmakers.  As one of the greatest storytellers of all time, she relies less on technology and more on getting stories out of her actors.  We are honored to have her.” Added Beaudoin of the actress-turned-director, “The films she’s created are landmark films with stories that are important and which stand the test of time.  No one is a greater role model for female filmmakers than Penny.”