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In the City of Angels, Los Angeles Film Festival Flies Again

By Phil Scanlon and Keiko Beatie

The Los Angeles Film Festival took wing with an ideal opener, the North American premiere of David Jacobsons Down In The Valley at the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood on Thursday, June 16. With an excellent cast and strong performances, the film captures the valleys famous slackness with an apt tobacco-stained tanginess. Nocturnal images of snaking highways act as rivers of light isolating valley dwellers from the world and, as in this film, from each other. Director Jacobson introduces us to a father, daughter and son so detached; they are unable to experience anything close to a family dynamic. The unexpected arrival of a sweetly seductive cowboy pushes this unsuspecting family towards ominous ends. Edward Norton is slyly optimistic and charismatic as the errant cowboy who courts a discontented teenager played by the angelic and wan Evan Rachel Wood. David Morse, Rory Culkin and Bruce Dern support the romantic leads with masterfully understated supporting roles.

Honorary co-chair Elijah Wood addressed the sold out audience following introductory remarks by Executive Director of the newly named Film Independent (FIND), Dawn Hudson and Festival Director, Richard Raddon. As the newly renamed IF/West, Film Independent (FIND) expands its role its role as the largest non-profit organization dedicated to supporting independent filmmakers. It also seeks to expand the audience for independent film and increase diversity in the industry. FIND also works to cultivate the careers of its diverse body of members and to help filmmakers across the spectrum find their audiences. Following the screenings, guests advanced to the historic Palladium for an outsized Opening Night party. Partygoers helped themselves to generous banquet tables of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and other southern cooking classics.

Now in its eleventh year, The Los Angeles Film Festival is a 10-day showcase of independent films, that features the best of American and international independent cinema in the heart of tinsel town, Hollywood. The Festival hosts over 45,000 people and will offer screenings and events throughout the city, - with most screenings occurring at the Laemmle Sunset 5 and the Directors Guild of America. The 2005 LAFF will screen 263 films with more than 70 features and 50 short film screenings from around world. This year, the festival will program World, North American and U.S. premieres selected from more than 3,700 submissions. , a 900 increase over films submitted to the 2004 Festival.

Joining Elijah Wood as Honorary Festival Co-Chairs for the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival are Don Cheadle and Lisa Kudrow. Once again, this years Guest Director Sydney Pollock led a group of Competition Program filmmakers on a retreat prior to the Opening Night event. As in the past, the Festival Center (including box office, free outdoor screenings, Porch Parties, and the Target Red Room?Filmmaker Lounge) is located at 8000 Sunset. Additional screening venues include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the beautiful outdoor John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, and Manns National Theatre. In association with Great Performances, the festival is also offering free outdoor screenings on Family Day at the Santa Monica Pier and, at the California Plaza, an outdoor atrium in downtown Los Angeles as well as the outdoor plaza at 8000 Sunset. Other venues for the festival include the Four Seasons Hotel, the Hollywood Palladium, the Laugh Factory, the Orpheum Theatre, the Pacific Design Center, and Zephyr Theatre.

Festival highlights include a Centerpiece Premiere of Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives starring Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, and others; Sundance favorite, Don Rooss Happy Endings, will screen as the Closing Night Gala on Sunday, June 26 at 7:00 pm at Manns National Theatre in Westwood. This Lions Gate film features a talented ensemble cast that includes Tom Arnold, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Sarah Clarke, Steve Coogan, Laura Dern, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Other hotly anticipated titles include Stolen by Rebecca Dreyfus -a compelling documentary about an infamous art heist: Broken Flowers directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, and Julie Delpy; Hustle & Flow directed by Craig Brewer and starring Terrence Howard and Ludacris; A Tribute To Ossie Davis hosted by Elvis Mitchell; Yes, directed by Sally Potter and starring Joan Allen and Sam Neill; The Beat That My Heart Skipped and directed by Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips), starring Romain Duris ; WORLD PREMIERE Nearing Grace, Rick Rosenthal WORLD PREMIERE, Our Very Own, Cameron Watson WORLD PREMIERE, Road, Leslie McCleave WORLD PREMIERE, Southbounders, Ben Wagner WORLD PREMIERE, Stolen, Rebecca Dreyfus To the Other Side, Natalia Almada - Mexico/USA, 4, Ilya Khrzhanovsky Russia, Avanim, Raphael Nadjari France/Israel, Before the Flood, Yan Yu, Li Yifan China NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE, Bitter Dream, Mohsen Amiryoussefi Iran, Fatima, the Algerian Woman of Dakar, Med Hondo Mauritania/France/, Tunisia/Senegal US PREMIERE, The Forest for the Trees, Maren Ade Germany, Le Grand Voyage, Ismaël Ferroukhi France/Morocco, Kamikaze Girls, Tetsuya Nakashima Japan US PREMIERE (Viz Media), One Out of Two, Alejo Taube Argentina, Pilgrimage, Bahman Kiarostami Iran, Sentenced to Marriage, Anat Zuria Israel US PREMIERE, Spying Cam, Whang Cheol Mean South Korea US PREMIERE, Swenkas, Jeppe Rønde Denmark/South Africa (Seventh Art Releasing), The Syrian Bride, Eran Riklis France/Germany/Israel (Koch Lorber), Tony Takitani, Jun Ichikawa Japan (Strand Releasing), Unknown White Male, Rupert Murray England (Wellspring), Vento di Terra, Vincenzo Marra Italy, Waiting for the Clouds, Yesim Ustaoglu France/Germany/Greece/Turkey

For more information on the Los Angles Film Festival visit or call 1-866-FilmFest.

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