Organizers of the nonprofit Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles have announced its 7th annual feature film line-up. The five-day event, July 22-26, will be held in venues throughout downtown L.A.’s historic core with The Regent Theater serving as the festival’s primary venue.
Known for presenting cutting-edge indie cinema, the festival this year will present 11 feature films, most Los Angeles or world premieres, ranging from contemporary and historical dramas and music concert films to documentary features on issues at the forefront of progressive politics.
“Downtown L.A. has become an international brand for creativity, and that was reflected in the more than 500 submissions from around the world that our programming team reviewed this year. The result is a film line-up that we’re exceedingly proud of,” said festival director Greg Ptacek.
Earlier this year, the festival announced it would program half of the films at this year’s festival by women directors, and it has met the commitment. “This year’s feature line-up is testimony to the fact that there’s no shortage of talented women filmmakers. Our hope is that by providing a showcase for their films in Los Angeles, it will help crack the industry’s glass ceiling,” said programming director Carolyn Schroeder.
The 2015 festival’s Opening Night Film, receiving its world premiere, is I Remember You, a dramatic feature directed by Claudia Sparrow. Leah and Samuel, two complete strangers who are involved in the same accident, are soon haunted by an overwhelming sense that they have met before. The film stars Stefanie Butler and Joe Egender.
In the music film category, the festival will present the world premiere of director Kathy Kolla’s Who Is Billy Bones? the story of the seminal L.A. punk rocker, and the L.A festival premiere of Devo Hardcore Live, director Keirda Bahruth’s live concert film of the post-punk art rockers’ 2014 tour. Devo Hardcore Live will be presented as the festival’s Centerpiece program, while Who Is Bill Bones? will be the festival’s Closing Night Film.
The spotlight turns to a local perspective in two feature documentaries about race, social justice and urban degradation in the City of Angles. In the Los Angeles premiere screening of East LA. Interchange, filmmaker Betsy Kalin explores how the city’s freeways have defined, and now threaten Boyle Heights, the historic working class, immigrant community adjacent to DTLA. In the world premiere screening of Radicalized, director Sam Slovick’s intimate film follows the lives of a post- Occupy L.A. group of young activists as they create their own anarchist collective.
The focus expands to a national scope in Freeway: Crack In The System, director Marc Levin’s searing look at the federal government’s complicity in the crack cocaine epidemic that nearly destroyed inner-city neighborhoods throughout the nation in the Nineties, L.A. included. Narrated by Oscar-nominee James Cromwell, Imminent Threat, receiving its Los Angeles premiere, is director Janos Ambros’ documentary about the gross violations of civil liberties in the name of the U.S. government’s War on Terror (launched in the wake of 9/11).
On a lighter note, two dramatic features with heavy doses of underworld satire will have their Los Angeles premieres at the festival. Director Mikki del Monico’s Alto is your basic coming-out-to-family story except in this case her mob relatives are The Family. Director Jillian Armenante’s Kittens In A Cage also takes a familiar storyline and twists it as a ukulele-playing bad girl gets muscled into prison, only to discover that the secret to her escape lies in the warm embrace of her pyromaniac cellmate.
Also making its Los Angeles premiere is A Sort of Homecoming, a dramatic feature that is Spellbound meets Perfect Pitch. Filmmaker Maria Burton takes the audience into the subculture of high school debate clubs to reveal universal themes.
Wrapping up the feature line-up is the festival’s Heritage Film presentation and world premiere of director Wes Weadon’s When Bette Met Mae, a docudrama about the first encounter between two proto-feminists icons of Hollywood’s Golden Era – Bette Davis and Mae West. The meeting took place late in both of their careers, and contemporary look-alike actors are used to reenact the event. However, in what may be a cinematic first, the dialogue heard by the audience are the actual voices of Davis and West, which were secretly recorded at the time. The result is a fly-on-the-wall chance to eavesdrop on two of cinema’s most fascinating and celebrated figures, as they dish on the leading Hollywood and political movers-and-shakers of the day, the conversation getting more randy as the cocktails continue to pour.
The festival’s short films program will be announced at a later date. Tickets to festival screenings will go on sale this week. For more information, visit the festival website: www.dffla.com.