Old enough to buy a beer but still young enough to be sorting out its identity, the Los Angeles Film Festival returns Wednesday night for its 21st annual gathering.
The nine-day fest based at the Regal Cinemas downtown will kick off with writer-director Paul Weitz's dramedy "Grandma," starring Lily Tomlin as an acerbic septuagenarian poet helping her granddaughter (Julia Garner) get an abortion. Tomlin is to receive the festival's Spirit of Independence award before the screening.
Having debuted to strong reviews at Sundance this year, "Grandma," from Sony Pictures Classics, will hit theaters in August.
In a recent interview, Weitz spoke to the Los Angeles Times about writing the unconventional protagonist with Tomlin in mind.
"The stereotype of older people being less hip than younger people is so inverted at this point," he said, adding of women Tomlin's age: "Their experience is so much more explosive than somebody who is 18 years old. I thought it was interesting having the explosive character be the grandma."
Going against the grain seems to be part of the LAFF's core mission this year as organizers have refocused on discovery and diversity, while de-emphasizing some of the populist and commercial leanings that characterized past installments.
This year's festival, of which The Times is a sponsor, features 45 world premieres, more than half its feature slate, with more than 80% of the program by first- or second-time directors. Nearly 40% of the films were directed by women, and nearly 30% were directed by people of color.
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