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Sundance Next Fest brings movies and music together in L.A. Aug 7-10

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Sundance Next Fest will bring together movies and music in Los Angeles Aug. 7-10
Musical performers curated to specific films are Father John Misty, Tinashe and Warpaint
'It's an experiment for us this year,' says Sundance's Trevor Groth

The Sundance Institute announced Wednesday the lineup for the upcoming Sundance Next Fest, a combination of film and music events in Los Angeles running Aug. 7-10.

Though the weekend will be anchored in downtown L.A., the event will open with a 10th-anniversary screening of “Napoleon Dynamite” at Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The event will really kick into gear when it shifts to the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Aug. 8, with six Los Angeles premieres scheduled for the recently renovated venue that originally opened in 1927 as the United Artists Theater. The space is capable of both film screenings and live concerts, and evening programs will put together a movie and a musical act.  

Jeff Baena’s comedy “Life After Beth” will be paired with a solo acoustic performance by Father John Misty on Aug. 8. Malik Vitthal’s Watts-set drama “Imperial Dreams” will be followed by a performance by 21-year-old R&B singer-songwriter Tinashe on Aug. 9, and Ana Lily Amirpour’s moody “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” will be paired with the trance-rock of Warpaint to close out the festival on Aug. 10.  

Also playing at Next Fest are David and Nathan Zellner’s “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” with Rinko Kikuchi, Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up Philip” with Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman and Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” with Dan Stevens.

The event is a revamp of last year’s inaugural Next Weekend festival, which was based at the Sundance Sunset Cinema in West Hollywood. The biggest venue there had under 200 seats, while the Theatre at Ace Hotel has some 1,600 seats.

“We were very encouraged last year with the response to the program,” said Trevor Groth, director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival. “What we learned is that showing these specialty films in a big city like L.A., where there are a lot of film events happening all the time, it’s great for the people in that room, but to make noise beyond that, we wanted to make a bigger impact.”

The programmers have in some sense gone bigger by going smaller, featuring fewer films than last year. Last year’s program included two world premieres as well as selections that premiered at other festivals, while apart from “Napolean Dynamite” all the films at Next Fest first screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

By curating certain films together with specific musical acts, event programmers are hoping to create a two-way path of discovery. Filmmakers also seem to like the idea of expanding beyond the boundaries of a more typical night at the movies.

“It feels natural to pair the film with a band,” noted “Life After Beth” writer-director Jeff Baena in an email. “Beth” star Aubrey Plaza previously appeared in a music video for Father John Misty, a performing name/persona for singer-songwriter Josh Tilman.

“Josh’s solo work is imbued with both morbidity and levity. It’s strange yet familiar, grounded but crazy,” added Baena. “I think we have that in common.”

Daytime screenings will be followed by a conversation between the film’s directors and special guests still to be announced. Organizers admit they don’t quite know how events will play out, whether it will feel more like a concert or going to the movies, and whether audiences will just treat the movies as warm-up acts for favored local musicians. The theater’s set-up allows the movie screen to be at the front of the stage with any music equipment set up behind, so turnaround times between movie and music should be kept to a minimum.

“I have high hopes for this,” said John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival. “I do think there’s an audience out there. People may come just thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to see a movie and a band,’ but we want them to leave feeling connected, like they had a unique experience, that specific concert with that specific movie.

“I do think with these kinds of films, there’s always going to be a challenge trying to get a theatrical audience to come out to see them,” said Groth. “Part of it is getting them into the cinema, and then if you get a certain critical mass happening I think word of mouth can spread out from there in a powerful way. We’ll see, it’s an experiment for us this year.”

Calling the event “a no-brainer,” filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour noted that she had seen Warpaint earlier this year at the Coachella music festival and was excited to have her “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” paired with the band. 

“Put them in Charlie Chaplin's epic theater after a black-and-white Iranian Vampire western film?” Amirpour said in an email while attending the Sundance Institute labs in Utah. “This is what they mean when they say ‘next level.’ ”

Tickets for Sundance Next Fest go on sale Wednesday to members of the Sundance Institute and Thursday to the general public.

Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter @IndieFocus

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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