Glendale International Film Festival rolls out red carpet tonight

The third annual Glendale International Film Festival opens today, showing more than 100 works of film, web series and documentaries — many by local filmmakers — in two downtown theaters.

Longtime actress and director Velvet Rhodes runs the festival and will this year dedicate the eight-day event to women filmmakers and the city of Glendale. As part of the festival, there will also be several panels and seminars, two screenplay-reading contests and an awards ceremony.

"Having been a filmmaker all my life, I've realized how difficult it is, and, for me, the joy of being able to screen all of these wonderful movies that you don't see anywhere else is the essence of the festival," Rhodes said. "To be able to show these movies, especially in Glendale, is the ultimate privilege and honor."

The inspiration for the festival — which started in 2014 — was a trip Rhodes took to the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in Idyllwild. There, she met with organizer and fellow filmmaker Stephen Savage. With his help, Rhodes found a way to showcase the community of Glendale artists to their peers.

"I think it's the most exciting event for a filmmaker to show their work at a local festival and have an appreciative audience, because filmmaking is so difficult and takes so many resources," Rhodes said.

This year, Rhodes created a special award category for female filmmakers and those residing in Glendale.

Almost Normal Productions, a small studio led by two local women, seems almost tailor-made for the honor with two films nabbing multiple award nominations at the festival.

At Almost Normal, both Elizabeta Vidovic and Kathryn Michelle hold many titles. For nominated films "May I Die" and "Find Me," Vidovic is sharing the best female and Glendale filmmaker nomination with Michelle, who is also competing for best actress for her role in the latter.

"[The nomination] means a heck of a lot because we are, everyday, faced with the challenges of being female in this business and we have a lot of roadblocks," Michelle said. "Anytime that your work is recognized, your work as a female filmmaker is recognized, it really does mean something, especially coming from our hometown."

One of the more high-profile showings will be "Aram, Aram" starring Levon Sharafyan, a veteran actor in Armenia but still a stranger to most American audiences. He plays Arsen, an Armenian immigrant struggling to take care of his wayward grandson, Aram. Sharafyan said he expects a warm welcome from the Glendale community.

"The characters may inspire some and may make others reflect upon their life choices," Sharafyan said, using an English translator. "I do believe that, for some immigrants, when they see my character in 'Aram, Aram,' they will see a part of themselves up there on the big screen."

The Glendale Film Festival will be held at two locations — MGN Five Star Cinema, located at 128 N. Maryland Ave., and Pacific Theatres in the Americana at Brand. It will start tonight with a red-carpet event at 7 p.m. at MGN Five Star Cinema, followed by the screening of the film "Sugar!"

For more information, visit glendaleinternationalfilmfestival.com.

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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