During September's Los Angeles Festival, local PBS station KCET Channel 28 will present a different kind of late-night TV.
During the days and early evenings of the 17-day event, Los Angeles residents may attend performances in and around the city by the festival's broad range of artists hailing from 14 countries. Then they can come home and have the performance put into its cultural and political perspective through complementary documentaries, feature films, experimental video and other fare on KCET.
Along with 24 late-night weekday programs Monday through Thursday during the festival, the station will also present "Short Takes," which will examine L.A.-based festival artists in five-minute segments at 7:30 p.m. Those to be featured include performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena, the gospel group "Sweet Singing Cava-leers" and Indian dancers Anjani Ambegaokar and Viji-Prakash.
"The process that's important about the Los Angeles Festival is leaving your home and going to places you've not been before," said Jacqueline Kain, KCET's director of broadcasting. "This is as eclectic as the festival is . . . . How do you learn to see this as something more than 'exotic'?"
Because so many of the performing groups hail from remote areas, documentary footage of their performances does not always exist. In those cases, she said, KCET selected films that illuminated the country and the culture. The choices reflect the voices of artists from the area, rather than of American scholars and documentarians going in to comment on their culture.
Films include Taiwan's "Dust in the Wind," Hou Hsiao-hsien's feature telling the story of a country boy's lost love; "Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia"; Australia's "Passionless Moments" (directed by Jane Campion), "Night Cries" (by aboriginal filmmaker Tracy Moffatt), and "Into the Mainstream," about an aboriginal rock band; 'LA Freewaves," a collection of short videos by Los Angeles-area artists that is part of the station's "Independent Eye" series; and features and documentaries from Vietnam, Japan, Hawaii, Chile, Mexico and the People's Republic of China.
Los Angeles Festival Director Peter Sellars said the KCET series, in the works for five months, will provide "serious background" to the unfamiliar fare on the festival's eclectic program.
"You can go a performance of Pacific Island dance, and then watch a documentary on the Pacific Islands at home," Sellars said. "We've worked with KCET for a very long time. They were willing to give us one of the most astonishing things--real air time."
At 9:30 p.m. Aug. 31, KCET will kick off the programming with the half-hour special "Guide to the Los Angeles Festival," hosted by Sellars, who visited a variety of little-known cultural enclaves in the area in a one-day filming marathon Aug. 10.
One location was North Hollywood's majestic Wat Thai Temple, which Sellars describes in the special as "one of the great sacred sites of L.A., between two gas stations and a mini-mall in the middle of the Valley." The location--a school, a temple, and the dwelling of a clan of Buddhist monks--is the home of Phra Wichienthamkhunathan the highest-ranking Thai Buddhist monk in the United States.
"A lot of these locations (such as Thailand) are considered exotic and remote by most Americans," Sellars said during a filming break at the temple. "This is ridiculous, because they are down the street now."