Downtown Los Angeles has a long history with the movies, dating back to the days when Harold Lloyd dangled from a clock tower in "Safety Last!" and neon-lighted movie palaces lined Broadway.
Much has changed since then — for the neighborhood and the movie business — but Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, which kicks off its sixth year Wednesday, makes the case that now is just the time to shine a light on downtown L.A. as the historic center of the film industry and a current hotbed of independent cinema.
"Downtown is more than just a place that's convenient to show films," festival co-founder Greg Ptacek said in a recent phone interview. "In our programming, we try to embrace the unique multicultural diversity of the downtown community."
True to that spirit, the 11-day festival opens at the Downtown Independent with Giovanni Zelko's "The Algerian," an international thriller shot in the Middle East, New York and downtown L.A. Additional programming includes Howard Goldberg's Fellini-esque comedy "Jake Squared," Pauly Shore's darkly humorous road documentary "Pauly Shore Stands Alone" and Aleta Chappelle's contemporary-set Shakespeare adaptation "Romeo and Juliet in Harlem."
The festival will highlight downtown L.A.'s dramatic revitalization in recent years by making creative use of local spaces. The Little Tokyo-set 1959 film noir "The Crimson Kimono" will screen at the Art Deco gem that is Cicada Restaurant, and a bike tour of historic downtown film sites will precede the closing-night selection, "American Cycle." That film will play at the Angel City Brewery.
DFFLA will also bestow its Independent Film Pioneer Award upon actors Harry Lennix and Virginia Madsen, both of whom appear in films at the festival.
DFFLA runs July 9-19. For more information, go to dffla.com.