With Tuesday’s announcement of 42 world premieres across five competition sections, the Los Angeles Film Festival, produced by Film Independent, is continuing to make the case that anyone seeking diversity in entertainment should look its way.
Organizers say that 43% of the competition films in this year’s festival were directed by women and that 38% were directed by people of color.
Those numbers are up from last year, when less than 40% films were directed by women and less than 30% by people of color. Ahead of the controversies that erupted during the recent awards season, the festival had already placed itself at the forefront of Hollywood’s continuing conversation about diversity and representation in front of and behind the camera and this year looks to continue advancing the issue.
“We’ve been working at this for not just the last couple years, but the mission of Film Independent is really to support artists who are diverse and to diversify the industry,” said festival director Stephanie Allain in an interview.
“That’s the beauty of it,” she added. “There are artists of color out there working, and they need support and recognition and the spotlight to transition into the mainstream.”
In that same interview, LAFF director of programming Roya Rastegar noted that the festival had made an effort to diversify its own programming staff along lines of race, gender, sexuality and nationality as well as interests and approaches to filmmaking.
“If you focus on the numbers, you can lose the forest for the trees,” said Rastegar of the films in this year’s festival. “So I think one of the things we were looking for were just really, really strong perspectives, voices that we hadn’t heard before and were saying things in a way that we hadn’t heard before. Each of the filmmakers is saying something that they really need to say. The filmmaking is not an exercise. It has an urgency.”
The U.S. competition section includes 12 films, all world premieres. The films are “11:55,” directed by Ari Issler and Ben Snyder; “72 Hours,” directed by Raafi Rivero; “Blood Stripe,” directed by Remy Auberjonois; “Chee and T,” directed by Tanuj Chopra; “Destined,” directed by Qasim Basir; “Dreamstates,” directed by Anisia Uzeyman; “GREEN / is / GOLD,” directed by Ryon Baxter; “My First Kiss and the People Involved,” directed by Luigi Campi; “Paint It Black,” directed by Amber Tamblyn; “Tracktown,” directed by Jeremy Teicher and Alexi Pappas; “The View From Tall,” directed by Erica Weiss and Caitlin Parrish; and “Woven,” directed by Salome Mulugeta and Nagwa Ibrahim
The 12 world premieres in the documentary competition are “Company Town,” directed by Natalie Kottke and Erica Sardarian; “Denial,” directed by Derek Hallquist; “Dr. Feelgood,” directed by Eve Marson; “Dying Laughing,” directed by Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood; “The House on Coco Road,” directed by Damani Baker; “Jackson,” directed by Maisie Crow; “The Last Gold,” directed by Brian T. Brown; “Looking at the Stars,” directed by Alexandre Peralta; “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice,” directed by Deborah Riley Draper; “Out of Iraq,” directed by Eva Orner and Chris McKim; “Political Animals,” directed by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares; and “They Call Us Monsters,” directed by Ben Lear.
The world fiction competition selections are “Heis (chronicles),” directed by Anaïs Volpé; “Like Cotton Twines,” directed by Leila Djansi; “London Town,” directed by Derrick Borte; “Lupe Under the Sun,” directed by Rodrigo Reyes; “A Moving Image,” directed by Shola Amoo; and “Play the Devil,” directed by Maria Govan.
The LA Muse section, spotlighting films that “capture the spirit of L.A.,” is made up of “Actors of Sound,” directed by Lalo Molina; “Girl Flu,” directed by Dorie Barton; “Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story,” directed by Eric “Ptah” Herbert; “Namour,” directed by Heidi Saman; “No Light and No Land Anywhere,” directed by Amber Sealey; and “Sensitivity Training,” directed by Melissa Finell.
The six films of the Nightfall section are “Abattoir,” directed by Darren Lynn Bousman; “Beyond the Gates,” directed by Jackson Stewart; “Don’t Hang Up,” directed by Alexis Wajsbrot and Damien Macé; “Mercy,” directed by Chris Sparling; “Officer Downe,” directed by M. Shawn Crahan; and “Villisca,” directed by Tony Valenzuela.
A selection of 58 short films will also be shown as part of the festival, representing 15 countries and with 64% directed by women. There will also be a section of 13 independent Web episodes.
With previously announced selections, including the opening-night world premiere of Ricardo De Montreuil’s “Lowriders” starring Eva Longoria and Demián Bichir, the festival has announced 56 feature films for its 2016 edition.
Last week the festival also announced its noncompetitive Buzz and Limelight film sections, including Mike Birbiglia’s “Don’t Think Twice,” Stella Meghie’s “Jean of the Joneses,” Justin Tipping’s “Kicks,” Roger Ross Williams’ “Life, Animated,” David F. Sandberg’s “Lights Out,” Isaac Rentz’s “Opening Night,” Stephen Gyllenhaal’s “So B. It” and Jacqueline Gares’ “FREE CeCe!”
Passes for the festival are on sale to Film Independent members and the general public. For more information visit lafilmfestival.com.