Films starring John Hawkes, Imogen Poots and Luis Guzman, and documentaries about a community of Ukrainian women in Chernobyl's dead zone, actor Andy Whitfield's battle with cancer and men raised by single mothers are set to make their world premieres in competition at the
Festival organizer Film Independent on Tuesday unveiled the gathering's full lineup, which includes 74 feature films, 60 shorts and more than 50 new-media works from 35 countries. The fest runs June 10-18 at L.A. Live and is sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.
"I like to think of us as coming of age," festival director Stephanie Allain said in a phone interview about the LAFF, now in its 21st year.
With a new programming team in place, the fest is putting renewed emphasis on world premieres (with 39, more than double the previous year), first-time filmmakers and diversity.
"Our job is to really showcase artists who are diverse and who have a unique point of view," Allain said. "So that means women directors, that means directors of color, that means innovative ways of telling stories."
The U.S. Fiction Competition includes Dennis Hauck's "Too Late," starring Hawkes as a troubled private investigator in Los Angeles; Anna Axster's "A Country Called Home," starring Poots as a woman grappling with the death of her estranged father; and Ian Edelman's "Puerto Ricans in Paris," starring Guzman as a New York cop hired to bust fashion counterfeiters in the City of Light.
Rounding out the category are Negin Farsad's "3rd Street Blackout," A.D. Freese's "Bastards Y Diablos," Marya Cohn's "The Girl in the Book," Marc Meyers' "How He Fell in Love," Emily Ting's "It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong," Sterlin Harjo's "Mekko" and Takeshi Fukunaga's "Out of My Hand."
The Documentary Competition this year features both American and international works, a reflection of the increasingly global nature of nonfiction filmmaking. The selections include Holly Morris and Anne Bogart's "The Babushkas of Chernobyl," Lilibet Foster's "Be Here Now (The Andy Whitfield Story)" and Daphne McWilliams' "In a Perfect World."
Also competing in the documentary section are Samuel Miron's and Stephen Scarpulla's "A New High," Shalini Kantayya's "Catching the Sun," Chai Vasarhelyi's "Incorruptible," Laurie Kahn's "Love Between the Covers," Ase Svenheim Drivenes' "Maiko: Dancing Child," David Shapiro's "Missing People," Mo-Young Jin's "My Love, Don't Cross That River," Jake Witzenfeld's "Oriented," and Dream Hampton's "Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story."
The World Fiction Competition films are Ali Ahmadzadeh's "Atomic Heart," Sara Blecher's "Ayanda and the Mechanic," Manolo Caro's "Elvira, Te Daria Mi Vida Pero La Estoy Usando," Baeta Gardeler's "Flocking," Juan Paolo Arias' "Las Malas Lenguas," Jang Kun-Jae's "A Midsummer's Fantasia," Ben Chace's "Sin Alas" and Vladimir Tumaev's "White Moss."
As previously announced, the festival is to open with a gala screening of Paul Weitz's "Grandma" and feature two new competitive sections: Zeitgeist, dedicated to key trends, and Nightfall, showcasing genre films. L.A. Muse, a competitive section of Los Angeles-centric movies introduced last year, will return as well.
In part because the LAFF takes place in June — following Sundance and Cannes but months before the fall festivals where award hopefuls tend to bow — landing splashy films isn't necessarily its forte, or its focus.
"We've kind of reoriented our programming process to really be able to discover films," said Roya Rastegar, the festival's associate director of programming. "We really want to discover the talent that's, like, there in North Carolina or in Seattle, that maybe other festivals missed. And there are so many of them; you just have to look."
Rastegar added, "What we want is the first film by a filmmaker who's going to have an Oscar-nominated film in five years."