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Burbank International Film Festival aspires to be ‘Sundance in our own backyard’

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Actor Ed Asner stands at the red-carpet event on the opening night of the 11th annual Burbank International Film Festival at the AMC Burbank 16 theaters in Burbank on Wednesday. He received the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. More than 180 films will be presented between Sept. 5 and 8.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

The Burbank International Film Festival grows larger and more extravagant — with more movies and bigger celebrities — every year, and that’s how organizers want it.

The annual event kicked off its weeklong festivities on Wednesday at the AMC 16 in downtown Burbank, where more than 180 films will be screened over the course of five days.

The opening-night screening was of the documentary “Stallone: Frank, That Is,” a film about singer Frank Stallone, the younger brother of actor Sylvester Stallone.

Actor Ed Asner, 89, with hundreds of TV and movie credits to his name including “Up” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” received the Lifetime Achievement Award that night.

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The festival will wrap up on Sunday at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport, when actress Marion Ross of “Happy Days” is slated to receive the Garry Marshall Spirit Award.

New to this year’s festival is the addition of an LGBTQ Inclusive Short Film Awards category, which joins 20 other categories including feature and short films, documentaries as well as faith-based and student films.

Jeff Rector, the festival‘s director, said on Friday he’s excited to see the number of entrants submitted expand each year and the quality of the films improve.

Although he was busy that morning renting props for several other festival events being held this weekend — like a phone booth for the screening of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” on Saturday at 6 p.m. — Rector said he’s more than happy to be running around getting the events organized to ensure the festival is a hit with guests.

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“Our numbers are great, and we’re seeing a lot more celebrities submit films to the festival,” he said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It tells us that the word is getting out and that they should submit their films to Burbank.”

When he took over in 2012, Rector said his intent was to grow the festival into an event that was as highly regarded as other film festivals around the world.

“My goal was to turn this into a Sundance [Film Festival] in our own backyard,” he said. “I don’t want to keep it small. I want to make it so big to the point where you can’t book a hotel room or a restaurant reservation. We’re well on our way.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.burbankfilmfest.org.

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