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Huntington Beach Film Festival seeks to showcase international diversity

Huntington Beach Film Festival seeks to showcase international diversity
“Kupal” by Kazem Mollaie tells the story of Dr. Ahmad Kupal, a 50-year-old whose profession as a hunter and taxidermist caused his wife to leave him. It will be shown at the 13th annual Huntington Beach Film Festival. (Courtesy of the Huntington Beach Film Festival)

As part of a new effort to support diversity in the movie industry, the 13th annual Huntington Beach Film Festival will feature films from 20 countries during its run from Feb. 22 to 24.

“We want to promote diversity, tolerance and understanding,” festival director Guy Davis said over the phone.

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The goal is reflected in the festival’s new motto for this year: “More voices, more stories.”

The festival will showcase 44 films, including shorts and features. Nearly half of the movies are from women filmmakers, an outcome Davis intended while choosing from the 400 submissions.

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“We really wanted to increase the representation of women,” Davis said. “There’s a huge gap in the entertainment industry for opportunities for women.”

Davis also sought to expose audiences to international cinema, including work from Iranian filmmakers.

Davis said since he started working as the festival director about three years ago, he’s received several emails from Iranian filmmakers requesting that the event’s entry fee be waived because American sanctions disallow them from paying.

Normally, the festival policy has been to never waive fees for the sake of fairness, but Davis said they were willing to do it this year.

“It is eye opening what a dynamic and vibrant cinema is going on in Iran,” Davis said. “A subversive cinema at that.”

“Lunch Time,” an Iranian film by Alireza Ghasemi, is about a young girl attempting to identify her mother’s body in a morgue while contending with an oppressive bureaucracy.

Another Iranian film, “Kupal” by Kazem Mollaie, tells the story of a 50-year-old whose profession as a hunter and taxidermist caused his wife to leave him.

Amid this unpleasant phase of his life, the man gets trapped in his workshop, where he wages his own battle with death.

Mollaie, 36, said through email that the film is his first. Though he’s excited for it to be shown at the festival, he will be unable to attend due to complications with the American visa process.

“Lunch Time” by Alireza Ghasemi is about a young girl trying to identify her mother’s body at a morgue while grappling with an oppressive bureaucracy. The movie will be shown at the 13th annual Huntington Beach Film Festival.
“Lunch Time” by Alireza Ghasemi is about a young girl trying to identify her mother’s body at a morgue while grappling with an oppressive bureaucracy. The movie will be shown at the 13th annual Huntington Beach Film Festival. (Courtesy of the Huntington Beach Film Festival)

Despite the international focus, festival leaders also decided to localize the event by changing its original title from the SoCal Film Festival. In support of Surf City USA, several surf films will be shown.

Orange County filmmaking will also make its mark as eight locals will have work featured.

Matt Hanlon, 26, of Huntington Beach is one of them. His film,“Saving Green,” investigates the deterioration of Huntington Beach parks as a byproduct of city budget cuts.

Simultaneously, it examines the role of a group of volunteers, the Huntington Beach Tree Society, as they work to rehabilitate dilapidated areas in the city’s parks.

“It was clear to me that the amount of time these people put into parks was worth sharing as a story,” Hanlon said. “Over the last 20 to 30 years, volunteers have really stepped in to fill this need.”

Davis said what sets his festival apart from other local ones, like the Newport Beach Film Festival, is that the films they show are truly independent.

Davis said bigger film festivals largely act as promotional venues, showing films that will soon be widely released, while their films will likely not receive expansive distribution deals.

“They aren’t going to get on iTunes or be played in the multiplex,” Davis said. “These are films you are not going to see anywhere else.”

If You Go

What: 13th annual Huntington Beach Film Festival

Where: Huntington Beach Central Library theater at 7111 Talbert Ave.

When: Feb. 22 to 24; for more information about showtimes, visit hbfilmfest.com

Cost: All-fest pass costs $50 for adults and $25 for students/ seniors. One day pass costs $20 for adults and $10 for students/seniors. A single film or block of short films costs $5 for adults and $2.50 for students/seniors.

Tickets can be purchased at bit.ly/2BZsFkh.

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