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Life and Arts

On the Town: Glendale International Film Festival is a hit

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After the screenings of their films, students join Glendale Unified School District leaders who are on the top row. They are, from right, Armina Gharpetian, board member; Vivian Ekchian, the district’s superintendent; and Narineh Makijan, the district’s career and technical education coordinator.
(Ruth Sowby Rands/Glendale News-Press)

This year’s Glendale International Film Festival had a blockbuster opening weekend with sold-out screenings at the Laemmle Glendale.

Fest founder and filmmaker Velvet Rhodes is the brains and beauty behind the festival, which has been running for six years.

Rhodes added a special event to this year’s fest by including Glendale Unified School District student filmmakers. On Oct. 13, running on the silver screen, were five films by five teams of students from Crescenta Valley, Clark Magnet and Glendale high schools.

In partnership with the film festival, the school district’s goal was to raise money for its filmmaking program. Each May, the district presents a film expo featuring high school filmmakers.

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During his senior year at Crescenta Valley High, Michael Cueto, 18, was director, camera operator, editor and one of six writers on a 20-minute short film titled “The Straight and Narrow.”

The film is about an insurance scam. From making his film, Cueto said he learned about what his style was — “a lot of movement and a jazz-inspired score.”

For a career, Cueto plans to work at “pretty much anything in the [Hollywood] industry.”

Also present at the screening was his teacher, Diana Brown.

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Glendale High School senior Sabrina Zukowski, 17, directed “Dybbuk,” a 20-minute short about a Jewish Pandora’s Box. Glendale High’s Elisa Sarkissian, 16, composed the music.

The setting of the film was the Tehachapi Old West Ranch owned by Zukowski’s father. She also directed another short on the program, “Don’t Go Down.” Zukowski’s career plans are to be an actress and director.

Josh Kirkwood, who attended the screening, is the Glendale High cinema teacher for Zukowski and Sarkissian.

Also present were school district dignitaries Vivian Ekchian, superintendent; Armina Gharpetian, school board member; and Narineh Makijan, the district’s career and technical education coordinator.

This past Thursday, the Glendale International Film Festival staff presented its awards show at the Brandview Ballroom.

With some 75 people present, attendance was the highest of any of the festival’s five previous award shows.

Several awards went to international productions. An audience favorite was presented at the end of the evening. “The Unknown Mother” was honored as Best International Short Film.

The film follows a quarreling mother and son. Presenting the honors was actor Jason Stuart. Accepting the awards were Best Actress honoree Susan Yam-Yam Shaw, a film star in Hong Kong; Best Actor recipient John Y; and producer Kenny Chan.

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“Best in the Fest” went to the thriller “Cicada Song,” directed by Michael Starr.

Armen Martin and his wife, Liana Tovmasyan, owners of Cocoa Noir in La Cañada Flintridge pulled out all the stops for their Halloween cupcake-decorating class.

On Oct. 8, 10 little cupcake decorators were front and center at Kidz Planet indoor playground, located next to Cocoa Noir.

Chocolatier Tovmasyan put her students through their paces, decorating cupcakes with intricate Halloween designs. Ghosts, pumpkins and witch’s hats were favorites.

Each pupil selected their design and its placement on a candy disc. Then, little hands carefully lifted the discs onto the cupcakes of their choice, mostly chocolate. The children had the opportunity to decorate four cupcakes each.

Besides Tovmasyan, adults working behind the scenes were Sisi Boodag, Kidz Planet owner; Nazik Martrosyan, Martin’s sister-in-law; and Kristina Davtyan, Cocoa Noir employee.

When Evelyn Strapazon, who is 2½ years old, completed her first cupcake, she asked her grandmother, “Can I eat it now?”

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Patience prevailed and a hungry Evelyn finished decorating three more before having a bite.

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