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by Susan Royal

This year the Los Angeles Film Festival relocated from West Hollywood to Westwood, and the 80,000 attendees who followed seemed to appreciate the move. Not only does Westwood have more than enough movie screens and parking lots to support a festival, the gorgeous UCLA campus (Go Bruins!) can and did comfortably accommodate a number of events, while the other Westwood venues adapted beautifully to the various festival sections and special events.

The W hotel was a hot spot – and a great site for the always-popular “Poolside Chats”– just as the Geffen Theatre worked well for the “Coffee Talk” series. (However, it would be nice if they actually allowed you to bring your coffee or beverage into the theatre. Maybe next year?) Popcorn Alley was a hit, not just for the free popcorn covered in chocolate or caramel syrup, but for the outdoor screenings and parties. Perhaps best of all, Westwood Village is walkable. It didn’t “take a village” to make this festival, but it sure made the walking around part pleasurable.

The Los Angeles Film Festival implemented a brilliant new schedule this year– with screenings starting in the afternoon and going into the evening. (They had to extend the festival to 11 days to accomplish this.) The new schedule is much better suited to the local film industry’s work schedule and filmmakers can rejoice that their film will never receive a dreaded early morning slot.

It was also a smart move for the festival organizers to partner with the Los Angeles Times which exposed a lot more people to the event, helping make it the unqualified success that it was.

The premiere of Little Miss Sunshine highlighted the closing night festivities of the Festival. Prior to the screening at the Wadsworth Theater, the final awards were announced by Rachel Rosen and honorary co-chair Christina Applegate. The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Robert Cary’s Ira & Abby, a romantic comedy about a mismatched marriage. Jennifer Westfeldt starred in and wrote the film, repeating her LAFF success, having starred in and written Kissing Jessica Stein, which won the same award in 2001 and received distribution from Fox Searchlight. The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Jeff Werner and Susan Koch's Mario's Story, about an East L.A. teenager unfairly sentenced to life in prison. Tomer Haymann's Paper Dolls won the Audience Award for Best International Feature.

For a complete listing of the awards, go to:

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