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by Susan Royal

The 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off with the Opening Night Selection of Down in the Valley, directed by David Jacobson and starring Edward Norton. The second night presented a tough decision for festival attendees. Among the many choices were the highly acclaimed films Hustle & Flow (which created a bidding war at Sundance where it won the Audience Award) and David LaChapelle’s eagerly awaited documentary Rize, which was held at the Ford Amphitheater, a comfortable venue that seems custom-made for outdoor screenings.

Anyone selecting Rize could not have been disappointed. Director David LaChapelle, best known as an award-winning photographer, has created an eye-popping view of the evolution of “clowning” and “krumping” – the frenetic hip-hop dance styles that sprang from the streets of South Central L.A. As the title suggests, Rize shows the miracle of artistic expression rising above oppression, and its power to uplift and change lives. The audience was on its feet to cheer the film, along with its filmmaker, its cast and crew who were in attendance for a Q&A afterwards.

Some of the other special screenings at this year’s LAFF include Rodrigo Garcia’s Nine Lives (the Centerpiece Film), Don Roos’ Happy Endings (The Closing Night Film) and Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers (winner of the Grand Prix Award at Cannes).

Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow and Elijah Wood are Honorary Festival Chairs this year and Sydney Pollack is the Guest Director. Pollack has programmed a sidebar of films which have inspired his work. Musician, film composer and actor THE RZA (Wu-Tang Clan) is serving as Artist-in-Residence, and has selected three films for the festival. Elvis Mitchell is this year’s guest curator.

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In addition to more than 70 features and 50 shorts being screened at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, there are many specials sidebars and screenings.

Tribute Screenings are being held for Ossie Davis (Gone Are the Days), Morris Engel (Little Fugitive) and Stan Brakhage (Stan Brakhage - Last Films).

Poolside Chats are being held at the Four Seasons Hotel. They include: “Knock-out Films: The Art of the Boxing Movie” (with directors Ron Shelton and Karen Kusama; authors Joyce Carol Oates and Gerald L. Early); “When Oscar Met Tony” (concerning the adaptation of films to plays and musicals and vice versa) and “L.A. Writes Itself” (exploring the City of Angels as muse).

The Low Budget Seminar is being held at the Directors Guild of America and a Financing Conference Case Study of the film Garden State is being held at the Pacific Design Center.

Coffee Talks are being held at the DGA. They are informal conversations among professionals in the fields of producing, acting, screenwriting, composing and production design. Holly Hunter, Thomas Hayden Church, Scott Frank and Kimberly Elise are among those attending.

Storyteller Evenings will be hosted at the DGA by screenwriters Robert Towne and Shane Black.

Family Day is a free-to-the-public event being held at the Santa Monica Pier, which includes a special outdoor screening of Babe, and various activities for the children, such as readings by celebrity storytellers Macy Gray, Nancy Cartwright and Todd Parr.

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Zach Braff’s Garden State was the Opening Night Film of last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. It went on to gross over $26 million domestically and to win the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. This year the film will serve as the Case Study at the LAFF Financing Conference to be held Saturday, June 25 at the Pacific Design Center. The Garden State production team will discuss how they raised the capital and managed to make the film within a limited budget.

The Financing Conference consists of a full day of workshops and panels designed for both the novice and seasoned producer. Topics will include: Basic Film Financing, Co-Productions and International Film Financing, Financing and Funding Opportunities, Distribution and New Federal Tax Incentives. The all-day event will end with a reception at 5:45.

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A group of directors, producers, line-producers, cinematographers and film marketers will share their collective wisdom and experience at this year’s Low Budget Summit at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Friday, June 24 at the Director Guild of America.. Panels topics include: “Nickel ‘n’ Diming: The Low Budget Deal,” “Creatives Forum,” “Special Proposal Writing Seminar With ITVS,” “Long Story Short,” “Meet the Guilds,” “Bang For Your Buck: Guerilla Marketing,” and “Case Study of the film Robbing Peter.

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