Friday, May 8, 2015 – The Ocean of Helena Lee, Director and Writer Jim Akin

Ocean of Helena Lee PosterTwelve-year-old Helena Lee (debut performance by Moriah Blonna) sleeps in the sandy closet of a one room apartment in an unkempt corner of California’s Venice Beach. Her father, charismatic surf-rat Mickey (Tom Dunne), spurs her journey as an aspiring writer with his iconoclastic absurdist view of the world. Helena conducts a season to season pilgrimage in and around the carnival of beach life; observing the bohemian locals, the hopeful tourists, the lost and forgotten who have reached the end of the map. Helena’s observations lead to an introspective spiritual and intellectual wanderlust often leaving her standing at the water’s edge, facing the void, a head and heart full of unanswerable questions; how shall I to live? why did my mother die? At the cusp of adolescence, her view of what it means to become a woman is torn between the opposing influences of the free spirited strippers who flock around Mickey and the sacred memory of her mother Luisa (singer/songwriter, Maria McKee). Forever preserved in Helena’s wakeful dream, the vision of her mother is a saintly protector who haunts with calming advice and compassionate lullabies.  As winter approaches and the sea and sky begin to darken, Helena’s quest to find her identity is hastened and forever impacted by a life-altering event. Director and writer Jim Akin will join us to talk about the raw emotional impact of his compelling new film.

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The Ocean of Helena Lee opens in Los Angeles on May 8 at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, the American Cinematheque at the Steven Speilberg Theatre May 9th – 13th and on May 14th at The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. 

“(Akin) manages to fuse what he’s learned from a diverse band of European and American filmmakers with those impulses to create something that feels new, freshly imagined. One can discern the spirit of Kings of the Road-era Wim Wenders flitting around the edges of TOOHL, as well as Fellini’s affinity for unusual human and environmental beauty, and the movie is attuned to Helena’s inner spirit in such a way that it feels at times like a Dardennes Brothers joint on rollerblades, gliding effortlessly down the boardwalk to the beach-friendly strains of Mckee and Akin’s propulsive pop score.” – Dennis Cozzalio, Trailers from Hell

“Jim Akin’s work is personal. His care and affection for his topics (and the images he chooses) is apparent in every frame. He really looks at things, he really sees. After the Triumph of Your Birth took place in the industrial wasteland sections of Los Angeles, the drying-up canal, the old warehouses, the blasted-by-sunlight empty factories. It is part of a California rarely seen in film. And so, too, his vision here. Venice Beach has its own character, its own vibe, and Akin captures it, in its loneliness and isolation, in its beauty and its sleaze, and also in its cacophony of community and expressiveness.” – The Sheila Variations

Friday, May 8, 2015 – The 100-Year old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Director and Writer Felix Hengren

100 Year Old Man posterPowered by the antics of a mischievous centenarian on the run, the comic fable THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED abounds with irreverent charm. After a long and colorful life working in munitions and getting entangled in the Spanish Civil War, the Manhattan Project, and other definitive events of the 20th century, Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) finds himself stuck in a nursing home. Determined to escape on his 100th birthday, he leaps out of a window and onto the nearest bus, kicking off an unexpected journey involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some wicked criminals, and an elephant named Sonya. Like an unruly Nordic cousin of Forrest Gump, Allan’s youthful escapades and current adventures weave together into an offbeat treat for anyone who’s young at heart. Starring beloved comedian Robert Gustafsson, this fanciful spin on world history is based on a best-selling novel and also the highest-grossing Swedish film of all time. Director and writer Felix Hengren joins us for a lively conversation on challenges and rewards of adapting a beloved international best seller into film.

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Opens May 8, 2015 at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West L.A., Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Town Center 5 in Encino and Regency South Coast Village 3 in Santa Ana.

Winner – Audience Award – Chicago International Film Festival 2014

Winner – Audience Award – 2015 Florida Film Festival 

Winner – Audience Favorite – World Cinema Indie Silver Award – Mill Valley Film Festival

“Wildly whimsical.” – Mark Kermode, The Observer

 “Very entertaining.” – Tim Robey, The Telegraph

 “An absurdist escapade.” – Angie Errigo, Empire

“An absurdist comic fable about an ordinary man who keeps stumbling into extraordinary circumstances.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The humor of this film is delivered with such deadpan panache that it’s irresistible…has a good eye for the madcap, and maintains a constant breezy mood.” – Demetrios Matheou, Screen Daily

Friday, May 1, 2015 – Slow West, Director John Maclean

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A dark river of fatalism courses beneath the beautifully photographed vistas of Slow West, an intriguingly off-center Western that brings a bevy of European talent to bear on an American frontier story. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Scotsman who’s made the journey to Colorado in search of the woman he loves, and Michael Fassbender as a wily companion who turns out to be hunting the same quarry, John Maclean’s impeccably crafted writing-directing debut at times has a distinctly Coen-esque flavor in its mix of sly intelligence, bleak humor and unsettling violence, exuding fierce confidence. Winner of the grand jury prize in the international dramatic competition at Sundance, this off-kilter take on the harsh and absurd realities of frontier life. Founding member of the Beta Band, director and writer, Maclean joins us for a conversation on the similarities and difference between the worlds of film and music and his unique on take on Western archetypes.

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“A neo-western that operates in purely mythic terms, Slow West evokes an 1870 America steeped in isolation, heartbreak, suffering, and misery.” – Nick Schager, Village Voice 

“An absurdist, melancholy coming-of-age tale that jumps from odd comedy to striking violence to stirring reflection.” – Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine

“Not a traditional Western by any stretch of the imagination, Slow West operates in the same manner as such haunting and off-kilter horse operas as Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man and John Hillcoat’s The Proposition.” – Creative Loafing 

“One of the most thoughtful, witty, satisfying Westerns of the last decade. “ –

Friday, May 1, 2015 – Felix and Meira, Actor Luzer Twersky

Felix and Meira film poster 

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Hadas Yaron (Fill the Void) returns to the big screen in Maxime Giroux’s Felix and Meira, a story of an unconventional romance between two people living vastly different lives mere blocks away from one another. Meira (Yaron), a young Hasidic housewife and mother, and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a man lost in mourning the recent death of his father, unexpectedly meet at a local bakery in Montreal’s Mile End district. What starts as an innocent friendship becomes more serious as the two wayward strangers find comfort in one another. As Felix opens Meira’s eyes to the world outside of her husband Shulem (Luzer Twersky) and the tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore, ultimately forcing her to choose: remain in the life that she has always known or give it all up to be with Félix. Giroux’s film is a poignant tale of self-discovery, a fascinating glimpse into the Hasidic community, and a modern love story set against backdrops both familiar and unknown.

Twersky grew up in a Yiddish-speaking Hasidic community, he received no formal secular education or access to film, television, music or magazines. In his early 20’s, Twersky taught himself English and decided to leave his community to pursue an acting career. Twersky gained experience by Luzer Twersky IIIplaying minor roles in student films until he was cast as a troubled and rebellious Hasid in Pearl Gluck’s “Where Is Joel Baum?” for which he received a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Starz Denver International Film Festival. His subsequent role was a lead in Maxime Giroux’s “Felix and Meira” (Toronto International Film Festival 2014 – Best Canadian Feature) opposite Hadas Yaron. It won him Best Actor prizes at both the Torino Film Festival and Amiens Film Festival. He joins us to talk about the challenges and rewards of integrating his own history with the demands of his portrayal of Shulem.

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“Touching and evocative. You need to see it.” – Vanity Fair 

“A gem.” – The Playlist

“Powerful” – Cult Montreal

“Much of the film is spent in a state of sensual repression that recalls Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.” – Cult Montreal 

“Somberly seductive.” – Peter DeBruge, Variety

“Worldly in its reach and neighborly in approach, Félix and Meira is thoughtful tableaux that reverberates with unabashed sensitivity.” – ioncinema

Friday, April 24, 2015 – KTOWN Cowboys, Director Daniel Park

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Based on the wildly successful web-series of the same name, KTOWN COWBOYS is a bro-mantic dramedy that follows a group of ball-busting, hard-partying friends wrestling with their evolution into adulthood. As their individual struggles come to light, the group of friends band together in Koreatown and through late nights at seedy after-hour soju bars, karaoke drinking girls and even a stint in jail, each emerges as a better version of himself. Fresh of its successful premiere at SXSW, KTOWN Cowboys just won the Best Ensemble Award at the 2015 Asian Pacific Film Festival. Director / writer Daniel Park stops by to talk about the journey turning the popular web series into a feature length film, the future of the series and the cast members.

Friday, April 24, 2015 – Sawdust and Sand: The Art of Douglas Miller, Director Jason Blalock

Jason Blalock 

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Since 1970, ubiquitous local artist Douglas Miller has shot a roll of film per day– that’s 350,000 spontaneous snapshots on the streets of Laguna Beach. At times moving and at others hilarious, this documentary examines the 44-year relationship between photographer and hometown. Director Jason Blalock has a long film resume as a freelance director, producer, cinematographer, and editor on a variety of news, documentary, and commercial projects. He earned a certificate in Film. In 2007, he completed the documentary filmmaking program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied under legendary cinematographer Jon Else. He also holds a Masters in Latin American Studies from UC Berkeley. Blalock talks about his own Laguna Beach history, working with a local icon and bringing the sun-soaked joy of Doug Miller’s art to the world.

Friday, April 17, 2015 – Dior and I, Director Frédéric Tcheng

Dior and I film poster 

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Dior and I brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection as its new artistic director – a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure- filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand’s past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons’ vision. Dior and I director Frédéric Tcheng is a French-born filmmaker. Originally trained in civil engineering, he moved to New York City in 2002 to attend Columbia University’s film school, from which he obtained a Masters of Fine Arts in 2007. He co- produced, co-edited and co-shot Valentino: The Last Emperor (directed by Matt Tyrnauer), the 2009 hit documentary shortlisted for the Best Documentary Oscar. He is the co-director (with Lisa Immordino Vreeland and Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt) of DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL, a Samuel Goldwyn release. Director Tcheng joins us to talk about his enthralling behind the scenes look at the iconic fashion institution, its founder, the talented men and women who make it work and the “new” guy in the world of haute couture.

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“A piece of superb filmmaking that opens a window into a hidden world.” – Independent

“If the ungodly star-driven media frenzy that surrounds the spring collections of the great Paris houses like Christian Dior is the public face of designer fashion, “Dior and I” shows us that what goes on behind the scenes is even more intriguing.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times

“The drama of getting new dresses on the runway turns out to be transfixing, while the hero redefines the notion of intense.” Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“’Dior and I’ intimately demonstrates the tricky balance between art and commerce, between perpetuating a mythology while attending to the bottom line, and doing it with the pressure of a ticking clock.” – Christy Lemire,

Friday, April 17, 2015 – The Human Experiment, Co-director Dana Nachman

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What if the greatest chemical disaster of our time didn’t involve oil spills or nuclear meltdowns? Instead, it was much lower levels of exposure, inflicted over several generations and affecting every person on the planet. The result: Rising rates of everything from cancer to infertility. This is the shocking reality explored in The Human Experiment, a look at the personal costs associated with the chemicals in our most common household products. The film follows a band of unlikely activists who are fighting back. Ranging from Howard, a conservative businessman, to Maria, a Latina house cleaner, they are staking their lives on this battle to protect our health. And their opposition is goliath. The powerful and well-funded chemical industry is heavily invested in maintaining the status quo, pulling unseen strings to create an aura of skepticism and confusion. It’s an emotionally and politically charged showdown and the stakes couldn’t be higher – for these activists on the front lines and for every one of us. Academy Award®-winning actor and filmmaker Sean Penn is executive producer and narrator of the compelling new documentary film about the thousands of untested chemicals in our everyday products. Have we all become unwitting guinea pigs in one giant human experiment? The Human Experiment co-director / co-producer Dana Nachman, - co-director / co-producer Don Hardy – talks about the insidious impact of chemicals in our daily lives.

“A must see… It might just turn you into an activist.” – Boulder Weekly

 “An Inconvenient Truth, but about chemicals”-

It may leave many bases uncovered (a section on groundbreaking European legislation is inadequately explained), but it will also leave you looking a lot more closely at what you put on your skin, in your mouth and underneath your sink.” – New York Times

“Gradually marshals its arguments and evidence in such a way that it ends being compelling and illuminating for viewers who are more interested in useful information than artful presentation.”

“A cautionary expose’ making a convincing argument that consumers would be very wise to learn all they can about the ingredients in the products they buy.” Kam Williams, Baret News

Friday, April 17, 2015 – Newport Beach Film Festival, CEO and co-founder Gregg Schwenk

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The Newport Beach Film Festival seeks to bring to Orange County the best of classic and contemporary filmmaking from around the world. Committed to enlightening the public with a first-class international film program as well as providing a forum for cultural understanding and enriching educational opportunities, the Festival focuses on showcasing a diverse collection of both studio and independent films. The Festival supports the creation and advancement of innovative and artistic cinematic works from both emerging and seasoned filmmakers and proudly embraces the passion, vision, and independent spirit of these talented artists. With the integration of the local community and educational institutions, the Festival stimulates an interest in the study and appreciation of film and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. Since its inception in 2000, the Festival has presented many acclaimed films such as the U.S. Premiere of  Gregg Schwenkn NBFFCrash and other notable films including (500) Days of Summer, The Cove, Waitress, Son of Rambow, Paprika, Broken English, American Teen, Fugitive Pieces, Death Note: The Last Name, The King of Kong, Layer Cake, The Illusionist, Art School Confidential, Emmanuel’s Gift, Mad Hot Ballroom, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Spellbound, Castle in the Sky, Born into Brothels, and Pieces of April. Through tributes, special screenings and seminars, the Festival has honored film industry notables, including Aaron Sorkin, Haskell Wexler, Robert Wise, Henry Bumstead, Elmer Bernstein, John Waters, Alan Arkin, Bruce Brown, Richard Sherman, Penelope Spheeris, and McG. Co-founder and CEO Gregg Schwenk stops by to talk about the 2015 edition of NBFF, the opening night film, The Water Diviner, directed by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and many of this year’s special screenings and events.

Newport Beach Film Festival – Thursday, April 23rd – Sunday April 30th

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Friday, April 10, 2015 – Man From Reno, Director Dave Boyle

Man from Reno Poster 2015 

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In a small town south of San Francisco, Sheriff Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) is driving home through the fog when he accidentally strikes a pedestrian, a lone Japanese man.  However, before an investigation can take place the man disappears from the hospital without a trace. At the same time, Japanese mystery author Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani) takes a trip to San Francisco in order to escape the press tour for her latest book–a potboiler in her world famous “Inspector Takabe” series. Feeling lonely and vulnerable, she begins a romantic affair with a mysterious Japanese traveler from Reno (Kazuki Kitamura). Her new lover is charismatic and charming but abruptly disappears from the hotel, leaving behind his suitcase and a trail of questions. Director Dave Boyle joins us to talk about his beautifully crafted noir-ish, bilingual thriller.

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MAN FROM RENO was a 2015 Spirit Award nominee for the John Cassavetes Award

“”Man From Reno” fascinates. It invites you to go back, decipher its clues and discern a grand design, if there is one.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times

“Man from Reno seems primed to become a cult hit, and fans will be justly singing its praises for many years to come.” – Dan Schindel, Movie Mezzanine

“…A RETRO-STYLE MYSTERY…a CLASSIC crime-saga face off… — Hollywood Reporter

“This is STELLAR PULP STORYTELLING with a TWIST… a LEAN and GRIPPING thriller… — The Playlist