The Downtown Film Festival, taking place July 6 - 13, aims to be a resource for Downtown Los Angeles' growing creative community. Now in its fourth year, organizers say they received more than 500 submissions for their feature film category, and over 170 shorts. Only twenty features were chosen by the programmers, which were led by former Sundance programmer Roger Mayer. The shorts -- whittled down to 20 -- will be presented at the L.A. Center for Digital Art's "New Media Festival."
Apart from the films and shorts, the festival will host workshops and lectures where local filmmakers will be able to learn about new film technologies, DIY distribution, and the ins and outs of film and the law. The New Ventures For Filmmakers workshop will cover topics like Tugg, a new crowdsourcing app that makes it possible for low-budget, independent films to open in large theaters. There will be a demo of Flix on Stix, a system that works like the now ubiquitous Red Box, except it uses USB sticks instead. The twenty features being presented at the festival will be the first to be delivered in the new Flix on Stix service.
Although the Festival likes to highlight films set or shot it Downtown L.A., it also features a broad range of films from around the country. "Colfax & 15th," by writer/directors Stephen Santa Cruz and Joel Strangle follows Isaac, an expecting father and bounty hunter trying to make a living in Denver, CO. Both Issac and the camera are in constant motion. Issac works for a corrupt bail bondsman who sends him after targets without much information - the less he knows, the better - and the film follows his adventures with a steadily, constantly panning camera. Denver is gritty and almost desolate in the film. Isolated train tracks and bridges are Isaac's favorite haunts as well as the places where most of the film's major events happen.
The festival also features "Beyond Pollution," directed by Barker White and narrated by former Superman Dean Cain. "Beyond Pollution" takes an important look back into the 2010 BP oil spill from an grassroots angle, eschewing interviews with politicians and BP reps to instead focuse on local business owners, volunteers, activist, and lawyers. Although it's drags in certain places, the film does a good job of describing the deregulation, shady politicians, and closed Washington meetings that allowed BP to continue expanding despite its unsafe business practices and culture. After the disaster, fishermen complain about BP's cleanup of the spill making it clear that the BP didn't seek the advice of the people who lived and worked in the area for decades.
Unlike other festivals that call L.A. home, this festival has a number of films that use Los Angeles, specifically the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown, as a backdrop. "Betty I Am," "The Light of Love," "Falling Up," are based in the city and follow the lives of different types of Angelenos. Also of interest is "Fixation," which is not set in Los Angeles but is relevant to the growing fixie-bike culture in the city.