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Fest or Famine

July 18, 1993

I hope Kenneth Turan is open to some arguments in support of the AFI Festival. For me, and for the many others who seem to fill the theaters every year, the abundance of carefully selected lesser-known films is exactly what makes this festival meaningful and necessary ("What L.A. Needs Is a Real-Live Film Festival," July 4).

So much in Los Angeles already celebrates the Hollywood film, but there's not a lot of places to see the new Subiela (easily one of the most important directors in Latin America) or Paul Bartel's unusual new film, neither of which currently has distribution. And what could be more timely--in light of recent Yugoslav headlines--than this year's Makavejev retrospective? Or who more ready for a full American retrospective than Andrzej Wajda?

In years past, I saw my first Derek Jarman film at the festival; I saw a new film shot on video by Antonioni; I saw significant documentaries that never reappeared theatrically; I saw my own films shown in a proper setting with a sensitive, aware audience and a director and staff and volunteers who seemed to care about non-mainstream movies and the nervous needs of the people who make them. It made me feel proud to be a part of this festival.

Why change something that works for so many people, and for many filmmakers as well? I don't think the recent AFI Festival affected the gross of "Jurassic Park" the week or two it ran. But the films it showed will affect a lot of us for years to come.


Beverly Hills


Turan raises an interesting question: How can a film festival be constructed to serve the Film Capital?

Well, let's see. First, you'd need a splashy opening: some big Hollywood movie to get the big spenders in and get some press. Then, of course, you'd need to follow it up with films from all over the world: something esoteric for the cineastes who read Cahiers du Cinema in French, something a little shady/pornographic for the groundlings, a film or two from countries not known for their filmmaking to serve a broader audience.

And how about a retrospective of a skilled but underappreciated filmmaker, like "Frankenstein" director James Whale or documentarian Frederick Wiseman or editor Verna Fields? Maybe a weekend-long marathon of genre films. Get some of the film archives to open their treasure-troves and show what they're proudest of. Invite the filmmakers to come and discuss their work. Put together some special programs, with experts in film sharing their knowledge and showing examples of what they find impressive--and why.

Wouldn't that be great?

It was .

For 12 incandescent years, the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (FILMEX), under the leadership of Gary Essert, did all this and more. I was privileged to be present at all 12--five as an observer and seven as a participant--and it changed my life.

When FILMEX was wrested from Essert by a malign confluence of corporate lackeys and glory-hungry Hollywood Wives (and they know who they are) and was moved from the L.A. movie palaces to an abandoned Westwood supermarket, the glory days of Los Angeles as a film festival town died a slow, painful death from malnutrition.

It was great while it lasted.




When was the last time Turan walked down Hollywood Boulevard? A recent walk would have made it clear why "all those other cities get the kind of festival that the Entertainment Capital of the Universe so richly deserves."

The answer is simply that we have lost out on being a deserving Entertainment Capital. Tourists are not satisfied with Grauman's Chinese as the best attraction we have to offer. We who live in the area are disappointed with the way Hollywood has gone; imagine the letdown felt by those who have come from afar! We have become the Times Square of the West, and until we sweep away the rip-off hole-in-the-wall souvenir stores, we will never return to the golden days. Until we find pride in our Tinseltown, how can we expect others to?

Michael Woo's plans were pipe dreams few had faith in. That is why he is not mayor of the city. If Richard Riordan does a better job, I will have voted Republican this once and not regretted it.

If Johnny Grant and the present Chamber of Commerce are, in your mind, in Woo's class, you may now raise your hands.


Los Angeles

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