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Festival Offers a New Take on Film

Movies: The annual Smogdance screenings in Pomona will showcase the work of unknowns.


You could watch "Pray for Dawn," an 80-minute film about zombies and survival that was shot in Alta Loma and Joshua Tree. Or "The Virgin Larry," a "mockumentary" about an artist and his battles with a conservative city council.

These and other offbeat movies produced by relative unknowns are being featured this weekend at Smogdance 01, the fourth annual Pomona Film Festival.

Festival curator Alan Marx, a Silver Lake resident who has worked for the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and Outfest, said he received about 60 entries for this year's event in Pomona.

"They came from all over the place. A lot from Los Angeles, about a dozen from Florida State University, one from Amsterdam and one from Israel," Marx said. "The hardest thing about doing this is there was so much good stuff, but I only had nine hours to show it all."

Marx said he has grouped the movies into three categories. Friday night showcases love stories, Saturday is "fun and dark humor" and Sunday includes documentaries and most of the films created by locals.

Thomas Barnhart, who has been "playing with camcorders" since he was 6 years old, got a camera, rustled up some actors and dragged them around Alta Loma and Joshua Tree to create "Pray for Dawn."

"It was a lot of fun," the 25-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident said. "I don't think I would have been able to go to film school and get the experience I did just getting out there in the middle of nowhere."

Damion Dietz of Riverside, a graduate of the film school at USC, took "The Virgin Larry" to the Cannes Film Festival and has set up his production company in Riverside.

"There's so much benefit shooting around this area," he said. "It's very cost-effective, and there's a wealth of locations. Especially if you're going for that suburban stuff."

Screenings will begin at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Center for the Arts, 252 S. Main St., Pomona. Admission is $5 per evening or $10 for the whole weekend.

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