IT'S not unusual for documentaries to dominate a festival. And this year's Los Angeles Film Festival is no exception, with a strong group of nonfiction works largely connected by a search for justice and redemption.
Below are 10 recommended films from those available for preview, in the order they screen. Beyond this list, the International Showcase generally includes unheralded gems, and the Summer Preview series peeks at coming films that mostly have already survived the gantlet of festivals to secure distribution. The Guilty Pleasures and Dark Wave sidebar series also offer frivolity and frights.
Mario Rocha -- convicted of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to double life terms in prison -- appears to have gotten a raw deal that has cost him 10 years of his life. Jeff Werner and Susan Koch's extraordinary documentary chronicles the young man's fight for freedom. Rocha's inner strength and resilience through adversity are a marvel. Sincere and articulate, he has used writing as a powerful release. As much as the film uplifts, it also anguishes as the difficult appeal process plays out.
* 10:30 a.m. Friday, Mann National; 7 p.m. Monday, Landmark Regent; 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Italian Cultural Institute
'Time to Leave'
A surprisingly life-affirming tale, Francois Ozon's drama is an intimate treatment of mortality that involves a gradual physical and emotional evolution rather than a whiplash, Hollywood-style transformation. Melvil Poupaud plays Romain, a successful gay fashion photographer who learns he has terminal cancer. Choosing to deal with the prognosis in his own way, Romain sets out on a road trip to visit his grandmother (a wonderfully bohemian Jeanne Moreau). On the journey, he meets a waitress in a roadside cafe (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) with whom he forms a bond.
* 7 p.m. Friday, Majestic Crest
Confronting one's accuser purportedly dates back to Roman times, but the right of a victim or survivor to confront his or her attacker is a more recent concept. This straightforward, fly-on-the-wall documentary by Rachel Libert examines three cases in a nascent Pennsylvania program that brings together injured parties and felons in the name of restorative justice. Addressing the process of healing, the film focuses on the intense face-to-face meetings as victims and perpetrators work through forgiveness and understanding in the hope of gaining closure.
* 7:15 p.m. Friday, Landmark Regent; 4:30 p.m. Monday, Italian Cultural Institute
This bright Australian import packs more into 52 minutes than most dramas do at twice the length. With large eyes threatening to be consumed by her thick chestnut bangs, gifted Emma Lung stars as Claudia, a 17-year-old who yearns to be free of the claustrophobic home she shares with her glum dad, sarcastic younger sister, an assortment of exotic birds and the weight of her mum's recent suicide. Written by Kathleen O'Brien and directed by Stuart McDonald, the movie is a tragicomic maelstrom of teenage angst.
* 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Landmark Regent; 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Landmark Regent
'Deliver Us From Evil'
The concept of the infallibility of priests receives a stinging critique in writer-director Amy Berg's understandably angry documentary, the story of a remorseless pedophile Catholic priest. A deceptive figure -- a Barry Fitzgerald facade with a Peter Lorre lurking beneath -- Oliver O'Grady served as a priest in Central California for nearly 20 years, quietly terrorizing the region before being arrested. Focusing on a handful of O'Grady's victims, now adults, the film assays the suffering of their families while it cogently builds an argument implicating the complicity of Cardinal Roger Mahony, once O'Grady's bishop, in covering up the crimes.
* 7 p.m. Saturday, Majestic Crest; 4:15 p.m. Monday, Landmark Regent
Anyone who has seen "Schindler's List" is familiar with Amon Goeth through Ralph Fiennes' unsettling portrayal of the murderous concentration camp commandant. Imagine the pain being the daughter of such a man. Director James Moll, an Oscar winner for "The Last Days," profiles Goeth's daughter Monika Hertwig in this moving documentary. Monika -- now a grandmother whose face appears to be permanently marked with sadness -- slowly learned the truth about her father as she grew up, insisting to herself that she was not him. Moll builds the film around Monika's sorrowful meeting with Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, a survivor of Goeth's wrath.
* 2:15 p.m. Sunday, Majestic Crest; 5 p.m. Tuesday, Italian Cultural Institute; 7:30 p.m. June 29, Laemmle's Sunset 5
'Jonestown: The Life and
Death of Peoples Temple'