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'Eclipse' bites into L.A. Film Festival

Organizers hope the latest 'Twilight' movie lures a wider audience. 'Despicable Me' will close the festival, which will also screen 'Animal Kingdom' and 'Cyrus.'

May 05, 2010|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

Next month, the Los Angeles Film Festival will likely welcome a new contingent: throngs of screaming girls.

The annual event, which announced its lineup on Tuesday, will feature the world-premiere screening of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," the long-awaited third installment in the popular vampire franchise. It's not exactly typical film festival fare, but organizers are hoping it will serve a larger purpose.

"If we program a movie like 'Twilight' that draws audiences that might not otherwise attend film festivals, hopefully we'll expose them to other cinematic experiences that we think are inspiring," said festival director Rebecca Yeldham.

Still, fans eager to see "Eclipse" before it hits theaters in July will have to pay for the privilege. Only those festivalgoers who purchase one of the festival's top-level passes — which range in cost from $500 to $1,000 — will get inside the Nokia Theatre on June 24.

In stark contrast to the new "Twilight" will be the festival's opening-night movie, the Focus Films dramedy "The Kids Are All Right," about an L.A.-based lesbian couple (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) whose two teenage kids decide to track down their sperm-donor dad. The festival, which runs June 17 to June 27, will close with Universal's 3-D animated film "Despicable Me."

Similar to past years, the festival will offer a mix of both big-budget studio crowd-pleasers and smaller independent films. The Los Angeles Times-sponsored event will feature more than 200 films, music videos and shorts from 40 countries (including 28 world, North American and U.S. premieres). This year, the event will move from its old stomping grounds in Westwood to downtown L.A., where many screenings will take place at L.A. Live.

Former Newsweek film critic David Ansen joined the festival this year as its artistic director, helping to put together the program from more than 4,700 submissions. "His taste is very broad," Yeldham said. "As much as he appreciates the high art, he also is a great aficionado of popular cinema."

Accordingly, this year's festival will host a number of gala screenings, which include Sony Pictures Classics' "Animal Kingdom"; Fox Searchlight's "Cyrus," starring Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly; "Mahler on the Couch"; and "Revolución," a series of short films by the likes of Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo García.

Last year, the festival hosted only 12 premieres, a number that has now more than doubled. "I think perhaps people are beginning to realize that the L.A. Film Festival is a great place to launch their films," Ansen said.

The change in venue is also meant to broaden local filmgoers' horizons.

"The vibe is going to change because there's a very different spirit and energy around downtown," he said. "There was certainly some grumbling on the blogs about parking and traffic — Westsiders do have a funny provincialism about downtown. But there's such an artists community and all these great new restaurants that I think it's going to feel more like an event. Hopefully, we're going to reach some new audiences."

The documentaries in competition will likely appeal to a broad audience as they cover a wide range of subject matter, including a film about a family that owns a traveling circus ("Circo"), one about the first round-the-world Zeppelin flight ("Farewell") and another detailing the journey of six aspiring magicians competing in Las Vegas' World Magic Seminar ("Make Believe").

Budding filmmakers will also compete in the narrative competition, which will feature much international fare, including "Dog Sweat" by Iranian filmmaker Hossein Keshavarz, "A Family" by Denmark's Pernille Fischer Christensen, and the Japanese film "Parade" by Isao Yukisada.

Also giving the festival an international flavor will be the sophomore installment of selections from the Ambulante Film Festival, a traveling event that promotes documentary filmmaking in Mexico.

In addition, the festival will introduce L.A. audiences to films that have already found fans on the festival circuit, including such Sundance standouts as Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right," "Cane Toads: The Conquest" and Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting for Superman."

Passes go on sale to the general public on Monday; tickets for individual films on June 10.

For the complete festival lineup, go to http://www.lafilmfest.com.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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