Los Angeles is a city bursting with narratives. The cradle of cinema, our sun-kissed seaside metropolis is famous all over the world for both manufacturing stories (as seen in theaters and on your streaming device) as well as collecting them—in behind-the-scenes tales of the toil, triumph and occasional heartbreak experienced on the road to finally seeing one’s passions put onto the screen. So when you come to the LA Film Festival, you’re really not there just for your own entertainment and edification.
When you come, you’re part of an epic, ongoing meta-story about creativity and cultural evolution. Your role in this story is to luxuriate in the glow of fresh voices and shape how those voices will thrive and survive, based solely on your reaction. Your role is to be in on the ground floor of what all of our filmmakers hope will be the start of a long and exciting career. Exciting! And today, LA grows magnitudes of stories richer, as the 2018 LA Film Festival unveils its competition lineup: a diverse slate of 40 features, 41 short films and 10 episodic works.
The films represent work spanning 26 countries—including 24 World Premieres, one International Premiere, three North American Premieres, five US Premieres, two California Premieres and five LA Premieres, chosen for the Festival’s US Fiction, Documentary, World Fiction, LA Muse and Nightfall sections.
“Our mission of finding fresh new voices from different geographical and cultural axes remains true,” said LA Film Festival Director Jennifer Cochis of the slate.
This year, 42% of competition films are directed by women and 39% directed by people of color. Cochis continued: “These storytellers are united by their ability to transport, impact and inspire audiences with the power of their craft.”
So! Now that we’ve adequately set the scene, maneuvering all of our set elements into place just so and making final tweaks to the light, let’s meet our players. These are the features playing in competition at the 2018 LA Film Festival:
No two tales are the same in this wide-ranging and imaginative crop of homegrown original stories. From gritty dispatches inspired by IRL events to fantastical tall tales, there’s no shortage of emotion and empathy on display.
Banana Split – USA (DIRECTOR Benjamin Francis Kasulke WRITER Hannah Marks, Joey Power PRODUCERS Jeremy Garelick, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Will Phelps, Glen Trotiner, Sam Slater CAST Hannah Marks, Dylan Sprouse, Liana Liberato, Luke Spencer Roberts, Haley Ramm, Meagan Kimberly Smith, Addison Riecke) – Over the course of a summer, two teenage girls develop the perfect kindred spirit friendship, with one big problem: one of them is dating the other’s ex. World Premiere
In Reality – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER Ann Lupo CO-DIRECTOR/CO-WRITER Esteban Pedraza & Aaron Pryka PRODUCER Ann Lupo, Nadine Martinez, Holly Meehl CAST Ann Lupo, Miles G. Jackson, Kimiko Glenn, Jill Eikenberry, Olivia Washington, Esteban Pedraza, Lauren E. Banks) – A young woman takes a journey through her own fantastic mind as she investigates her relationship to unrequited love. California Premiere
Olympia – USA (DIRECTOR Gregory Dixon WRITER McKenzie Chinn PRODUCERS Gregory Dixon, McKenzie Chinn, Elliott Lonsdale, Lucy Lola Manda, Sarah Sharp CAST McKenzie Chinn, Charles Andrew Gardner, Ericka Ratcliff, LaNisa Renee Frederick, Penelope Walker, Sadieh Rifai) – A struggling Chicago artist finds herself at a crossroads in life, overwhelmed by changes and needing to make a critical decision in her relationship. World Premiere
Simple Wedding – USA (DIRECTOR Sara Zandieh WRITERS Sara Zandieh, Stephanie Wu PRODUCERS Ray Moheet, Norman Aladjem, Sara Zandieh CAST Tara Grammy, Christopher O’Shea, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rita Wilson, Maz Jobrani, Houshang Touzie, Jaleh Modjallal, Peter Mackenzie, James Eckhouse, Rebecca Henderson, Aleque Reid) – A romantic comedy about a young Iranian-American woman and the lengths she goes to in order to appease her parents and their need to see her settled down. World Premiere
Softness of Bodies – USA/Germany (DIRECTOR/WRITER Jordan Blady PRODUCER Jordan Blady, Catherine Morawitz CAST Dasha Nekrasova, Morgan Krantz) – An American poet living in Berlin hopes to win a prestigious grant while dealing with her former relationships, a rival poet and her own penchant for stealing things. World Premiere
This Teacher – USA (DIRECTOR Mark Jackson WRITERS Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson PRODUCERS Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson, Gigi Graff, Josh Mandel, Javier Gonzalez CAST Hafsia Herzi, Sarah Kazemy, Lucy Walters, Kevin Kane, Lev Gorn) – A young Arab-French woman on an introspective journey visits her childhood friend in New York City before heading to the woods upstate. World Premiere
The Wrong Todd – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER Rob Schulbaum PRODUCER Ric Murray, Anthony Ambrosino CAST Jesse Rosen, Anna Rizzo, Sean Carmichael, Derek K. Moore, Erin Rose) – A sci-fi comedy about a man who gets caught up in extraordinary events, and the bizarre lengths he goes through to get back to his reality. World Premiere
It’s been said that we’re living through a new golden age of nonfiction film. A pretty lofty claim, but a hard one to dispute looking at the titles in this very “truth = stranger than fiction” selection of courageous and outrageous docs.
Behind the Curve – USA (DIRECTOR Daniel J. Clark PRODUCER Caroline Clark, Nick Andert, Daniel J. Clark) SUBJECTS Mark Sargent, Patricia Steere, Bob & Cami Knodel, Jeran Campanella, Nathan Thompson, Chris Pontius, Robbie Davidson, Cpt. Scott Kelly, Dr. Per Espen Stoknes, Dr. Joe Pierre, Dr. Spiros, Michalakis, Stephen Hagberg, Hannalore Gerling-Dunsmore, Tim Urban) – The internet breathed new life into an old conspiracy theory: that the earth is flat instead of spherical. America’s flat-Earth movement appears to be growing, in spite of its detractors in the scientific community. US Premiere
Facing the Dragon – USA/Afghanistan (DIRECTOR Sedika Mojadidi PRODUCER Jenny Raskin) – After international withdrawal from Afghanistan, two remarkable Afghan women working within the government and media struggle to maintain their hard-won rights while balancing what’s best for their families. West Coast Premiere
False Confessions – Denmark (DIRECTOR Katrine Philp PRODUCER Katrine A. Sahlstrøm SUBJECT Jane Fisher-Byrialsen) – “Would you confess to a crime you did not commit?” A defense attorney fights against the complex and manipulative tactics of US police interrogations, focusing on victims of coerced confessions as she helps exonerate her incarcerated clients. North American Premiere
hillbilly – USA (DIRECTORS/PRODUCERS Sally Rubin, Ashley York) – Two filmmakers visit rural Kentucky, one returning home to Appalachia, to unpack the stereotype of “hillbilly” and explore the personal and painful experiences fueling our polarizing political climate. LA Premiere
Mamacita – Germany/Mexico (DIRECTOR José Pablo Estrada Torrescano PRODUCERS José Pablo Estrada Torrescano, Arne Birkenstock) – A filmmaker fulfills his promise to make a film about his 95-year-old grandmother, showcasing her big personality and along the way uncovering the source of deep familial wounds. US Premiere
Moroni for President – USA (DIRECTORS Saila Huusko, Jasper Rischen PRODUCERS Saila Huusko, Jasper Rischen, Sara Goldblatt) – Determined to shake up the status quo and bring positive change to his people, a young, gay college professor begins a grass-roots campaign to become the next President of the Navajo Nation. LA Premiere
Same God – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER/PRODUCER Linda Midgett SUBJECTS Dr. Larycia Hawkins, Dr. Michael Mangis, Patti Mangis) – It started out simply: a demonstration of solidarity. What followed? Life-changing events violating university and ethical codes and a public attack on a tenured professor’s ideals, faith, racial and religious identity. World Premiere
The Silence of Others – USA/Spain (DIRECTORS/PRODUCERS Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar) – In a country with streets that still bear his name, a group of resolute Spanish citizens seek justice for crimes committed during the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco by organizing a groundbreaking international lawsuit. West Coast Premiere
Stammering Ballad – China (DIRECTOR/WRITER Nan Zhang PRODUCERS Ruby Chen, Yong Zhang, Sinae Ha SUBJECT Ga-song Zhang) – The visual and musical journey of a Chinese folk musician torn between his desire for fame and his love for singing rural folk songs that are on the verge of being lost. North American Premiere
Wrestling Ghosts — USA (DIRECTOR Ana Joanes PRODUCERS Ana Joanes, Toni Nagy) — Unable to understand why parenting seems like a constant uphill battle, an emotionally exhausted mother who can’t connect with her two young sons courageously confronts the events of her own traumatic childhood. World Premiere
Time to renew your passport. Or, maybe not, seeing as so many great titles from around the globe have decided to come to us instead, right here in LA. So start popping the Visine and get ready to (happily) read some subtitles. Ciao!
Border – Sweden (DIRECTOR Ali Abbasi WRITERS Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvist PRODUCERS Nina Bisgaard, Peter Gustafsson, Petra Jönsson CAST Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson) – Despite having the remarkable gift of being able to smell emotions, a border agent leads a mundane existence until she meets a stranger who shares her unique abilities and upends her life. California Premiere
The Cotton Wool War – Brazil (DIRECTOR/WRITER/PRODUCERS Cláudio Marques, Marilia Hughes CAST Dora Goritzki, Thaia Perez, Thaila Lima) – Dora is a German-raised teenager visiting her enigmatic Brazilian grandmother for the first time. While trying to return to Germany at all costs, she discovers the incredible history behind the women of her family. US Premiere
The Day I Lost My Shadow – France/Lebanon/Qatar/Syrian Arab Republic (DIRECTOR/WRITER Soudade Kaadan PRODUCER Amira Kaadan CAST Sawsan Arshid, Reham Al Kasar, Samer Ismail, Ahmad Ali) – In the midst of a gas crisis during the early days of the Syrian Arab Spring, a young mother takes the day off work and strays far from home with only one objective in mind: finding a working cylinder so that she may cook a meal for her son. US Premiere
Heaven Without People – Lebanon (DIRECTOR/WRITER Lucien Bourjeily PRODUCER Lucien Bourjeily, Farah Shaer CAST Ghassan Chemali, Hussein Hijazi, Jean Paul Hage, Jenny Gebara, Laeticia Semaan, Nadim Abou Samra, Samira Sarkis) – When a large family comes together for the first time in two years over Easter lunch, tensions bubble to the surface in surprising ways as they navigate an unforeseen conflict that threatens to derail their reunion. LA Premiere
Microhabitat – South Korea (DIRECTOR/WRITER Jeon Go-Woon PRODUCER Kim Soon-Mo CAST Som Lee, Jae-hong Ahn) – An increase in the price of cigarettes destabilizes the economy of Miso, a young housekeeper who prefers to stop paying the rent rather than give up on the little pleasures of life. While she enjoys her smokes, Miso starts a couch-surfing journey that reconnects her with family and friends. West Coast Premiere
Socrates – Brazil (DIRECTOR Alex Moratto WRITERS Alex Moratto, Thayná Mantesso PRODUCERS Tammy Weiss, Ramin Bahrani, Alex Moratto, Jefferson Paulino CAST Christian Malheiros, Tales Ordakji, Rosane Paulo, Caio Martinez Pacheco, Jayme Rodrigues) – A 15-year-old boy in São Paulo is forced to live on his own after his mother’s death. The search for a job, and dealing with his own sexual awakening, proves to be a lot to handle. World Premiere
Tower. A Bright Day. – Poland/Czech Republic (DIRECTOR/WRITER Jagoda Szelc PRODUCERS Marcin Malatyński, Agata Golanska, Agnieszka Janowska, Kacper Habisiak, Andrzej Jędrzejewski, Maciej Ostoja-Chyżyński, Rafał Bubnicki CAST Anna Krotoska, Małgorzata Szczerbowska, Rafał Cieluch, Dorota Łukasiewicz-Kwietniewska, Laila Hennessy) – A protective mother has taken care of her young niece for years, raising her in the countryside as her own daughter. Her sister’s sudden return triggers a sense that she may be back to reclaim her offspring or to implement even more ominous plans. LA Premiere
Do you remember the part the introduction where we talked about how LA is just chockablock full of stories? Well, to prove our point: we once again have a whole entire category dedicated to stories from and inspired by Los Angeles.
The Advocates – USA (DIRECTOR Rémi Kessler PRODUCERS Rémi Kessler, Robert McFalls) – A sweeping look at the homeless crisis in Los Angeles and an intimate view of the tireless advocates who strive to create better lives for their clients. World Premiere
El Chicano – USA (DIRECTOR Ben Hernandez Bray WRITERS Ben Hernandez Bray, Joe Carnahan PRODUCERS Joe Carnahan, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Frank Grillo CAST Raúl Castillo, George Lopez, Aimee Garcia, Emilio Rivera, David Castañeda, Marlene Forte, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sal Lopez) – A cop is drawn into his ex-con brother’s death while investigating the crime-fighting exploits of a mysterious vigilante known as “El Chicano.” World Premiere
Fire on the Hill – (DIRECTOR/WRITER Brett Fallentine PRODUCER Brett Fallentine, Jordana Glick-Franzheim, Steven Amato) – Three Black cowboys in South Central share their stories following a mysterious fire that burnt down the community’s stables, leaving the fate of the culture in question. World Premiere
Funke – (DIRECTOR Gabriel Taraboulsy PRODUCERS Gabriel Taraboulsy, Alex Emanuele, Jay Holzer, Cecile Murias SUBJECTS Evan Funke, Janet Zuccarini, Nancy Silverton, Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo) – A prodigious chef mounts his culinary comeback, eyeing the most competitive street in America as a stage for his ode to the dying art of handmade pasta. World Premiere
Making Montgomery Clift – (DIRECTORS/WRITERS/PRODUCERS Robert A. Clift, Hillary Demmon SUBJECT Montgomery Clift, Brooks Clift, Patricia Bosworth, Jack Larson, Judy Balaban, Lorenzo James) – Classic film star Montgomery Clift’s legacy has been a story of tragedy and self-destruction, but a more complicated picture emerges when his nephew dives into the family archives. World Premiere
Saint Judy – USA (DIRECTOR Sean Hanish WRITER Dmitry Portnoy PRODUCERS Sean Hanish, Paul Jaconi-Biery CAST Michelle Monaghan, Leem Lubany, Common, Alfred Molina, Alfre Woodard, Mykelti Williamson) – The true story of LA immigration attorney Judy Wood, who single-handedly changed the United States Law of Asylum, saving countless lives in the process. World Premiere
Solace – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER Tchaiko Omawale PRODUCERS Tchaiko Omawale, Maya Emelle, Hope Olaide Wilson, Sabine Hoffman, Sascha Brown Rice CAST Hope Olaide Wilson, Lynn Whitfield, Chelsea Tavares, Glynn Turman, Luke Rampersad, Sydney Bennett) – A teenage orphan moves to LA to live with her estranged grandmother and works to win a performance art grant while secretly struggling with binge eating. World Premiere
Staycation – USA (DIRECTOR Tanuj Chopra WRITERS Tanuj Chopra, Anthony Ma, Grace Su PRODUCER Lalithra Fernando CAST Anthony Ma, Grace Su) – A modern millennial codependent couple in DTLA have their relationship thrown for a loop when he discovers a photo from an ex on her phone. World Premiere
Stuntman – USA (DIRECTOR Kurt Mattila PRODUCERS Steven Golebiowski, Kurt Mattila, Eddie Braun) – A veteran stuntman sets out to complete the jump that bested his idol Evel Knievel: clearing the Snake River Canyon in a rocket-powered craft. World Premiere
We the Coyotes – USA (DIRECTORS/WRITERS Hanna Ladoul, Marco La Via PRODUCERS Raphael Gindre, Kevin Van Der Meiren, Julius Schultheib CAST Morgan Saylor, McCaul Lombardi, Betsy Brandt, Khleo Thomas, Lorelei Linklater) – A young couple moves to LA from the Midwest to start a new life together, but things don’t go exactly as planned. North American Premiere
Recommended for the adventurous watcher, this terrifying selection of genre films seeks to explore a mixture of psychological thrillers, comedic horror and absurdist dark fantasy, all intermixed with some genuine scares.
The Dead Center – USA (DIRECTOR Billy Senese WRITER Billy Senese PRODUCERS Billy Senese, Denis Deck, Jonathan Rogers, Shane Carruth CAST Shane Carruth, Poorna Jagannathan, Jeremy Childs, Bill Feehely) – When a mysterious John Doe wakes up in a morgue and wanders into a psychiatric ward, a devoted doctor and curious medical examiner must slowly uncover dark and sinister secrets about the man that reveal a more horrifying truth than they could have ever imagined. World Premiere
Deep Murder – USA (DIRECTOR Nick Corirossi WRITERS Josh Margolin, Quinn Beswick, Benjamin Smolen, Nikolai von Keller PRODUCERS Eric B. Fleischman, Andrew Swett, Drew Foster, Jesse Berger, Brent Johnson, Pat McErlean CAST Quinn Beswick, Katie Aselton, Christopher McDonald, Jerry O’Connell, Jessica Kennedy, Chris Redd, Stephanie Drake, Josh Margolin) – Set in an alternate reality in which everyone is a cliché from a tacky soft-core porn film, a group of increasingly self-aware stock characters are up against a mysterious killer offing them one by one. World Premiere
Ghost Light – USA (DIRECTOR John Stimpson WRITERS/PRODUCERS Geoffrey Taylor, John Stimpson CAST Roger Bart, Tom Riley, Shannyn Sossamon, Danielle Campbell, Carol Kane, Cary Elwes) – The story of an unfortunate Shakespearean acting troupe that unleashes the infamous curse of Macbeth with horrifying results. World Premiere
Head Count – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER Elle Callahan WRITER Michael Nader PRODUCERS Samuel Sandweiss, Brandon Somerhalder CAST Isaac W. Jay, Ashleigh Morghan, Bevin Bru, Billy Meade, Hunter Peterson, Chelcie May, Tory Freeth, Michael Herman, Amaka Obiechie, Sam Marra, Cooper Rowe) – During a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree, a group of teenagers find themselves under mental and physical assault from a supernatural entity that mimics their appearances as it completes an ancient ritual. World Premiere
Spell – USA (DIRECTOR Brendan Walter WRITER Barak Hardley PRODUCERS Jon Lullo CAST Barak Hardley, Jackie Tohn, Magnús Jónsson, Birna Rún Eiriksdóttir, Tom Wright, Stacey Moseley, Michael Nanfria, Michole Briana White, Bryndís Haraldsdóttir) – Following the unexpected death of his fiancé, an American illustrator travels to the Icelandic countryside to seek solace. What he finds instead is a blurred line between reality and fantasy as magical things begin to shake his very foundation—unless it’s all in his head. World Premiere
Thriller – USA (DIRECTOR/WRITER Dallas Jackson PRODUCERS Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, John Lang, Dallas Jackson CAST Mykelti Williamson, RZA, Jessica Allain, Luke Tennie, Tequan Richmond, Paige Hurd, Chelsea Rendon, Mitchell Edwards, Pepi Sonuga, Jason Woods, Maestro Harrell, Michael Ocampo)– Years after a childhood prank goes horribly wrong, a clique of South Central LA teens find themselves terrorized during Homecoming weekend by a killer hell-bent on revenge. World Premiere
Also announced are the 41 short films to be playing at the Festival, culled from 3,100 submissions and representing 14 countries—53% of which are directed by women and 66% by people of color. Shorts will play before select features and as part of six different short film programs, competing for juried prizes for fiction and documentary as well as an Audience Award for Best Short Film.
Episodes: Indie Series from the Web will showcase 10 independently created web series from three different countries—50% of which have been directed by people of color and 30% by female filmmakers. The category celebrates rising creators whose work and subjects are innovative and unfiltered.
So yeah: more material than you could ever possibly hope to ingest over the course of one nine-day stretch. But still, why not try? Starting today, Festival Passes are currently on sale to both Film Independent Members (join today for special discounts and Festival perks) as well as the general public.
Not sure what type of pass is right for you? Consult our handy-dandy cheat sheet, done in the starry style of our amazing Festival poster artist Alia Penner:
The 2018 LA Film Festival takes place September 20-28. Venues include the ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City, Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the new Loyola Marymount Playa Vista campus, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles.
Presenting Media Sponsor is Los Angeles Times. Official Host Venue is ArcLight Cinemas. Platinum Sponsors are American Airlines, EFILM | Deluxe and HBO. The University Sponsor is Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television. Festival Supporters are Directors Guild of America, eTech Rentals, Kona Productions, TREETI and Visit Seattle. Festival Affiliates are 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, ATK Audiotek, SAGindie and Writers Guild of America West. Additional support provided by National Endowment for the Arts. Stella Artois is the Official Beer. IMDbPro is the Official Industry Resource. CITI is the Official Credit Card. The LINE, NoMad Los Angeles and Freehand LA are the Official Hotel Partner. Essentia Water is the Official Water. Getty Images is the Official Photographer.
(Header: Staycation from the LA Muse category)