Culver City Observer -

Kid In A Candy Store

Smart And Spicy


Top news first, candy store second: My favorite film from the COLCOA French film festival won the audience award for best film. I'm sure it will get a distributor; when it finds its way into theaters, you must see "Mr. and Mrs. Adelman." You'll love it! * * * COLCOA. LAJFF. LAAPFF. SEEfest. CATE. What do these mean? There were five film festivals here last week; it's an enchanted candy store. COLCOA, charming acronym for LA: City of Light, City of Angels, superlative French films carefully chosen. LAJFF, LA's Jewish Film Festival, spread at theaters throughout the area, films for thought and delight. LAAPFF? SEEfest? CATE? Are we spoiled for choice, or spoilt? British people say "spoilt," translating to "spoiled" in the U.S. Does tomato/ to-MAH-to matter when it translates the same? Spoilt for choice: "to have so many good possible choices that it is difficult to make a decision." (Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.) Indeed - how to choose? * * * Instinct guided me. CATE, Cinema on the Edge, seemed tiny, with a good feeling; it looks, as the Germans say, echt. CATE's wants to "shine the light on indie gems." The goal: give independent filmmakers exposure, increasing their chance to sell films. When I learned it's in a soaring white Frank Gehry building, in the heart of Santa Monica, I couldn't resist. CATE's films have a "unique voice, a challenge to what is expected and accepted in the medium." It's a real community, with classes and events, created by Artistic Director Michelle Danner.

"Now more than ever, it's important people's voices get heard," Michelle told me. "Everybody is a winner, truly, who gets to do an independent movie." I found CATE quite touching: the smaller venue and younger festival make CATE seem like the little guy trying harder; it felt homespun and sweet. Opening Night's "Wild Prairie Rose," was a love story in 1950's South Dakota, where women's roles were starting to change. On a sunlit deck before the movie, I talked with the woman next to me, who said she was anxious. The festival's informality meant you just bumped into the film's director, just like that. "I'm so nervous," Deborah LaVine said. "Why?" "My students are here." "That makes you nervous?" "Now they'll see what I teach. It makes me nervous." LaVine didn't have to be nervous; everyone loved the film. "Wild Prairie Rose" examines a time when when women's roles were pre-set. "It's a love letter to the place, while dealing with repression of women at a particular time," said La Vine. "What if you're slightly different in a place that truly reveres being the same?" she asked. Remember, this was before AIDS, texts, and hookups. CATE's setting was so unpretentious that when I asked the woman on my right why she came, she shyly said, "I'm in the film." I asked if she's the star, but she said no, just the mother. She was terrific. In person, Suanne Spoke's pretty, and blonde, and vivacious; I don't want to reveal too much, but her character in the film seemed much older, facing health challenges. She was courageous in the role. Suanne also teaches. "I love teaching; it's a 'Pay It Forward' situation." * * * LAAPFF, LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, had over 180 films from 31 countries, opening with "Better Luck Tomorrow" in 35mm, a special 15th anniversary screening with director Justin Lin in person. The range of films at LAAPFF was astonishing; so much choice of geographical areas and subjects. It was all tempting; then there was the special program commemorating the Rodney King verdict's 25th Anniversary.

I'm looking forward to seeing Colombus on closing night (too late for this column's deadline). It promises stunning architecture, growing more intimate along with the characters. Will the sculpture be more striking than the story? It's love and art, in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. This poetic first film is by Korean director Kogonada (he chose his own one-word-only name.) * * * SEEfest, the 12th Annual South East European Film Festival, gives a chance to learn about a part of the world you may not know. With art and a conference for filmmakers, this year's focus was the Balkans and Caucasus. "A specific brand of humor and zest for life," helps transcend borders, according to Festival Director Vera Mijojlic. Shown in multiple venues, even the shorts had world premieres. Opening night's "The Constitution," says it's "a love story about hate." With Serbian and Croatian actors, it's funny, about people struggling in close circumstances, whose prejudices bump against different religions, sexual orientation, nationality and economic levels. "Glory," is about a railway worker who finds millions of dollars in cash, with hilarious complications. From Bulgaria, it's won awards at 19 film festivals. I liked a special screening of "Hotel Sacher," about Vienna's most famous hotel. I still remember having their famous black forest cake while I was studying in Vienna. SEEfest also had a Business of Film Conference. I wanted to go, but how to be in three places at once? So many great films, so little time. What flavor would you choose? ______________________________________________ Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything. You can write to her at:


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