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Los Angeles Festival Highlights Independent Films, Hollywood Features

This week, Los Angeles movie lovers are watching some of the latest films from independent producers and Hollywood studios at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Mike O'Sullivan reports, the 10-day forum is showcasing some small-budget films, and a big-budget blockbuster.

The annual festival began in 1995 as a showcase for independent films. Today, it is a major Hollywood event, attracting such stars as Martin Sheen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Don Cheadle.

"We have about 236 films, that is features and shorts included," said Rachel Rosen, the festival's director of programming. "And last year, we had 80,000 attendees. This year, we are expecting about 100,000."

The big-budget science fiction-adventure Transformers will open here.

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Most of the films are smaller-scale productions, including the documentary The Town That Was. The film was made for just $30,000.

"It was a full town, countless stores, gas stations. We had our own bank, post office, and anything any other town would have."

The film looks at the once-thriving town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, which is now nearly deserted. A coal fire has burned beneath the city in abandoned mines for more than 40 years.

Filmmaker Chris Perkel, who directed the film with his friend Georgie Roland, says it tells the story through the eyes of one of the town's few remaining residents.

"It is about one very stubborn man, but it is about a man who cannot let go of the past, a man's quixotic fight to try to keep alive a community that has literally disintegrated under his feet," said Perkel.

The documentary Young [At] Heart, looks at a group of senior citizens who perform rock and roll and pop music.

British filmmaker Stephen Walker says the elderly singers could sometimes be difficult to work with.

"They are very worried about being punctual the whole time, and if you are not completely punctual, you are in trouble," said Walker.

"But they are also wonderful, and it was like the greatest set of grandparents I came across in my life. But I never met grandparents that sung rock and roll before. So it was unique," he added.

Russian actor and producer Alexander Nevsky is showing an action-adventure called Treasure Raiders in which he costars with American actor David Carradine.

"In my movies, it is always a Russian and American together fighting against evil," said Nevsky.

"And that is basically how we won World War Two. And I hope that for the young generation, because it is an action movie, it will be easy to understand that we are not enemies, we are friends. So see, I am really like a big ambassador of Russian action movies here," he continued.

For Los Angeles movie lovers, the festival offers plenty of entertainment, some thought-provoking films, and a touch of Hollywood glamour. It runs through July 1.