Considering it's the world center of the movie industry, it's surprising that historically speaking, Los Angeles never really had a film festival to rival the likes of Cannes, Venice and Berlin. But a quarter of a century ago, things started to change: the excellent AFI Festival celebrated its 25th year in its most recent incarnation, while the Los Angeles Film Festival, goes from strength to strength every year.
The festival's gearing up for its 17th incarnation, and last week announced the first wave of its line-up, with 19 North American and World premieres in the dramatic and documentary competitions, along with festival hits like "Elite Squad 2," "The Mysteries of Lisbon," "Senna," "Another Earth," "The Future," "Tyrannosaur" and "Page One." Now, the festival has announced a number of gala and special screenings, and it's a pretty high profile bunch.
The biggest is easily a screening of summer blockbuster "Green Lantern," which will show at the festival on the first day, June 16th, the day before its nationwide release, likely providing the first chance for the general public to get the full view of Ryan Reynolds in his CGI get-up. Does the festival selection suggest that the film has some artistic merits that we haven't quite seen yet? We'll see.
More exciting is the gala screening of "Drive," the Nicolas Winding Refn crime thriller that debuts at Cannes next week. We've expounded at length about how much we're looking forward to the picture, which stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Oscar Isaac, and it certainly sweetens the pill for any LA inhabitants who weren't able to make it to Cannes. Another gala will be the world premiere of Chris Weitz's indie immigration drama "A Better Life," one of Summit's big awards hopes for the year, which toplines "Che" star Demian Bichir as a gardener in Los Angeles trying to build a future for his son.
James Franco will also be providing a world premiere, in this case his feature directorial debut, "The Broken Tower," in which the polymath star stars as early 20th century poet Hart Crane, with Michael Shannon also among the cast. Franco will also be in conversation at the festival, for "a freewheeling discussion of film, poetry and pushing the creative envelope," which is about what we'd expect from a Q&A with the star. Julie Taymor will also be in conversation for an evening focusing on the adaptation of various material onto stage and screen.
But the festival's big get is Guillermo Del Toro, who will serve as the Guest Director of the festival, which involves screening a film that was influential to him, as well as a conversation afterwards. The director will also present the world premiere of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," the Guy Pearce/Katie Holmes horror movie that he wrote and produced -- that'll close the festival on June 26th. Everything kicks off on June 16th, and we're hopeful that we'll be covering the festival to some degree -- there are more announcements to come, but it's already a pretty enticing line-up. [indieWire]