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Sundance Programmers Talk LA's NEXT FEST, Which Pairs Movies & Music Downtown

Festivals
by Anne Thompson
June 25, 2014 6:01 PM
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"Life After Beth"
"Life After Beth"
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Did you miss the Sundance Film Festival? Well, the Sundance Institute is returning to Los Angeles with the second four-day NEXT FEST (August 7-10). This time they're not showing the program at the Sunset 5 but are reaching out to the hipster crowd at a new downtown venue, the restored Theatre at Ace Hotel. Tickets are available here.

Six films familiar to Sundance Film Festival enthusiasts were culled from the 2014 NEXT program, which according to fest director John Cooper is "based on certain aesthetic rigorous renegade storytelling more on outer edge." But this time Sundance programmers, led by Trevor Groth, are pairing some films with a Q & A or live stage concert, to create a must-see event. Sundance is so packed with world premieres that even many attendees will want to play catch-up. 

The festival will kick off on August 7 with a 10th anniversary screening of "Napoleon Dynamite" with Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Among the film and music acts to show at the Ace are A24's zombie love story "Life After Beth" with solo acoustic performer Father John Misty, "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" with the Zellner brothers (which lacks domestic distribution), Tribeca's romantic comedy "Listen Up Philip," "Imperial Dreams" and R&B singer, songwriter and performer Tinashe (which lacks a domestic distributor) , Picturehouse's "The Guest" with director Adam Wingard, and Kino Lorber's Iranian Vampire flick "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" with indie rock band Warpaint.

Sundance has been adding sidebar programs to the January festival. Sundance USA takes fest entries to cities around the country right after the festival. Film Forward, a foreign cultural diplomatic effort partnered with the U.S. government's President's Council for the Arts, targets underserved younger generations with programming, this third and last year in Sarajevo and Indonesia. Sundance London takes the Sundance mission beyond U.S. borders. "We're doing these things including London as a continuing effort to build audiences for indie film and connect audiences with the work released in Park City," says Cooper. "This NEXT FEST is a continuation of last year's. Our genuine impulse was to put together a program that was inventive and different from any festival we've done before."

In many ways the NEXT section offered the most exciting films on display at Sundance, so the programmers wanted to bring the films to more people. Last year, says Groth, "we learned there is definitely an appetite for these kinds of specialty films that have taken on a life of their own. We wanted to make the NEXT section even bigger, and bring bigger awareness for them. This is such a big town that to make noise you have to do something on a certain scale, so we picked a bigger venue. It's important to Robert Redford, the cross-pollination of the arts. Music has a role in Park City and Sundance London. So we're doing something new with Next Fest that's all about new ways of telling stories in film."

The Ace offered a venue where they could both do screenings and concerts and "create a social space around it," says Groth, "with DJs in the lobby after the performance, so people can come out to talk about the film and the music, and extend the conversation round these films." 

Groth also hopes that the LA screenings will "enhance awareness and excitement" around two of the films that still lack distribution, "Kumiko Treasure Hunter" and "Imperial Dreams." 

The tickets are reasonable: $15 during the day and $25 with a nighttime performance. 

The full schedule is below:

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