Irvine International Film Festival, Jan. 12-16 – UPDATE from T. R. BlackEye


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UPDATE Friday the 13th

Notes from Deep Inside the IIFF:

The Irvine International Film Festival got off to a solid start last evening.

There was plenty of available parking in the main lot and within the many lots adjacent to the Edwards West Park 8, making it far more accessible than many other festivals. The volunteer staff manning the festivities were very organized & friendly, providing a warm welcome, while creating an air of excitement that filled the large domed atria. It was so infectious, even the normally stoic staff of the theatre had smiles on their faces.

The aforementioned atria contains many tables and chairs making it the perfect place to celebrate cinema with conversations while still being able to watch the event unfold. It was far from business as usual at this multiplex. If you have never attended a film festival, this is a great opportunity to gain the experience. Maybe you won’t be able to spot Robert Redford, but, on the other hand, you never know who might attend.

The screenings are held on screen six, the third largest auditorium at the complex. It has a very large screen while providing enough seats, most having a fine proximity to high quality viewing. The surround sound is in full force, and the new digital projector provides sharp clarity making the sights easy on the eyes. This auditorium has its act together.

Unlike many frenetic first time events, this one started right on time. The emcee welcomed the attendees with an articulate introduction through a mic that was adjusted to just the right volume. With that, let the show begin.

I am excited to report that they opened with a short film, one of the great attributes of film festivals, making attendance a unique experience. While the film, The Potential Wives of Norman Mao, is a broad comedy featuring some truly silly crosscutting cultural moments, it felt truly American at the same time. The applause was genuine and the festival was launched.

The opening feature film was directed and produced by festival executive directors, thus out of the competition. It presented an ironic symmetry, as the film emanates from Orange County while having international implications. On the other hand, many of the other films emanated from around the world but come directly to Orange County via the festival. Empty Hand: the Real Karate Kid is an informative, heart-felt film showing the hard work behind the scenes of world-class competitions. Many participants within the film were on hand for an insightful Q & A following the film and in the lobby after that. What a great opportunity to meet people actually making films.

Without further ado, festival directors made an offer attendees couldn’t refuse: if you stayed, a ticket for the additional short and feature would be at a substantially lower price. This gesture of generosity was genuinely appreciated and added to the celebration of getting unusual films to the locals.

Staying on schedule, the next film, a short (did I tell you how much I enjoy these?) featured bona fide stars in offbeat roles you would never get to see otherwise. As a rabid filmgoer, it was delightful to see oft-seen Christina Ricci as a strange (stranger than normal – for her) elf-like guest at her Aunt & Uncle’s Bickerson-like Christmas dinner (played by little seen Daniel Stern & Kathy Najimy). While there was nothing groundbreaking about the film, it is a twist when you find out it was directed by Eva Mendes, a glamorous leading lady in many action films.

The evening closed with a moving and amusing film from the UK via Pakistan, West is West, featuring the uber professional Om Puri. One hopes this exposure brings this film in for a normal theatrical release. More understanding, as taken from this fine film might eliminate the concept of drones and other violent means of dealing with conflict.

The other nice thing about film festivals is that most of the attendees applaud the efforts of each filmmaker and remain through closing credits.

Friday’s offerings, featuring many shorts and a few features promises to be quite inspiring and entertaining. Especially the creepy films when seen on Friday the 13th. I look forward to seeing you there.

T R Black
BlackEye on Film

Dear Filmgoer,

I would like to bring to your attention a worthy event beginning this Thursday, January 12th, at the Edwards West Park 8 Cinemas, if you haven’t heard already. Follow this LINK

This event promises to bring the world to our doorstep through the wonder of fine, independent filmmaking. It is rare indeed for the denizens in Orange County to have such a convenient opportunity to experience such a dense menu of eye-opening ideas in the form of cinematic expression.

As you may know, there are many independent, foreign language and documentary films that play in New York and LA, but never make it to the OC. Even when these types of films (right now, many award-worthy efforts are only available in LA until later this month or year – and, many times, they don’t screen here until after the award season, if at all) are scheduled to screen in the OC, they are withheld for a week or two or three, because the distributors think we are an unsophisticated backwater. They imply that we would provide less than stellar attendance, which might hurt opening per-screen-averages, thus inhibiting marketing efforts. We, as serious film-goers, suffer from this myopic, unsupported attitude.

Here is a perfect opportunity to show them that we will support a broad spectrum of ideas from the global village. To prove that we deserve excellent, first-run films, not just noisy, mainstream sequels. We are better than that.

It wasn’t until recently that we had the opportunity to see the Academy-nominated short films and animated shorts in a local venue. Before then, year after year, I would look into the faces of Oscar party-goers to see their confusion as to what a short has to do with movies. Yet, the day I see these shorts is usually my favorite filmgoing day of the year. As you will see during this festival, the makers of short films can do more in minutes than most mainstream films accomplish in hours when it comes to exhilarating, moving, enlightening stories that can stay with us for years. The best ones provide inspiration and make us feel better about being humans. This is a gold mine with rich veins resulting in a rush to remember.

I would encourage you to scroll down the link to read each and every brief description. I find them fascinating and compelling. Especially the teachers among you, take note of the wide assortment of illuminating films created and shot by local OC students. This is a fabulous opportunity to learn from the students.

Finally, note how many of the filmmakers will be making appearances and holding Q&A.s providing depth and sharing experiences. This event is a real celebration of the cinematic arts, the human spirit, ideas, and an expansive world view. I hope you will join with me in participating in this uplifting globetrotting excursion.. I look forward to seeing you in the lobby and discussing these incredible films.

T R Black
BlackEye on Film


About T. R. Black Eye