Sun­dance aims to find out what’s next for fes­ti­vals

At Next Fest in L.A., cre­ator talks and live mu­sic are mixed among the films.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Mark Olsen

The Sun­dance Next Fest is not a typ­i­cal film fes­ti­val. Ev­ery year the event’s or­ga­niz­ers tweak the pro­gram to find new ways of pre­sent­ing Los An­ge­les au­di­ences with films that pre­miered ear­lier in the year at Sun­dance’s flag­ship fes­ti­val in Park City, Utah. This year’s tagline — “where movies, mu­sic and mis­chief col­lide” — un­der­scores the dif­fer­ence from a more typ­i­cal film fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mu­si­cal acts are cu­rated to play af­ter cer­tain movies, and con­ver­sa­tions be­tween film­mak­ers and spe­cially se­lected guests oc­cur af­ter some screen­ings. Mu­sic videos are in­cluded in some pro­grams. This year, co­me­di­ans Kate Ber­lant, Kate Micucci and Natasha Leg­gero each will host one of the evening pro­grams.

“We’re con­stantly think­ing of a fun thing that we’d like to do, that we’d like to see,” said Trevor Groth, the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val’s di­rec­tor of pro­gram­ming in an in­ter­view this week.

“We put our­selves in the au­di­ence’s shoes and think, ‘What would get me out of my home in L.A. to go be a part of some­thing like this?’

“So for us all those new ad­di­tions, all those lit­tle el­e­ments are just things we’re do­ing for our­selves, some-

thing we’d love to see.”

This year’s fes­ti­val, start­ing Thurs­day and run­ning through Sun­day night, will be­gin with a 25th an­niver­sary screen­ing of “Reser­voir Dogs” and a pre­sen­ta­tion of Sun­dance’s Van­guard Lead­er­ship award to film­maker Quentin Tarantino. The movie will be the first 35-mil­lime­ter film print shown at the Theatre at Ace Ho­tel down­town since the the­ater’s ren­o­va­tion.

At the fes­ti­val’s close on Sun­day night, “Mud­bound” film­maker Dee Rees will re­ceive Sun­dance’s Van­guard Award.

On Fri­day night, Jan­icza Bravo’s bit­ter com­edy “Lemon” will play, fol­lowed by a per­for­mance by Lizzo. Satur­day will be­gin with a screen­ing of Marvin Le­mus’ Web se­ries “Gente-fied,” on gen­tri­fi­ca­tion in Boyle Heights, fol­lowed by a con­ver­sa­tion with the cre­ative team, in­duc­ing ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Amer­ica Fer­rera.

Also on Satur­day, Justin Chon’s “Gook,” set within the Korean Amer­i­can com­mu­nity dur­ing the 1992 L.A. ri­ots, will be fol­lowed by a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Chon and film­maker Ava Du­Ver­nay. Satur­day will con­clude with a screen­ing of Mar­i­anna Palka’s “Bitch,” about a housewife pushed to ex­treme be­hav­ior.

Palka is the writer, di­rec­tor and star of “Bitch.” She made the film last year while also shoot­ing a role in the Net­flix se­ries “GLOW.” She has at­tended Next Fest in the past as an au­di­ence mem­ber and said she would be there this year whether her movie was play­ing in the fes­ti­val or not.

She’s also a fan of the NYC-based mu­si­cal duo Sleigh Bells, who will be play­ing af­ter her movie, and was ex­cited when or­ga­niz­ers brought their name up as a pos­si­bil­ity.

“I was, like, ‘Are you kid­ding? You can get them?’ ” she said “The themes in their mu­sic are re­ally in­cred­i­ble, and be­cause they’re so deep as a band it just feels like the right fit. I don’t think you could have pro­grammed a bet­ter com­bi­na­tion. I’m kind of floored that they’re do­ing it.”

Sun­day will be­gin with a screen­ing of Dan Sick­les and An­to­nio San­tini’s “Dina,” which won the grand jury prize for U.S. doc­u­men­tary this year at Sun­dance. The movie will be fol­lowed by a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the film­mak­ers, sub­ject Dina Buno and co­me­dian and com­men­ta­tor Larry Wil­more.

Also on Sun­day, Alex Ross Perry’s nu­anced Brook­lyn-based com­e­dy­drama “Golden Ex­its” will play, fol­lowed by a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Perry and film­maker Peter Bog­danovich.

Then Michelle Mor­gan’s ro­man­tic com­edy “L.A. Times” will screen, fol­lowed by a per­for­mance by the duo Elec­tric Guest. (Elec­tric Guest mem­ber Asa Tac­cone is the brother of “L.A. Times” ac­tor and pro­ducer Jorma Tac­cone.)

“It feels like some­thing that can be dif­fer­ent year to year, not be­cause what they did last year failed,” said Perry, the first re­turn­ing film­maker at Next Fest, whose “Lis­ten Up Philip” played in 2014.

“Usu­ally if some­thing changes af­ter try­ing it once, it’s be­cause it was deemed un­suc­cess­ful, whereas here they seem to have got­ten into a rhythm of be­ing be­holden to noth­ing,” Perry said. “It’s more like, ‘We got good feed­back on that and we’re just go­ing to take a swing at some­thing dif­fer­ent.’”

Some of those ideas have made their way back to the Jan­uary fes­ti­val in Park City. John Cooper, di­rec­tor of the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, noted that re­cent artist on artist con­ver­sa­tions such as one be­tween Lena Dun­ham and Nor­man Lear are in part a re­sult of Next Fest.

“It’s more a way of think­ing about it, what draws au­di­ences,” Cooper said . “What draws au­di­ences now is one-of-a-kind mo­ments, some­thing that’s not typ­i­cal and has trac­tion and a unique­ness where you might get a spark.

“At the heart of all of this is blow­ing out the boundaries of what a film fes­ti­val is,” Cooper added.

“Hope­fully it pro­pels us into mak­ing some crazy ideas come to life.”

Mag­no­lia Pic­tures

“LEMON,” with Brett Gel­man, is among the films shown at Sun­dance’s Utah it­er­a­tion that now will show in L.A. at Next Fest. It will be shown Fri­day night.

Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val

“GOLDEN EX­ITS,” with Adam Horovitz, will be shown Sun­day. Af­ter­ward, its writer-di­rec­tor, Alex Ross Perry, will talk with film­maker Peter Bog­danovich.

Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val

MAR­I­ANNA PALKA is writer-di­rec­tor-star of a tale of a woman pushed to ex­tremes. It’s Satur­day.

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