Spotlight on Los Angeles Film Festival 2011


For film lovers living in this recession age, a ticket to Park City, Austin or France might not be in your budget. But fear not, because some of the best offerings coming from Sundance, South by Southwest and Cannes earlier in the year, along with several exciting premieres, arrive at downtown's LA Live for this year's Los Angeles Film Festival.

Kicking off the fest -- which runs from June 16-26 -- is "Bernie," Richard Linklater's black comedy based on the true story of East Texas assistant funeral home director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a man so beloved in the community, especially the town's older ladies (including Shirley MacLaine), that nobody will say a bad thing about him… even when he commits a very nasty crime. The film reunites Linklater with Matthew McConaughey, who the director discovered while drinking at a hotel bar during pre-production on 1993's "Dazed and Confused."

The following night, "Drive," a gritty noir thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Albert Brookes and "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks which won Nicolas Winding Refn the Best Director prize at Cannes, has its gala premiere, one that is poised to be a highlight for the fest.

Another film gaining early buzz is "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," produced by LAFF Festival Guest Director Guillermo Del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"). This offering is a pedigreed remake of the 1973 made-for-TV horror film of the same name about a young girl (Bailee Madison) who moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) only to discover that thier new home sweet home is crawling with tiny little monsters.

Outstanding documentaries will also be playing, including "Project Nim," James Marsh follows up on his award-winning "Man on Wire." His new film is a mesmerizing and disturbing look at Nim, a chimpanzee raised and nurtured like a human child and taught to communicate with sign language in a scientific experiment that went terribly awry.

"Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times" is similarly unskippable. Director Andrew Rossi ("Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven") takes audiences inside one of the greatest print publications in the world at a time when traditional journalism and print media are becoming relics. Guided by the company's brilliant, blunt and idiosyncratic media critic David Carr, the story unfolds as the newspaper faces unprecedented challenges.

Other LAFF offerings to seek out include:

-"Leave It on the Floor," a "Paris is Burning"-esque musical about LA's vogueing scene.

-"A Better Life," the story of an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in LA's ritziest neighborhoods as he struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents. This real-life drama is a far cry from the fantasy realm set pieces like "Twilight: New Moon" and "The Golden Compass" which have previously been director Chris Weitz's bread and butter.

-"Don't You Know Who I Am?" A live game show where Leonard Maltin will test the memories of "Bernie" co-stars Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine on their own careers.

-"Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," Brazil's highest grossing film of all time.

-A community screening of the John Hughes classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Tickets: LA Film Fest

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