Inaugural sidebar honors underappreciated genre

Coming into its 13th year, the Hollywood Film Festival wasn’t at all superstitious. Organizers confidently supplemented its annual array of features, shorts, docs and animation with a brand new showcase that could be the start of something big.

The Comedy Sidebar, which concluded Sunday, honored the industry’s most significant — and most often underappreciated — genre. “Most of the movies getting any notice and making any money, this year especially, were comedies,” observes fest founder and director Carlos de Abreu, who three years ago added a section highlighting horror pics.

He hopes the Comedy Sidebar will eventually occupy a niche left open since the axing of Aspen’s prestigious U.S. Comedy Festival. To that end, the new sidebar was programmed to highlight and encourage the work of local comic talents, including the preem of “Wild Girls Gone” from L.A. mainstay Upright Citizens Brigade.

“I think it’s great that a festival cultivates and celebrates smaller projects,” says UCB’s Matt Walsh, who plays a redneck sheriff in the semi-improvised spring-break laffer. “Comedy is always the redheaded stepchild of the business. People don’t realize how much artistry goes into it.”

The 13th fest has continued to maintain its mission, in de Abreu’s words, to focus “on social or humanitarian problems.”

During this year’s fest, which ends today, the mistreatment of Congolese women was spotlighted in docs and panels.

TIP SHEET

What: Hollywood Awards

Where: Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills

When: 7 Monday night

Host: Mary Hart

Web: hollywood awards.com

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