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Hollywood Film Festival boosts newbies

The Hollywood Film Festival, which just concluded its 14th year on Sunday, sounds like the ultimate insider’s celebration. But HFF founder/prexy Carlos de Abreu has always eschewed the showy studio fare to champion what he terms “real indie films and filmmakers.”

While other fests are “far more interested in films with stars and people with track records, we’re not,” he stresses. “We’re different because we want to discover raw, new talent, and give first-time filmmakers a platform.”

The 2010 fest again featured an eclectic range of films — subversive comedies, gritty documentaries, crowd-pleasing family movies — that appeal to de Abreu’s sensibilities and ongoing mandate to “pick films that are good, not just festival-friendly.”

Indican marketing VP Randolph Hamilton, who has booked such films as “Pure” with the fest in past years, helped to program it this year and notes that de Abreu has kept the HFF to a “manageable amount of films — this way each film has a better opportunity for visibility rather than being lost in a shuffle of overwhelming titles.” Hamilton adds that while some fests avoid films that may be deemed “mainstream, Carlos doesn’t care if it’s a family film or arthouse — he just goes with what strikes a note.”

Hamilton goes on to note that documentaries in particular benefit from the exposure: “Each year Carlos selects docs that are not commercial but docs that have a message, something that needs to be seen. They are tough films that educate.”

Toughness is also what informed the fest’s comedy sidebar, now in its second year and overseen by Anthony D’Alessandro. “Most fests ignore comedy, and given that Hollywood is basically the crossroads for comedy, I felt we needed to cover up-and-coming comedians as well as indie filmmakers,” he reports. The fest also sought to spotlight quirkier and darker material that “otherwise might not get any attention.”

D’Alessandro cites “Hollywood and Wine,” co-directed by Kevin Farley (brother of the late comedian Chris), and “Brothers Justice,” a mockumentary starring and co-directed by Dax Shepard (NBC’s “Parenthood”). For his part, Hamilton picks such entries as “Pickin’ and Grinnin’,” “Pound of Flesh” and “Buzzkill,” featuring two star turns: Daniel Raymont as the neurotic lead and Krysten Ritter as a smart-ass young woman. “The interchange between the two reminds me of the best of comedies from the 1970s,” Hamilton says, “such as ‘Harold & Maude,’ when comedy had teeth instead of just being over the top.”

While many of the fest’s films do have some sort of profile — “Hollywood and Wine” stars “SNL” alums, for instance — “the whole point of the fest is to also showcase new talent and first-time directors and give them a shot,” adds D’Alessandro.

The unspooling now finished for another year, the org moves on tonight to honor movie talent with its Hollywood Awards.

To be chosen by users at the Yahoo! Movies website

“Alice in Wonderland”
“Despicable Me”
“The Expendables”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“Iron Man 2”
“Shutter Island”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3”

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