The world premiere of “Shadrach,” starring Harvey Keitel and Andie MacDowell, will kick off the fourth annual Los Angeles Independent Film Festival April 16. The 1998 edition of the five-day indie showcase will spotlight 24 fiction and two documentary features, 31 shorts, 14 seminars, a music video series, the New Media Forum and Indie Music Night, an evening concert featuring emerging artists on indie labels.
“We got really lucky this year. It’s a very strong and diverse set of films,” said LAIFF director Robert Faust. “Our primary purpose is to provide a venue for all manner of film outside the mainstream, and it’s grown dramatically simply because the overall quality of films demanded we expand. Right now we can do it in five days but we’re going to have to seriously consider going to a week next year.”
The upcoming fest has shifted from the Paramount and Raleigh studios to a base at the Directors Guild, with additional screenings nearby at the Sunset 5 and Harmony Gold Preview House. The additional seats and locations has allowed the event to repeat most programs for the first time.
“Shadrach,” based on a short story by William Styron, marks the directorial debut of his daughter Susanna, who co-adapted the Depression-era yarn with producer Bridget Terry. The story of a former slave who returns to his birthplace to be buried grapples with small town racism and bureaucracy.
The program includes 17 world premieres, and only the closing-night selection of “Mr. Jealousy” has secured distribution via Lions Gate. The screwball comedy, written and directed by Noah Baumbach, has an ensemble cast that includes Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Bridget Fonda.
Among the global debuts this year are “1999,” a light drama set on the eve of the new millennium in a Manhattan brownstone; “Trigger Happy,” another ensemble, but this time focused on how a pawn shop handgun effects the lives of its various owners; Marisa Ribisi starring as a young woman sinking into a dementia of love in “Some Girls”; and “Restaurant,” a tasty tale of noshing and artistic aspirations set in a New Jersey bar and grill.
Other world premieres include “Broken Vessels,” a tale of emergency room life mixed with drug abuse; the documentary “City of Peace,” about the staging of a musical by inner city youth; “Starf*cker” about Hollywood toadyism; and “Snow,” the saga of two people thrown together in a blizzard.
The program also features a number of critically lauded pics which have had limited fest exposure, including Abel Ferrara’s “The Blackout” starring Matthew Modine as a man caught up in the violent Miami porn scene; “One,” from Sundance’s American Spectrum, the story of two young men picking up the pieces of their shattered lives; and “Mob Queen,” which stars drag performer Candice Cayne as a gun-toting enforcer.
On a lighter note, “Chicago Cab” centers on a hack and his fares — John Cusack, Gillian Armstrong, Michael Ironside, Julianne Moore — during an emotionally charged day. And John Turturro, Lily Taylor and Will Patton star in writer-director Brandon Cole’s “OK Garage,” a revenge piece involving shady grease monkeys.
Additional titles include “15 Months in May,” “Bongwater,” “Claudine’s Return” with Christina Applegate, “Cleopatra’s Second Husband,” a documentary on a bus tour titled “The Cruise,” the comedy of Asian identity, “Hundred Percent,” Alexandre Rockwell’s “Louis and Frank,” the menage a trois “Pants on Fire,” “Scotch and Milk,” “With or Without You” and the tongue-twisting “Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God … Be Back by Five,” starring and co-written by Jon Cryer with director Richard Schenkman.
This year’s program is presented in association with the Sundance Channel and sponsored by the DGA and Eastman Kodak. Further information on the event is available by contacting LAIFF at (213) 937-9155.