×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood Film Festival Shines a Light on Topical Issues

Despite its glamorous name and location, the Hollywood Film Festival has struggled to find its identity since its founding in 1997. But this year’s edition (Oct. 16-19) is getting a radical overhaul and rebranding from new owner Jon Fitzgerald and his philanthropic company CineCause.

“What makes the new Hollywood Film Festival unique is that we’re really emphasizing socially conscious films — both documentary and narrative — and then packaging them with educational presentations where we have special guests doing keynotes,” says Fitzgerald, last year’s HFF director who also co-founded Slamdance in 1995 and directed the AFI, Santa Barbara, Abu Dhabi and Topanga fests.

The fest, based at the ArcLight Hollywood and branded as Entertainment for Change, will screen some 60 movies. And while Fitzgerald’s goal is to avoid “the usual glitz and glamor associated with film festivals,” there’s no end of socially conscious stars who are directly involved in many of the featured films.

Emma Thompson produced and narrates “Sold,” the human-trafficking drama directed by Jeffrey Brown; Sharon Stone produced clean-water documentary “My Name Is Water,” which will world premiere; Liam Neeson narrates environmental doc “Love Thy Nature”; and Matt Damon’s Water.org will be part of the fest’s Water Crisis presentation.

“People always associate ‘Hollywood’ with glamor and celebrities, but there’s also a lot of stars who are very actively involved in global issues and who help connect the dots between their power as celebrities, films about issues, and making changes in the world,” Fitzgerald said.

HFF will also recognize “issue-conscious” filmmakers in its CineCause Spotlight section, and actor and activist Harry Belafonte has been awarded the first Cine Cause ChangeMaker Icon, with daughter Gina speaking on his behalf at the event.

In addition to “My Name Is Water,” directed by Justin Arana, the eclectic opening-night lineup of films includes the world premiere of “Pancakes,” directed by Yasu Shibuya, which follows the lives of three romantically challenged characters in Tokyo, and the U.S. premiere of “Becoming Bulletproof,” screening in the Celebrate Hollywood section. Directed by Michael Barnett, it follows a diverse group of actors living with disabilities who set out to make their first Western.

The fest will also introduce a Horizons category dedicated to first-time filmmakers, “so it’s a move back to my Slamdance roots,” Fitzgerald says.

It features a number of award-winning but lower-profile films, including “Before I Disappear,” written and directed by Shawn Christensen, which won the SXSW Audience Award and feature prize at Vail, Colo.; Andy Landen’s “Sequoia,” which won the Rainier Llama Award at the Rainier Independent Film Festival; and “Sister,” directed by David Lascher and starring Barbara Hershey, winner at Traverse City Film Fest (founded by Michael Moore).

“New young talent is vital to Hollywood, so we feel it’s very important to let the industry see it. We feel that being right here in Hollywood makes it perfect for introducing new films and filmmakers that may be unfamiliar. We’re not going to just rehash what came out of Toronto and so on, but showcase talent that might have slipped through the cracks.”

Looking to the future, Fitzgerald says his goal is to make “this festival relevant and different — and show another side of Hollywood by anchoring it with social-impact films. It’s a unique angle, and frankly, not that much of a stretch, given that CineCause was created to connect such films to related causes.”

More Film

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

  • Roman Polanski extradition

    Academy Responds to Roman Polanski: 'Procedures Were Fair and Reasonable'

    UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded to a lawsuit from director Roman Polanski that claimed he was unfairly expelled from the organization behind the Oscars. “The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate,” a spokesperson said. The Academy’s statement [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content