This year, Ava DuVernay’s distribution company Array and Ryan Coogler were chosen as honorees at the Los Angeles Film Festival. And while that might look to outsiders like a sly riposte to the recent outcry over the lack of diversity at the Hollywood majors, Film Independent [FIND] has “been in the business of diversifying Hollywood for 30 years,” says LAFF director Stephanie Allain.
“We’re not responding to #OscarsSoWhite, we’re doing what we’ve always done,” Allain says.
DuVernay herself demurs at the suggestion the fest honor is a reaction to the recent controversy. “It’s disingenuous to suggest that every outreach at this point to anyone who’s not a white man is a reaction to … the state of affairs,” she says. “This is not a hashtag or a current trend. It is a reality for me.”
Array was born of a collaboration among black film festivals, film societies and film lovers who weren’t seeing themselves represented on screen. DuVernay accepted this year’s honor because it is “an amplification of all the people that have worked here the last five years. The infrastructure that I provided for [Array] it is what I did, but it is not me [alone].”
Along with a few changes in programming this year — like instituting a one-night-only screening for each film to encourage busy Angelenos’ commitment to getting into theater seats — LAFF moved from downtown to Culver City’s new Arclight.
“We had a really great run downtown,” Allain says. In fact, LAFF participated in the renaissance of downtown Los Angeles as one of the longest running art events. “Now, Arclight presents the opportunity to be all over the city.”
There’s no concern of being tainted by “Hollywood” because of proximity to the studio hub. Indeed, LAFF tries to capitalize on such access by inviting managers, agents, buyers and studio execs to screenings and events, as well as their filmmaker retreat. “It’s a town of connections,” says Allain. “One of those connections — made at the retreat — just sold a film to Showtime.”