Where Locals are the Stars
Cinema mixes with art and music in the 13th annual Other Venice Film Festival
By Brian Welk
You won’t see many tuxedos at the Other Venice Film Festival, founder Reuben “Ruby” De La Casas says, but you will see a variety of people who support local artists and independent filmmaking.
“We’re eclectic. We’re more casual,” says De La Casas, who’s proud the festival is still going strong while other L.A.-area film festivals have come and gone. “The difference between us and other festivals is we have film, art and music. That’s what Venice basically is.”
Now in its 13th year, The Other Venice Film Festival screens dozens of features and shorts — each somehow in tune with the spirit, energy and diversity of Venice — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 7, 8 and 9) at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.
Kicking off opening night is director Mike Hermosa’s “The Head Thieves.” The feature is about three brothers, one just released from prison, who plan to recover money hidden after a past bank robbery and make a run for new lives elsewhere. True to Other Venice Film Festival form, a party after the screening includes a performance by local rock band Stone.
To fill the art bill, the festival is exhibiting works by Paul Gronner, a California-based landscape photographer in the Ansel Adams tradition who pays close attention to color.
One of the more unique aspects of the festival is its annual Music Video Competition. On Saturday, music videos from around the world screen in competition for an audience-selected festival prize.
Before and after the screenings, local arts impresarios Gerry Fialka and Will Erokan present “Psychedelicized Venice,” an art experience that includes live music, dance, poetry and experimental films showcased on three large projection screens.
The festival’s Best Film winner, screening Saturday and Sunday, is “When the Starlight Ends.” This feature directed by Adam Sigal stars Sam Heughan (“Outlander”), David Arquette (“Scream,” “Never Been Kissed”), Sean Patrick Flanery (“The Boondock Saints”), and actress Arabella Oz. The daughter of TV’s Dr. Oz, Oz also directed festival short “Our House.” On Sunday she and Heughan will accept the festival’s Abbot Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress.
Among the films premiering at this year’s festival is “The Grief Party,” a short film comedy based on a one-woman play by Evangeline Crittenden. It follows a woman confronting each stage of grief across different rooms in her home. Filmmaker Amelia Mulkey has been attending the Other Venice Festival since a young age and calls her work a product of the Venice art culture she discovered through the festival.
“These are my people! I found other people that care about the weird stuff that I care about,” Mulkey said.
Mulkey’s mother, actress and artist Karen Landry, had been supporting the festival for years, including with her own films and artwork. Landry died in December and will be honored at this year’s festival with a lifetime achievement award.
“She was one of the people who moved art forward in the community. More than just the Other Venice Film Festival, she was a force,” said Mulkey, who will be accepting her mother’s award. “In the last year of her life, she made time for her family and made time for her art. As her daughter, it means that the community seems to remember the work that she did.”
De La Casas said he’s pleased to have locals and filmmakers around the world returning to support the festival year after year.
Mulkey credits that loyalty to De La Casas’ embrace of the local arts community.
“The festival has films from all over the world, but I feel like he tries to spotlight the community of people who have lived here a long time and are products of this culture,” she says.
The Other Venice Film Festival opens Friday evening and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Visit othervenicefilmfestival.com for show times and ticket information.