Marina del Rey Film Festival returns this weekend with a full slate of docs and dramas

By Christina Campodonico

Festival films tackle art, romance and racism

Festival films tackle art, romance and racism

An eclectic array of 17 independent films from the Westside and around the world are screening this weekend during the 4th annual Marina del Rey Film Festival.

Festival founders Jon Gursha and Peter Greene started the event as an outlet for independent producers and directors to share their work, so even though it’s grown all screenings remain free to attend.

The two-day event kicks off from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at Beach Dancer Films with a movie marathon of shorts, docs and features. Titles include “Union Bound,” a historical action drama about a free white man who has to get freed by slaves during the Civil War; “Understanding Pain in Older Age,” a feature documentary making the case that older adults complaining about pain are definitely not just doing it for attention; and “A Mother’s Plea for Justice,” a documentary following filmmaker Melissa Balin’s activism in the Los Angeles Occupy movement, subsequent court battles and a miscarriage.

Shorts such as “Fishing for Love” by Beach Dancer Films founder and MdR Film Festival co-organizer Sandie West offer lighter fare. Shot in and around Marina del Rey, the romantic comedy follows a woman as she tries to avoid the pitfalls of Internet video dating.

Following the screenings on Friday, Grammy nominee DJ Mark Lewis will reveal a sneak preview of his upcoming album, featuring recordings from Everything but the Girl and Owl City, during an after-party from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Screenings continue from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Hotel MdR on Maxella Avenue, and the festival culminates with an awards show and after-party from 10 p.m. to midnight back at Beach Dancer Films.

Saturday highlights include the art-centric dramedy/romance “Dirty Beautiful”; “Driving While Black,” winner of this year’s San Francisco Black Film Festival comedy award; the 9/11 widow drama “Savage Hero”; and “Birthday,” a short film about a severely wounded Marine and his wife coming home for the first time following months of surgeries and rehabilitation.

“The Marina del Rey Film festival celebrates independent film from around the world and showcases independent filmmakers,” Greene said.

He and Gursha are cultivating plans for a 2016 festival that would include more venues and a longer run.

For West, the Marina del Rey film festival not only brings filmmakers with industry ties and creatives from Silicon Beach together, but also brings the local community closer.

“It’s amazing how many creatives are here,” she says. “So just bringing the community together and embracing that community, getting them together is great.”

Beach Dancer Films is located at Creative Chakra Spa, 3401 Pacific Ave., Marina del Rey. Hotel MdR by Doubletree Hilton is at 13480 Maxella Ave., Marina del Rey. Screenings are free. For more information and a schedule of films, visit