The Other Venice Film Festival brings sharper focus to the darker sides of human nature

By Christina Campodonico

“American Relapse,” a gritty
look at the frontlines of drug addiction, makes its L.A. premiere on Saturday

Since its birth 15 years ago, the Other Venice Film Festival has made a point to showcase the quirky, eclectic and creative vibe of Venice in its film selections. This year, the film festival goes a little bit dark with an assortment of film screenings at Beyond Baroque showcasing the more shadowy side of human nature.

Opening night on Friday kicks off with a 6 p.m. screening of “The Guest House,” a thriller about a divorced single dad who moves into a wealthy bachelor’s guest house, but with some odd strings attached.

“It’s kind of a ‘Fatal Attraction’ movie,” hints Other Venice Film Festival organizer Reuben De La Casas.

Then the Los Angeles premiere of “American Relapse,” directed by Del Rey-based filmmaker Pat McGee and collaborator Adam Linkenhelt (who’s worked on docu-series for A&E) headlines on Saturday with a screening at 9:10 p.m.

“It’s an eye-opening documentary about the heroin epidemic,” says De La Casas.

To make the film McGee and Linkenhelt followed Frankie and Allie, two South Floridians who’ve made it their personal missions to help junkies off the streets, even as they deal with demons of their own. Filmed over one weekend, the documentary is a raw and gritty look at the frontlines of drug addiction in America.

“The goal was to really bring awareness but not editorialize,” say McGee. “The best way to do that is really through Frankie and Allie’s unfiltered lens. This isn’t a project that came from law enforcement, it’s not a project from a legal standpoint, it’s really from the people suffering addiction.”

The film has become the basis for a docu-series now airing on Viceland called “American Junkie,” but McGee is especially proud to screen his first feature documentary in Venice, where he lived for 23 years before moving east of Lincoln.

“I can’t be more excited to show my film in my hometown,” he says.

A block of thriller shorts from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, a screening of the Hitchcock-esque murder mystery “One, Two, Guess Who’s Who” at 4:15 p.m., and the cat-and-mouse action movie “Proxy Kill” at 6:20 p.m. round out this year’s offerings of suspenseful and heart-racing films.

“I just wanted to create more of a Halloween-thing this year,” says De La Casas. But there’s plenty to put a smile on your face, too, he notes. The Puscie Jones Revue brings its buoyant blend of soul and funk to the OVFF’s opening night after party on Friday, starting at 10 p.m. And a series of family-friendly shorts, including Charles Wall’s charming-looking “Phantom of the Rebel Road” about pint-sized drag racers, screens from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

As De La Casas says, “Not all of it’s dark.”

The Other Venice Film Festival happens at various times from Oct. 5 to 7 at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Tickets start at $15. Visit othervenicefilmfestival.com for the full schedule.

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