By Michael Aushenker
If there’s one thing Other Venice Film Festival impresario Reuben De La Casas can not believe, it’s how fast time flies. Known in the Venice community as “Ruby Tuesday,” De La Casas founded the Other Venice Film Festival back in 2003. On Friday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 13, the California community’s answer to Italy’s Venice Biennale will celebrate its 10th anniversary by adding music to the movie mix.
“We’re the only festival that has music score competition,” De La Casas said. “The only other festival that has it is the Academy Awards.”
With the tagline “Like No Other,” Other Venice Film Festival celebrates the cinematic form with more than 70 features, shorts, music videos, documentaries and experimental films, drawn from both locals and outsiders whom De La Casas and his colleagues view as “embodying the Venice spirit.”
“When a film is submitted, it must embody the diversity of Venice Beach, California,” De La Casas said.
The Other Venice Film Festival will launch with an opening night cocktail party at Killer Shrimp, 4211 Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, on Friday, Oct. 11 from 6-8 p.m., kicking off three days of film screenings, panel discussions, local artists, parties and live music. Following the screening of “The Republic of Two,” directed by Shaun Kosta and starring Brent Bailey and Janet Montgomery, an after-party at Killer Shrimp will feature music, dancing, food and libations.
A slate of films will also be screened at The Venice Love Shack, 2121 Lincoln Blvd. in Venice. Films on the program will include the short “Crazy Town” by Venice-based muralist Jules Muck, a mistaken identity comedy co-starring Sean Young (“Blade Runner”) about a young girl who comes to Hollywood with the surname “Downey, Jr.” Actress Sally Kirkland will appear in “Posey,” a film about a woman afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Billy Damota will additionally present his film “Linda Fleming.
Live music will also be featured, with part of the programming a tribute to keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors, as Doors cover band Peace Frog celebrates its 15th anniversary performing at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd. As with The Doors, Peace Frog is a Venice-based band. Led by singer Tony Fernandez impersonating the late Jim Morrison, Peace Frog will perform their renditions of various classics across The Doors’ six studio albums. Another group, Fly N Lion, will also perform Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. at Venice Love Shack.
Past recipients of the festival’s Abbot Awards (named after Venice founder Abbot Kinney and a signature of Other Venice Film Festival) have included a mix of Venice-based artists and film industry people associated with or representative of the Venice aesthetic, including Oliver Stone, Roger Corman, Werner Herzog, Catherine Hardwick, Stacy Peralta, Dennis Hopper, Gregory Hines, Laura Petty and Tony Bill.
A Community Service Award has been presented in the past to artists such as Ed Ruscha and Attaway. On Oct. 13, the Community Award will go to former City Councilman Bill Rosendahl at Beyond Baroque.
Former actress Aileen Quinn, who portrayed the comic strip character Little Orphan Annie in the 1984 movie “Annie” (based on the smash Broadway play), will lead her rockabilly band The Leapin’ Lizards.
One of the featured fine artists this year will be British transplant Matt Warren.
“He does these amazing billboards that are just drawn based on movies like ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’” De La Casas said.
Warren, a 2007 Otis College of Art and Design graduate now living in Koreatown, developed a kinship with the Venice community when he used to live near Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Main Street while attending art school. Today, he riffs ironic juxtapositions of the poster art of Martin Scorsese films “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” with classics such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“It’s not pretty images, it’s blood and sweat,” Warren said of the textures he derives from these images. “As an artist, it’s more interesting to draw.” Warren’s drawings, simultaneously based on and commenting on movie advertising art, will hang at Killer Shrimp and Beyond Baroque.
Other Venice Film Festival has its “roots” at Slave hair salon, a warehouse-sized space where its hairstylist and manager of 15 years, De La Casas, used to put together monthly events, creating bills that featured “poetry, sex therapists, fire dancers,” he said. The rowdy variety show caught on. Soon, celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Dwight Yoakam and Edward Furlong were spotted taking in the shows.
Inspired by this success, De La Casas drew up a business plan to celebrate his two greatest loves: Venice and cinema.
“It’s a passion project that I do for the community,” said De La Casas, who today works at All About Color, a Mar Vista salon.
De La Casas said that as the festival expands, he’d like to get even more venues citywide. “We wanted to do a beach event but we’re going to be doing it next year,” he said.
De La Casas, who is single and enjoys surfing, has lived in Venice for 20 years and still loves his eccentric community.
“It’s a city by the beach. There’s no other place like Venice, it’s like a circus. An adult circus playground,” the festival founder said.
He clearly relishes his role of giving exposure to aspiring filmmakers.
“This takes all year (to plan),” he continued. “We go through the submissions process. It’s taken us years to put our rules together. The hardest part is refusing films or not being able to fit in films. Everything else is just work.”
The organizer said he will not include any films that have already appeared online.
As it takes the entire year for him to plan and organize the event, De La Casas is already thinking about 2014, when he said the festival will include closed captioned boxes for the hearing impaired.
“We’re trying to keep Beyond Baroque but we’d love to get a theater in Venice,” De La Casas said, akin to the former Fox Theatre on Lincoln Boulevard. “We need a theater that has over 300 seats.”
“The best part of the journey for De La Casas over the past decade has been “meeting all of the filmmakers, the artists and the musicians. If it wasn’t for the huge, strong community support for this festival, it wouldn’t be going.”
Still, he prefers to look ahead than back.
“I have a whole different vision for next year; pushing the envelope, taking this to another level,” De La Casas said.
Keepin’ it reel: Celebrating its first decade, the Other Venice Film Festival will unspool Oct. 11-13
By Michael Aushenker