News Column

14th annual Ojai Film Festival starts Thursday night

November 1, 2013


Nov. 01--As Ojai Film Festival cinephiles prepare to dig in on a week's worth of movies, they'll first enjoy nectar from a nature film -- for free, no less.

"Wings of Life," a Disneynature film, will screen at 7 p.m. Thursday at Libbey Bowl, 210 S. Signal St. The free community screening is the traditional kickoff event for the 14th annual Ojai fest, which will continue at various locations through Nov. 14.

The film narrated by Meryl Streep examines the world of hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and bats and their intricate relationship with flowers -- and how roughly one-third of the world's food supply depends on these increasingly threatened creatures.

It was released earlier this year and is from the same people who brought us "Earth," "Oceans," "African Cats" and "Chimpanzee." Yes, they're showing this outdoors at night in Ojai in November. Bring a blanket!

The festival's 14th go-round features 51 films in competition, as well as about a dozen more that are part of the festival's Focus Earth series of environment-themed films.

The event's Yoda is glad it's still around.

"It's really quite gratifying, when you think how so many festivals come and go," said Steve Grumette, the Ojai event's founder and artistic director. "Few of them last more than a decade."

Jamie Fleming, the festival's executive director, said he and organizers "shy away from making it glitzy."

"We try to make it a film lover's, and filmmaker's, event," Fleming said. "I want people to come up and enjoy the Ojai experience -- wine tasting, galleries, spas and our stores -- and enjoy some high-quality independent films."

They treat all of their films like family, but Fleming and Grumette threw out some highlights from this year's screening roster.

"Redemption on the River" (12:30 p.m. Nov. 9) is about a 260-mile endurance canoe race that enlisted the help of no less than 45 cameras to shoot it, Fleming said.

"Pad Yatra" (3 p.m. Nov. 9) is a movie about people trekking across the Himalayas to save a glacial region under siege from global warming.

"Fill the Void" (8 p.m. Nov. 9) is an Israeli film about a young girl's dilemma between true love and family honor and duty.

"Harmony" (3 p.m. Nov. 10) is a film about the devotion, in both time and money, that Prince Charles has given to global environmental issues.

"Slow Is Fast" (8 p.m. Nov. 10) is a Patagonia film about Dan Malloy's 58-day, 700-mile bicycle trip along the California coast. Malloy, a pro surfer who grew up in Ojai and graduated from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, will attend the screening and take part in a question-and-answer session.

"City Divided" (12:30 p.m. Nov. 11) examines the USC-UCLA football rivalry. The film, billed as humorous, contentious and entertaining, notes how the rivalry often splits families 50-50. Fleming said he found a similar split among his board members.

"Ground Operations" (3 p.m. Nov. 11) is about returning Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who become organic farmers.

Shirley Knight -- a two-time Oscar nominee and a Tony/Emmy/Golden Globe winner, is this year's lifetime achievement honoree for acting. One of her latest films, 2013's "Redwood Highway," will be screened at 8 p.m. Nov. 8.

She'll attend and take part in a Q-and-A. (For a feature story on Knight, including what it was like to kiss Paul Newman and the newfound fame she's won among today's youth for appearing in -- of all things -- "Grandma's Boy," see next week's Time Out.)

Dean Semler, who won an Oscar for his camera artistry on "Dancing With Wolves," is this year's lifetime achievement honoree for cinematography. The Australian lens maestro's other credits include "Secretariat," "Apocalypto," "The Alamo," "The Bone Collector" and the "Mad Max" films. He'll take part in a panel discussion at 2 p.m. Nov. 9.

Knight and Semler will be honored at an awards brunch at 11 a.m. Nov. 10.

Individual tickets to all events are $10, except for the free "Wings of Life" screening and a two-day actors' workshop that costs $60. Four-ticket discount packs are available for $30, and an all-access pass is $100.

For information on tickets, screening locations and other events, call 640-1947 or visit


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