July 17--The complex topography of film festivals in Los Angeles will have a new wrinkle with the inaugural Next Weekend festival. Running Aug. 8 to 11, the event is being organized by Sundance Institute as an extension of the 4-year-old Next section of its annual film festival in Utah.
Next Weekend's core programming, announced Tuesday, includes 10 features, two of them world premieres and the other eight Los Angeles premieres; 10 short films; two panels; and a full-day workshop on making short films. Six of the features first screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
The main venue for Next Weekend will be the Sundance Sunset Cinema in West Hollywood.
"We have one of our main offices here, so it's a good place to pioneer an idea like this," John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival, said in an interview about putting on the spinoff event in Los Angeles. "Plus, L.A. is a very vibrant artistic community."
The two world premieres are Madeleine Olnek's lesbian-themed buddy story "The Foxy Merkins" and Chadd Harbold's cancer comedy "How to Be a Man."
Unlike the Next program at the Sundance Film Festival, Next Weekend will include two documentaries: Lotfy Nathan's "12 O'Clock Boys" and Zachary Heinzerling's "Cutie and the Boxer."
Other fiction features in the program are Alexandre Moors' "Blue Caprice," Eliza Hittman's "It Felt Like Love," Shaka King's "Newlyweeds," Sam Fleischner's "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors," Hannah Fidell's "A Teacher" and Chad Hartigan's "This Is Martin Bonner."
The short-film program will include Andrew Zuchero's "The Apocalypse," Riley Stearns' "The Cub," Lauren Wolkstein's "Social Butterfly" and Kahlil Joseph's "Until the Quiet Comes."
Trevor Groth, director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival, said that when the festival introduced the Next section, "it was as a response to a lot of these great, quote unquote, small, low-budget films that we were seeing submitted to us and that we wanted to include in the festival.
"Over the last four years as we've had that section, it's taken on a more distinct identity beyond just budget," Groth added. "It's more about creativity, a bold attitude and an approach to storytelling that we connect with when we see it."
As previously announced, the festival will begin with an outdoor screening of Chris Smith's 1999 documentary "American Movie" at Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Aug. 8. The evening will also include a screening of Mark Borchardt's short film "Coven," the making of which is chronicled in "American Movie."
Other venues around town will host screenings on Aug. 11, including the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, Cinefamily, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum.
"We wanted to be able to touch all those different pockets," Groth explained. "It was important to us to do an L.A. festival that has a reach for all the people in all the areas that would love these kinds of films."
"I'm hoping the Sundance brand will give weight to the discovery of these kinds of films and give them more weight in this town," Cooper said.
A number of the films in the program already have theatrical distribution deals and will be released by the end of this year. In debuting them for Los Angeles audiences as part of Next Weekend, organizers hope to build an audience for future events.
"I hope people really come out and celebrate these films in this festival in a way that does sort of break down some of the stuffiness that festivals get wrapped up in," said Groth. "I want this to be a fun, summer L.A. event."
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