film festival tourism

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Film Festival

Why Go? To view a selection of new American independent cinema along with a few foreign titles.


Festival Website:

Timing: Ten days in mid-June.

History: Begun in 1995 as the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the event was taken over in 2000 by Film Independent, which also sponsors the Independent Spirit Awards in addition to other activities. Having lost veteran critic David Ansen as artistic director in 2015, the fest turned to premieres of films directed by first-timers. While this strategy gave a boost to publicity and industry presence, it resulted in a mixed bag of offerings.

Programming: Over 200 movies are screened, mostly new American independent productions but  a selection of recent international cinema is part of the mix as well.

Schedule: Screenings begin in late afternoon on weekdays and around noon on weekends. As many as six films may be shown at one time.

Venues: In 2016 the festival moved to the Arclight cinemas in Culver City and Santa Monica.

Filmmaker Turnout: Excellent. This is, after all, LA. A good number of international filmmakers also appear to conduct Q&A sessions after screenings of their films. Screenings are complemented by informative master classes and panels featuring industry heavyweights.

Latvian filmmaker Janis Nords, director of MOTHER, I LOVE YOU, at the 2013 LAFF

Tickets: $13 each for regular screenings (discounted for Film Independent members). Various passes and packages are also available. Most screenings fill up, but there are no lines and tickets are not difficult to come by.

The Festival Year by Year


2013 festival poster

Best Films I Saw

  • Amarcord. Fellini’s sublime, irreverent look at life in a small Italian town during the World War II era was given a 40th anniversary screening in a newly restored print.


  • In a World…Lake Bell’s sidesplitting feminist look at the close-knit community of Hollywood voice-over artists leans a bit too heavily on the schtick of its comic repartee, but its unrelenting breakneck pace keeps everything afloat.

Dmitri Martin and Lake Bell in IN A WORLD…

Unexpected Pleasures

  • The awesome panoramas of the Bombay slums in Kamal K. M.’s film I.D.


  • The WGA’s decision to include two women screenwriters, Karen McCullah and Katherine Fugate, in its coffee talk session, presumably in an effort to promote women’s participation in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field.

Katherine Fugate, Drew Pearce, Karen McCullah, and James Vanderbilt

  • Mark Boal’s smart, probing questions to a wily Costa-Gavras, who did his best to sidestep some of their more disturbing implications.

Mark Boal and Costa-Gavras


2014 Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • The Two Faces of January. A smart, stylish  thriller with knowing Oedipal overtones from first-time director Hossein Amini.

The Two Faces of January

  • Club Sandwich. Another wry exercise in minimalist moviemaking from Mexican auteur Ferand Eimbcke.

Club Sandwich

Unexpected Pleasures

  • A fearless performance from versatile French star Emmanualle Devos, who plays  French writer Violette Leduc as an obnoxious, ungainly pest who is gifted with an iconoclastic frankness in Violette.


  • The comments, both hilarious and insightful, from a group of octogenarian Hungarian villagers in Agnes Sos’s well-crafted documentary Stream of Love (Szerelempatak).

Stream of Love

  • A scene of two horses copulating, one with a rider who is trying desperately to keep his balance in Benedikt Erlingsson’s wholly original Of Horses and Men (Hross I Oss).

Of Horses and Men

  • The grand historical sweep of The Liberator, a biopic about the heroic Latin American leader Simon Bolivar.

The Liberator

  • The pathos of Han Gong-ju, a South Korean film which attests to the global scope of issues around rape.

Han Gong-ju

  • The smart, pointed advice to would-be screenwriters from a group of seasoned veterans, including Max Borenstein, Susannah Grant, Ed Solomon, and Craig Mazin, in one of the festival’s many coffee talk sessions.


Best film I saw: Flocken. Beata Gårdeler‘s devastating study of the aftermath of the rape of a young girl in the Swedish countryside.



Unexpected Pleasure: A relvelatory masterclass with editors Mary Jo Markey and Mary Ann Brandon, who described in detail the major work they did for two scenes in 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness.



2017 Festival Poster

  • Best Film I Saw: Lady Macbeth. William Oldroyd’s retelling of Shostakovitch’s opera relocates the action to 19th Century Scotland. Grim and unrelenting, with plot twists that complicate any simple feminist reading.

Lady Macbeth

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