Los Angeles Film Festival 2012: Documentary Overview

Beginning this Thursday, June 14 and running through Sunday, June 24, the Los Angeles Film Festival is expected to reach more than 92,000 attendees in the heart of the film industry. A program of Film Independent, LAFF showcases independent film while also serving as a popular launching pad for high-profile studio productions. I’ve never had the opportunity to attend the event but always look forward to checking out their lineup. Among the more than 70 feature-length films screening during the fest’s 18th edition are 25 documentaries, presented in a juried competition section as well as a few other strands.

The juried Documentary Competition features the work of emerging US-based filmmakers. The original lineup announcement noted nine films being included in the competition, but the fest’s online film guide is now absent Mike Brown’s promising 25 TO LIFE – the story of a young African-American man who makes his HIV status public and addresses his questionable past choices about disclosure – so it’s unclear if this title will be screening or not. Among the other titles are Till Schauder’s THE IRAN JOB, following a pro basketball player as he confronts culture clash while playing with an Iranian team; Maya Stark and Adi Lavy’s SUN KISSED explores a Navajo family and their larger community as they face an unusual disease; Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore’s BIRTH STORY: INA MAY GASKIN AND THE FARM MIDWIVES explores modern midwifery through the story of a Tennessee commune; and RH Greene’s VAMPIRA AND ME (pictured), a portrait of the largely forgotten but once famous 1950s late night horror movie host.

The festival’s International Showcase includes four documentaries among its fifteen entries, which qualify for audience awards. In addition to Denis Côte’s BESTIAIRE, which screened at Sundance, I’ve previously written about both CANÍCULA and THE STRAWBERRY TREE (pictured) out of Thessaloniki.

LAFF’s Summer Showcase section largely includes favorites from other festivals as well as advance screenings of upcoming releases. Among the docs here are a number of Sundance titles, including winners THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, and SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN; Mark Kendall’s SXSW title LA CAMIONETA (pictured), and Bernardo Ruiz’s Ambulante and Full Frame title REPORTERO.

Finally, three documentaries are included in the Retro and free Community Screenings sections: the rarely-seen 1961 Greenwich Village-shot music doc BALLADS, BLUES, AND BLUEGRASS (pictured) by Alan Lomax; Freida Mock’s G-DOG, about a Jesuit priest’s struggling gang intervention program; and Kirby Dick’s powerful Sundance winner THE INVISIBLE WAR.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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