Festival Watch: Stars, Who Needs Stars?

LOS ANGELES, April 14, 2000 – Who are Gary Walkow, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld, and Adrienne Shelly? They are among some of the unknown to little-known to cult-known filmmakers hoping to get noticed, publicize their low-budget films, and in some cases, find distributors, at the 6th Annual Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday night at a low-watt event here at the Director’s Guild of America.

Through Tuesday, 35 feature films and 45 shorts will be screened at the fest — with the majority of the works directed, produced and starring mainstream unknowns.

The caliber of these upstarts notwithstanding, the LAIFF also will feature films featuring (relatively) more recognizable names. For instance: hip-hop impresarios Black Thought, DJ Cut Chemist and Mos Def in the music documentary “Freestyle;” John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei in “King of the Jungle;” and Courtney Love in “Beat,” to exhaust the very short list.

Perhaps the biggest name of them all here is probably Joe Mantegna — not as an actor, but a first-time director. And like most of the folks who came out Thursday to mingle, Mantegna was here to promote his directorial debut, “The Lakeboat,” which opened the six-day festival with its world premiere.

Based on a script by David Mamet (“Glengarry Glen Ross”), the flick is a coming-of-age story about a man’s seafaring life abroad a traveling freighter. And given the super-indie (translation: non-establishment) orientation of the festival, what brought his relatively non-indie film to LAIFF?

“Well, I was asked,” joked Mantegna Thursday.

“To me it seems like it’s kinda a good festival here — and why shouldn’t there be one? To me it’s like if you’re in Phoenix or Detroit there should be an auto show. I think it’s great. I’m happy that my film’s opening here.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by LAIFF organizer Rich Raddon, who sees the L.A.-based festival as a venue designed to nurture the growth of not only independent films, but American ones specifically.

“Our mission is to provide independent filmmakers a place to showcase their work to Los Angeles audiences.” Raddon told Hollywood.com. “[And] we definitely have a strong agenda have a strong agenda to promote independent cinema, and some of the festivals don’t necessarily do that.”