A Knight to remember
Ojai Film Festival puts spotlight on Oscar-winning actress
By Tim Pompey 11/07/2013
Late fall in Ojai means it’s time for the Ojai Film Festival, scheduled this year to run from Nov. 7 through Nov. 14. With 51 films chosen for competition, artistic director Steve Grumette marvels at how the technology and the films themselves keep getting better.
“Our reputation among filmmakers is increasing far and wide,” he said. “As a result, the quality of films has improved. We love the idea that people can come and see films that they would never be able to see elsewhere.”
The free kickoff featuring a Disney nature film called Wings of Life (2011) happens at the Libbey Bowl on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. Narrated by Meryl Streep, this intimate and unprecedented look at butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats and flowers is a celebration of life, as a third of the world’s food supply depends on these incredible, and increasingly threatened, creatures. Filmgoers are encouraged to bring a blanket.
As usual, there are many genres of film that will be featured. Highlights this year include:
Families are Forever (2013): The real-life experience of a Mormon family coming to terms with a son’s homosexuality. This documentary chronicles parents Tom and Wendy’s struggle to accept and support their son Jordan while maintaining their religious convictions.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (2013): Celebrated novelist, essayist and activist Gore Vidal’s life is explored, including his notorious debates with William F. Buckley and his acid and witty commentaries on the state of American public policy.
The Bright Side (2013): Hazel Kelly and George Lombard dream of making it big on the silver screen. On the eve of WWII, these star-crossed lovers sing and dance their way through a series of misadventures to find true love.
At Middleton (2013): Driven Audrey wants nothing more than to study linguistics at Middleton. When she and her free-spirited mother arrive at Middleton for the campus tour, they share a life-altering encounter with a straight-laced heart surgeon and his disaffected son.
Luminaris (2011): Boasting a surreal setting and a whimsical plot, this film celebrates the triumph of a common man over the mechanized world of assembly line production.
In addition to the films, special recognition will go this year to cinematographer Dean Semler, who won an Academy Award for Dancing with Wolves (1990); and to actress Shirley Knight, nominated for two Academy Awards, as best supporting actress for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). She also won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award as best supporting actress for her role in the film Indictment: The McMartin Trial (1995).
Knight will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the festival. A free screening of the film Rain People (1969), directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Knight and James Caan, is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10, 2 p.m., at the Ojai Arts Center. Knight will appear for a Q&A session following the premiere of her new film Redwood Highway, starring Danforth Comins and Catherine E. Coulson. It will be shown at the Ojai Playhouse Theater on Friday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m.
In addition to its workshops on screenwriting, voiceover and makeup, the festival will continue to encourage environmental filmmaking by featuring the film series launched last year called Focus Earth. For executive director Jamie Fleming, this series offers a chance to explore environmental themes with a more diverse audience. As he notes: “It’s an opportunity to expose a broader range of people to topics that give them a chance to think about new ideas and the way they live and deal with their environment.”
For more information about the Ojai Film Festival, including schedules, special screenings and tickets, visit www.ojaifilmfestival.com.