Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Stars Align For Ojai Film Festival

Julie Christie stars with Gordon Pinsent in the acclaimed drama, “Away from Her,” about an Alzheimer’s patient, screening Saturday. Christie, a former Ojai resident, will also be on hand for questions after a screening of the classic film “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” on Friday.

By Nao Braverman
Ojai’s eighth annual film festival, “Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film,” showcases the work of local talents and, world-renowned artists who convey positive messages through their cinematic accomplishments.
The festival, beginning Thursday and closing Sunday, will screen a series of narrative, animation, and documentary films at the Ojai Playhouse, the Ojai Art Center, Matilija Junior High School and outdoors at Libbey Bowl.
What was once primarily a series of off-beat films hosted by the Ojai Film Society has now expanded into its own nonprofit organization; an annual weekend event, 70 miles from Hollywood including seminars and workshops with industry icons.
In the midst of academy award winners, including acclaimed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and legendary British star, Julie Christie, the festival also highlights a documentary by Ojai’s own novice filmmaker, Lisa Snider.
Snider’s “The Price of Paradise,” illustrates the need for affordable housing amid Santa Barbara’s escalating real estate, and how it has come to affect the community. A Santa Barbara County employee at the time, Snider launched this debut piece, without any ambitions of cinematic success, but rather to awaken viewers to the dire need of affordable housing for Santa Barbara’s workforce.
Working for the city’s director of Community Development and Housing, she started filming “The Price of Paradise,” as a publicity stunt to spread awareness of the housing shortage, an issue which became closer to her heart as the project progressed. She hired on Ojai producer Mike Anderson, owner of Extra Mile Productions, and his cameraman Austen Collins, who cooperatively propelled the primarily educational piece into a more artistic venture with some creative camera work.
With a budget of less than $30,000, the Ojai crew shot the piece on high quality video in a hurried six months, and had it edited down to a polished piece three months later in time for the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this year, where it was promptly accepted and well received. “The Price of Paradise” screens Sunday 3 p.m at the Ojai Art Center.
Also at the festival this year, academy award winner, pop icon of the 1960s and former Ojai resident Julie Christie will attend the screening of her most recent cinematic performance in “Away From Her,” Saturday 12:30 p.m at the Ojai Art Center. The film in which Christie plays an Alzheimer’s patient who breaks her husband’s heart by transferring her affections to another man, received rave reviews.
On Friday at 5:30 p.m., Robert Altman’s unconventional 1971 western “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” filmed by Vilmos Zsigmond, in which Christie was nominated for an Academy award for her role opposite Warren Beatty, will be screened at the Ojai Playhouse.
Zsigmond, a Hungarian-born acclaimed cinematographer who settled in Los Angeles and gained prominence through his work on “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” will also be attending the screening with Christie.
Opening with a pizza party at the Ojai Arts Center, at 5:30 p.m., the first movie of the festival is a free screening of “In the Shadow of the Moon,” a documentary surviving crew members of every Apollo mission, is showing at 7:30 p.m. at Libbey Bowl.
The weekend festivities closes with “Why Ojai?” at Matilija Junior High School. The film is a regional piece about why the enclave has become a spiritual center and special place for locals in the valley.

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