Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ojai Film Festival set to tee off with golf tourney

Local talent includes many on the screen, and behind the scenes

By Sondra Murphy

Continuing its tradition of "enriching the human spirit through film," the ninth annual Ojai Film Festival opens tomorrow at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa golf course with its inaugural Celebrity Golf Classic benefit.
With programs illustrated by Sergio Aragonés circulating the area, locals are ready for the influx of thousands of movie-goers expected to attend the event that grows in prestige each year. In the short history of the Ojai Film Festival, more than a dozen films first shown here have gone on to be honored at other venues, including Academy Awards nominations.
The Celebrity Golf Classic is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 10 a.m. with Malcolm McDowell serving as honorary chairman of the event to benefit OFF and the Breast Cancer Resource Center at Community Memorial Hospital. Participating golfers will enjoy the company of at least six celebrity golfers gracing the green this year, a list that includes Mickey Dolenz, Robert Hays, Bobby Herbeck, Tim Matheson, Bruce McGill, Joanna Pakula and John Bennett Perry. A putting contest precedes the shamble format tournament.
Festival-goers will again view comedy, tragedy, animation, documentaries, narratives, shorts and feature-length films. Screenings begin tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Ojai Center for the Arts and Ojai Theatre and the opening night party is slated to start at 4 p.m. at OVIS. The traditional free community screening will take place at 7 p.m. at the OVIS recreational field and features Charlie Chaplin's 1931 film, "City Lights," paired with a new digitally recorded soundtrack performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra that festival organizers expect to be well received. People attending the screening should know that they are not allowed to bring in food or beverages to the field, but refreshments will be sold on site.
Film screenings continue at OVIS and the Art Center, as well as at Matilija Auditorium, Friday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. A filmmakers' party will take place Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Art Center.
On Saturday, director of photography Billy Fraker will be featured during a noon seminar at the Art Center and special screenings are scheduled as part of the Lifetime Achievement Awards given this year to Ray Bradbury, Richard Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner. At Matilija, the Donners' film "Ladyhawke" will be screened at 12:30 p.m., followed by "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit," adapted from a Bradbury story, at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., Bradbury will sign books in the lobby of the OVIS Hacienda Ballroom, then the awards ceremony honoring the Donners and Bradbury will take place at 7 p.m. inside the ballroom.
Many in the film industry will appear to pay tribute to the honorees, with others sending in video tributes for the event. Ojai's John Langley will present the award to the Donners, while Diane Ladd will present Bradbury his.
A total of 57 films are part of this year's Ojai Film Festival. The film "Tru Loved" features the Ojai Laurel Springs School graduate, Najarra Townsend, in this tale of a high school student who educates her peers by forming her school's first gay-straight alliance. Townsend has had a busy year, working in eight feature films, most of which will be released in 2009. "I feel extremely lucky to have booked this role," said Townsend. "I loved the script. 'Tru Loved' kind of opened my eyes on how one person can make such a difference. It made me stronger in my beliefs and inspired me to stand up for what I believe in." She plans to attend the festival this year and attend the Sunday screening. "Tru Loved" plays Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Art Center and Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Ojai Theatre.
"Torn from the Flag" is another film to be screened this year with Ojai connections. The documentary recalls the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and its impact on the fall of communism. Ojai resident Arpad Ecsedy is a Hungarian freedom fighter who narrowly survived an assault by Soviet tanks. The story is by Klaudia Kovács and features footage by Oscar-winning cinematographer László Kovács, who died shortly after the film was completed. Ecsedy and wife, Yudit, will host an open house Saturday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 210 Descanso Ave., where Klaudia Kovács and Arpad Ecsedy will answer questions and relate experiences.
"I saw this film in Los Angeles recently and Klaudia did an excellent job," said Arpad Ecsedy. "It surprised me because she is a young one and, mostly, young ones are not interested in history. She had a very hard job to put it together because she didn't have a bunch of money, so had to be thrifty to do everything."
The couple has welcomed the filmmaker to their home before. "I met Klaudia at a party in Los Angeles about a year ago," said Yudit Ecsedy. "She has been working on this film for about nine years and I realized she's up to something very big. Her intention is to show that what happened in a little town influenced history. It's a really well-made film and László used his own personal footage. Klaudia hopes to have a new generation see what went on, and my prayer is that people will get that this is not just a historical moment, it's a spirit that needs to be honored today of freedom, self-expression and responsiveness and be in people's consciousness. And it is now an Oscar contender."
Academy Award winner Vilmos Zsigmond also acted as executive producer of the film. "Torn from the Flag" will be screened Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Ojai Theatre and is not considered appropriate for people under 16.
Advance purchase of a variety of golf or ticket packages and passes may be made by calling the OFF office at 640-1947 or by logging onto the web site at ojaifilmfestival.com. A full schedule of the many film screenings, events and locations is also detailed on the web site.

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