Each year’s programming for the Newport Beach Film Fest is stellar, so it makes sense that for its banner 20th-year anniversary, the organizers would bring yet another fantastic slate of films. The parties, the filmmaker Q&As, and red carpets are all engaging and fun side attractions to enjoy, but the films always come first.
Where’s a cinephile to start when it comes to knowing what’s especially good to watch this time around? Let this humble roundup be a start, a glimpse into some of the great films you can watch. Here’s to 20 more years!
Any One of Us
Professional mountain biker Paul Basagoita was left paralyzed by a spinal cord injury after an accident, and this documentary follows Basagoita’s determination to undergo physical therapy and slowly regain his motor functions, while trying to make the best out of the situation with his mental health intact. It was filmed partly in Laguna, with many locals appearing, including noted scientist and stem cell researcher (and onetime contender for Dana Rohrabacher’s congressional seat) Dr. Hans Keirstead.
Honey West: The Gloria Fickling Story
One of the most impressive stories of the “you’ve never heard of” variety centers on Laguna Beach’s Gloria Fickling, who wrote a series of crime novels with her husband under the combined pseudonym G.G. Fickling. The books’ heroine, Honey West, would be adapted for a television series in the 1960s starring Anne Francis, becoming one of the most beloved of all time. In this short doc, Fickling recounts her stylish life and meeting her husband, as well as how she developed the first female answer to James Bond.
SEX AND LOVE STORIES
Down Her Shorts
This cheeky block of short films is a recent addition to the festival’s lineup. The eight short narrative films based on female sexuality and love are meant specifically for adults (although probably less explicit than the Dan Savage Hump! adult-film showcase) and are titled Serpentine; Eggs, Zombies and Bacon; Library Hours; Untitled Groping Revenge Fairytale; Girl Talk; The Looking Ceremony (El Miramiento); Labial Quintet; and Dressed for Pleasure.
The Pink Wall
Starring one-half of the indie-film duo the Duplass brothers, the fest’s Friday Night Spotlight follows the relationship between two people (Jay Duplass and Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany) in love over six years, told through various moments that illustrate their mutual passion and love for each other. But as time marches forward, it’s increasingly clear how the weight of adulthood puts a strain on their relationship, a common theme among Duplass films (Mark Duplass’ film The One I Love premiered at the fest a few years ago).
DOMESTIC AND GLOBAL FEATURES
Day and Night
A young man’s family is sent in a tailspin after the patriarch suddenly commits suicide. When the man meets Kitamura, an orphanage worker, the two strangers become partners in avenging his father and saving the children at the orphanage. (Japanese Spotlight)
This comedy spoofs paranormal-investigation shows, as a team of TV investigators are dispatched to a legendarily haunted mansion in Mexico. They are fully prepared to fake the scares for the audience with their phony sight gags and special effects, but the house in question has real scares in store, and it’s up to the DeadTectives to survive until the next episode. (USA)
Let Me Introduce You to Sofia
This out-of-the-box romantic comedy begs to be seen to be believed, as the premise involves a devoted father to young Sofia, whom he must convince his newfound girlfriend, who doesn’t like children, is his sister. (Italian Spotlight)
Previously seen at the Sundance Film Festival, this intense feature focuses on a band of misfit teens who form an alliance called “the Organization” and arm themselves with weapons on a remote but picturesque mountain. They mentally and physically train themselves for battle while enjoying the freedoms of living on the margins. But after they capture an American engineer and keep him hostage, the real war is about to begin. (Colombian Spotlight)
Too Late to Die Young
A group of youths come of age in the summer of 1990, while Chile undergoes its own tumultuous social upheavals. (Chilean Spotlight)
This year’s selection of documentaries especially piqued my interest. Worlds of Ursula K. LeGuin charts the life and influential work of the sci-fi writer. Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury tells the story of an indie band whose claim to fame was derailed by an accident, sending each member to join the church. And Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire details the life and work of the Mexico City-born, East LA artist who died in 1989 of AIDS-related causes.
For more information on screenings and show times, visit newportbeachfilmfest.com.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.