Film diversity at the LA Film Fest
Los Angeles is known for its diversity and, of course, its movies. However, in LA, those two things may not necessarily go together. That’s why the LA Film Fest wants not only bring both together, but also to bring it all to the mainstream.
Running from June 1 to 9 this year, the LA Film Fest (LAFF) is set to showcase independent films, international films, feature films, documentaries, short films, and even music videos.
More importantly, under LA Film Festival Director Stephanie Allain, the LA Film Fest has made diversity an integral part of its mission.
Currently, the 2016 edition of the festival– produced by the nonprofit group Film Independent and sponsored by the Los Angeles Times— will feature 42 world premieres, of which 43 percent are directed by women and 38 percent by people of color.
LA Film Fest’s identity of diversity
The LA Film Fest’s program will give spotlight to noteworthy independent films and new voices. However, thanks to Allain, it will also push back against the chronic underrepresentation of women and POCs in the movie industry.
Allain, who has been heading the LAFF since 2012, said it’s not a matter of having big-name stars in the festival: “My theory is that people are hungry for authentic stories and don’t give a [hoot] if there’s a movie star in a film.”
The LAFF’s focus on diversity is an important way to create an identity amidst the competitive crowd of film festivals around the world like the AFI, Sundance, Telluride, Cannes, and Toronto.
For the LGBT community in particular, the LAFF will showcase the documentary Political Animals that is about four lesbian California state lawmakers battling homophobia in legislation in the ’90s.
Championing LA in the LA Film Fest
Having been a 20-year member of the Film Independent, the 30-year-old organization that produces the festival, Allain knew that in a diverse city like Los Angeles, the festival also needs to support the LA community.
“Our mission is to support a community of artists who are diverse, innovative and have various points of view. And that mission statement has taken on new significance this year because I’ve really felt like we needed to embody it and walk the walk,” Allain told Variety’s Steve Chagollan in 2015.
With their direction to support the LA community, festival ticket sales have also increased because many of the LAFF filmmakers are based locally.
Film Independent curator Elvis Mitchell pointed out, “When you go to places like Cannes, you feel like the city’s been locked out of it. It’s like this invading force and the city’s kind of left with its nose pressed against the glass.”
“One of the big prerogatives of the LA Film Festival is to be as inclusive as possible. It’s open to everybody,” Mitchell said.