Ojai Film Festival Celebrates Two Decades

This fall the Ojai Film Festival celebrates 20 years of bringing film to Ojai, and pays tribute to classic Hollywood with Lifetime Achievement Awards honoring actors Pat Boone and Eva Marie Saint. For directors, screenwriters, producers, animators, actors, students, Hollywood veterans, Academy members, and industry insiders alike, the Ojai Film Festival welcomes filmmakers and film lovers from around the world Oct. 31 through Nov. 10.

Ranked one of the top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals by FilmFreeway, the Ojai Film Festival’s past roster of participants comprises films that went on to win Academy Awards, nominations, and other prestigious prizes.

Continuing a longstanding tradition, the 20th annual festival spotlights ecology with Focus Earth, a full day dedicated to environmental films and eco-shorts. Headlining the event is the film Living In The Future’s Past, a beautifully photographed environmental documentary directed by Susan Kucera and narrated/produced by Jeff Bridges. A question-and-answer session and reception are planned to follow the film, slated for Nov. 10 at 4 pm.

Susan Kucera directed Living In The Future’s Past, an environmental film narrated and produced by Jeff Bridges.

The opening weekend will feature a throwback tribute to the olden days of big studios and contract players. Boone will attend the screening of his 1945 movie, State Fair, on Nov. 2 at 7 pm, followed by a reception at 9 pm. The next day, Nov. 3, veteran director/producer Hawk Koch will screen The Way We Were, starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, at 4 pm with a Q&A and signing for Koch’s new book after the movie.

Capping off this retro Hollywood weekend: Boone’s fellow Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, Saint, will screen her classic film, North by Northwest, on Nov. 3 at 7 pm, followed a reception in the Ojai Art Center Gallery.

Sunday morning’s Awards Brunch (Nov. 3 at 10 am) further recognizes Boone and Saint, and also announces the winners of the top films screened at the festival, the Gold Coast Award, and the Screenplay Competition prize. Local Ojai artist and legendary Mad Magazine illustrator Sergio Aragonés will present the Sergio Aragonés Award for Best Animation.

Ojai resident Sergio Aragonés will present the Ojai Film Festival’s Sergio Aragonés Award for Best Animation at the Nov. 3 Awards Brunch.

After the brunch, professional actors will perform a live table-read of the winning screenplay at 1 pm. This year’s winner is a quirky journey of discovery: A Place Called Knock, written by Colleen Craig of Los Osos, CA. It’s the dramatic/comedic story of a young widow who accompanies her dying Mexican half-brother — a Buddhist monk — on a trip to their ancestral homeland of Ireland, where they uncover family secrets long hidden. Actor-director Will Wallace will helm the live read.

“We added a screenplay competition to the festival in order to celebrate the very starting point of the creative process: the story,” said Bruce Novotny, screenplay competition Chairman. “The quality of the screenplays submitted, from all over the world, has been outstanding, and the live read of our most recent winning script was a big crowd favorite.”

Starting this year, the festival has added an award for best Gold Coast film to honor local filmmakers. The Gold Coast Film Series runs Nov. 4 from 1 to 10 pm and features films and shorts from local filmmakers in the counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles.

Women in Film (womeninfilm.org) presents their Legacy Series on Nov. 9 at 4 pm. It highlights the careers and legacy of women in film. This year they will present a retrospective on the career of the late great Penny Marshall.

Other festival highlights include seminars on film distribution, business and legal aspects of film, cinematography, and a program tailored to high school student filmmakers.

A nonprofit labor of love run by film veterans and local volunteers, this international film festival continues its tradition of gifting Ojai with a free film on opening night in Ojai’s Libbey Bowl. As the kickoff of the 20th annual festival falls on Halloween this year, the festival will screen Tim Burton’s cult classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Doug Knott will be among the performers at the Ojai Film Festival’s kickoff event Oct. 31.

A Halloween fun fair and pre-show, dubbed “Carnivale!” precedes the movie. This masquerade-themed event features live music from the Ojai Mardi Gras Quartet led by Ojai’s Patricia Avis, with special performances by Radio Tequila’s Tequila Mockingbird, Ojai folk musician Rain Perry, and surprise guests. Local poet and “Carma Bum” Doug Knott will perform spoken word joined by Punk Princess Iris Berry, co-founder of Punk Hostage Press. Paulina Productions and Hamsa Dance bring out their professional belly dancing troupes in full costume to mesmerize and illuminate the Masquerade Halloween experience of “Carnivale!” The faire is free and includes fun for all ages with face painting, pumpkin art, fortune telling, and a wheel-of-fortune to win prizes and free tickets to the film festival. An additional free film, The Red Turtle, is slated to be screened on Nov. 6.

“Our festival provides a valuable service to filmmakers,” Steve Grumette, Artistic Director for the festival, said. “We give them access to a highly appreciative audience that includes film industry professionals who can help guide their careers. We’re particularly proud of the fact that over a dozen films first shown at the Ojai Film Festival went on to win great honors elsewhere, including Academy Awards and Nominations.”

Past entries have represented more than 46 countries, and categories include short or long narrative films, short or long documentary films, animations, and screenplays. Winning filmmakers accept several prizes, trophies, best-of category honors, and a Panavision camera rental package prize worth $60,000 for Best Student Film.

The festival strives to embody its theme, “Enriching the Human Spirit through Film,” and features two free community screenings, Lifetime Achievement Awards, filmmaker and screening seminars, Focus Earth screenings, Gold Coast screenings and an award for films created in and around Ventura County, a student filmmakers program with workshops and special events, and special surprise guests.

For tickets to the 20th Ojai Film Festival and additional information, 
visit ojaifilmfestival.com

or call 
(805) 640-1947.