DOWNTOWN LA FILM FESTIVAL BEGINS

As my thirtieth year approached I sat in my building known as ARTGUILD LA, a building that hosted some of the world’s best-known performance art and nightclub events. If I recall, it was Eden Night, ranked second in the world only to Ministry of Sound, and my friend David Besharat a truly extraordinary human being said something I’ve never forgotten. “You see Stan, at your age you’ve just starting to do everything twice. At my age, I’ve done everything three times—it’s not the same. It’s still good, but every time around it’s a little less exciting.” And the party raged on…

And now I’m David’s age, at the time of his wise words to me, and I’ve done everything once, twice, and thrice. But unlike the last century there is another bugaboo in my dream party life—lack of originality. Has everything been done? The new generation could be called Gen Zero, for zero innovation. “And most disturbing, they seem to think that these watered-down knockoffs of what artists, producers and promoters of the past have done are actually cool. If they could have just seen the original,” I think to myself so often when I’m out in the scene.

Enter the Downtown LA Film Festival. Did the world need another film festival? Surprisingly, at least judging by last night’s screening of “Passing Strange” and Opening Gala at the AT&T Center—YES! I’ve lived in Downtown for almost fifteen years and had no clue whatsoever that the building formerly know as the Trans America Tower had an incredible theater, albeit vintage 1970’s. And if for no other reason, introducing this gem of a venue to a thousand or so people, made this second annual DFFLA worth having. But there’s more…

I dislike Spike Lee both as a filmmaker and (based on interviews) as a person. As a filmmaker I think he is overrated—relying on his never-ending insight into his personal blackness to create his art. And as a person, I recall wondering, years ago, why once he had made money he himself did not live in and improve “the hood” he was making his money on by making movies about. And for the record, when I’m not staying in my place Downtown, I still share a residence with my sister in East LA—I slept there last night. So premiering a Spike Lee movie for opening night—not what I would have done. And yet, even Spike Lee’s directing couldn’t overshadow the enormous talent on the screen.

The movie written and starred in by Stew, who as a writer, musician and actor is a national treasure, really only attached Spike Lee for name value—unfortunately this is nothing new. But again, the talent on the screen more than made up for the Spike Lee gimmicktry. Some will say that this movie is nothing but a filmed play—it is. So was the movie “Meet The Family”, which I wrote, directed and produced. There’s nothing wrong with filming a play, think “Glengarry Glen Ross” or “Death Of A Salesman”. In the case of  “Passing Strange” a good director would have shortened the film version to ninety minutes. That’s right it’s too long, and still HUGE CONGRADULATIONS to the festival committee for opening with this movie—BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE SAME OLD THING!!!

And thankfully the same old Hollywood people spared those in attendance their presence. In particular, thank you Spike for not coming and ruining a great opening night. There were some serious industry people in the room—I noticed Robert Dudelson at the screening and chatted with him briefly at the Gala. Getting quality people like Robert to attend is another very good omen for such a young festival.

The Gala, held on the thirty second floor, featured one of the best views on the planet, good music on both ends of the massive space, lot’s of interesting / good looking people of the NOT HOLLYWOOD variety and, most importantly, an open bar. Two things to note: Coca Cola with the help of their Downtown people Ricardo, Bart, and Tony is everywhere. This is not new, but incredibly appreciated—kudos to Coke for sponsoring every event in town. And introducing pop chips! Bags of every flavor floated around and here’s a downtownster prediction, keep in mind we’re never wrong, this new brand of healthy snack is going to be a very big deal. Or more simply put, the best tasting healthy potato chip I’ve ever had—NEW!

There is an LA Film Festival, which in the past I’ve attended. And last year, because of my book “Stan Lerner’s Criminal”, I participated. But frankly, if I were comparing opening nights, Downtown LA Film Festival, which is only in its second year, IS WHAT A FILM FESTIVAL SHOULD BE!!!

The festival is going on for the next eleven days, I urge you to take in as much of it as you can.

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