The annual Santa Monica Film Festival (SMIFF) rolled out its roster of young producers, directors, and actors this past weekend, showcasing 22 diverse films from around the world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, United Kingdom, and the USA.
The screenings, free to Santa Monica residents, kicked off Friday night at the AMC Broadway theatre with Forecast, directed by Erik Courtney, a short film about a trip back in time, followed by a feature directed by Rufus Williams called Butterfly Dreaming, the story of a young man whose wife is killed in a car accident. Questions are triggered in his mind as to whether her death was a suicide, accident, or murder causing him to journey in and out of reality, impacting on his ability to distinguish between his dreams and waking life.
In addition to the features, a number of interesting shorts were screened including Choke.Kick.Girl., an amusing film directed by Danny Parker-Lopes about an IT expert who robs and sometimes kills the rich who have lined their pockets with money stolen from workers’ pension funds. Using his highly developed martial arts skills, which he practices on a blow up doll, he forces the perpetrators to transfer their millions into off-shore accounts. The plot thickens when a Cuban crime mobster hires him to do a special fund transfer for them which, in an interesting turn of events, ironically ultimately involves his girlfriend. The dialogue is crisp and funny with an exceptional performance by Ryan Churchill who said during the Q & A, “Choke.Kick.Girl. came out 20 times better than we ever thought and we’re now making a pilot for an episodic television show.”
Another interesting short film was I Kicked Luis Guzman in the Face, a quirky story about a young man who gains fame on Facebook by bragging that he kicked Luis Guzman in the face. As a result of the posting, the young man becomes somewhat of a hero and enjoys a new, exciting social life. But alas, the lie backfires resulting in a most unexpected turn of events.
The festival, which held screenings at both the AMC Broadway and the Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Theatre, is the brainchild of producer David Katz along with Programming Director Frank Giarmona who commented, “We do this festival every year to help promote and encourage new filmmakers and to provide a forum in which they can expose their work. These are the directors of tomorrow and for some, tomorrow will be very soon.”
Some of the sponsors of the SMIFF included the Mirror, AMC Entertainment, Downtown Santa Monica & Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Public Library, and the Epilepsy Foundation, which is to receive the proceeds from this event, and a special mention to Wokcano Restaurant which provided a most festive opening night party where patrons were plied with delicious food and wine.
Here’s to next year and a new crop of up and coming young directors.