March 22, 2019

Topanga Film Festival 2015

 

Examining the growth of the festival with another exponentially great year.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Founders of the Topanga Film Festival, Urs Baur (R )and his wife, Sara Baur-Harding (second from left) with their children Jasper and Devon. The Baurs began the festival in their Topanga backyard 11 years ago and it has since grown exponentially to become one of the premiere local film and media events in Southern California.

Unlike last year’s overcast skies and intermittent thunderstorms, the 2015 Topanga Film Festival perfectly matched sunny and clear skies with its patrons and exhibits. A continuing streak from its inception 11 years ago to now is the festival delivering bigger and better lineups.

What particularly stands out is the amount of authenticity on display; it is a festival that is perfectly tailored to its namesake. Presented by the Topanga Film Institute, they’ve delivered on their modus operandi of using new technologies to expand the boundaries of storytelling along with bringing people closer together.

Opting to display more short films this year was an inspired choice for highlighting more auteurs.

PHOTO BY JANEK DOMBROWA

Topanga Film Festival 2015

No event in Topanga happens without volunteers who donate their time, money and an array of talent. Above (l-r), Rebecca Catterall, who created the ceramic “paint can” awards;TFF Executive Director Bruce Royer; Festival Director Cari Ann Shim Sham; and the hilarious Jon Melendez, former announcer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” who presented the awards; were the tip of the volunteer iceberg that made the Topanga Film Festival, the brainchild of Urs and Sara Baur, the success that it was. Thank you all!

It was refreshing to see the Experimental Shorts & Music Video Showcase pairing a dying genre in need of an overhaul with one that breeds some of the brightest voices in film today. Doubling down on that showcase with the 3D short films set showed that some of the best cinema is told efficiently and artistically.

If TFF ‘15 did use other festivals as inspiration, “Austin City Limits” could be considered a cousin. Music showcases have become an integral part as the weekend featured live sets by Sankirtan, The Controversy, DJ KidGusto and Skip Jaymes & The Space Station. While Alexander Payne and Wendie Malick were among the celebrities to attend last year, Elijah Wood surprised audiences as he introduced the thrilling and genre-bending horror flick, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

Saturday was the crown jewel of the festival as the panels focused on much needed discussions within the industry and how we have those discussions. The “Women in Cinema” panel tackled what it means to be a woman working in the industry and why it is still necessary to have these discussions.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Executive Director Bruce Royer co-produced the TFF with the Topanga Film Institute.

The “Fishbowl Conversation with Ted Schilowitz,” Virtual Reality (VR) creator and futurist, heard voices other than his. In a fishbowl, members of the audience can occupy the empty chair and join the fishbowl. As the conversation continues, an existing fishbowl occupant must voluntarily leave the fishbowl and free up a chair. The discussion continues La Ronde-style with participants entering and leaving the fishbowl.

Wedged between those two panels was the “TFI Talks” panel, moderated by TFF Director Camilla Andersson, featuring award-winning directors, filmmakers and producers sharing their storytelling experiences within virtual reality. Sparky Firepants led the charge as festival-goers were introduced to a world unlike their own.

To close out the ceremonies, a hilarious Jon Melendez, former announcer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” announced the festival winners, who received Rebecca Catterall’s ceramic paint cans inscribed with:

Best Nature & Wildlife Short—Tortoise in Peril by Tim Branning

Best Horror Short—Hush by Michael Kehoe

Best Animated Short—Source by Felix Colgrave

Best Experimental Short—G14 by Harlan Doolittle

Best Music Video—Turn it Up by Choz Belen and Steven Ngyuen

Best Dance Film—Little Dreams by Wilkie Branson

Best Screenplay—Tangled Spirits by Eric Granger

Best Short Film—Love and a Lugwrench by Jeffrey Fleisig

Best of Youth Salon—Less by Benjamin and Daniel Glassman

Best Documentary—Inside Peace by Cynthia Fitzpatrick

Best Narrative Feature—Strangely in Love by Amin Matalqa


With past TFF entrants like Janice Villarosa’s Shunned, now receiving worldwide acclaim, to have the final day of the festival reflect Topanga’s own, is apropos. TFF's Local Spotlight highlights Topanga-specific talent. The Shoot, created by Topanga's own Adams family, stars the canyon and its many residents. Youth shorts, featuring The Headache and The Escape, were also two locally made films.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

In the VR tent,Topangan Buzz Tarlow, president of the Topanga Historical Society, gets instructions from Julian Sarmieto about the virtual reality glasses that immerses the viewer in far-off places, animated worlds or abstract art without ever leaving home.

This small distinct mark makes TFF different from other premium festivals. To have a film, band or restaurant locally produced is something Sundance or Toronto cannot claim.

And the countdown to TFF ‘16 begins...

For those thinking ahead to TFF ‘16, support the Topanga Film Insitute by becoming a Friend of the Fest with all-access to the festival plus VIP parties and brunches leading up to the festival itself. Contact: Friends@TopangaFilmFestival.com.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Kim Zanti moderated a panel discussion with (l-r) Matt Mahurin, Mary Neely and festival co-founder Sara Baur-Harding about the ways different technologies offer endless combinations of art and science for the scriptwriter to weave into their narrative and enhance their storytelling.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Gail McDonald Tune (right) visits with artist Lisa Desimini (left) and her husband, filmmaker Matt Mahurin (center) who was a panelist on Friday’s “Infinite Realities,” a discussion about using technology in screenwriting.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

The cast and director/writer of the stunning short narrative film Waiting For You about the crushing isolation of the very elderly got a rare moment together. (L-R) Ralph Michiel, director Susan Matus and Dalit Berkowitz.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Panelists chatted in a TFI (Topanga Film Institute) talk: New Horizons-Exploring Storytelling in VR (Virtual Reality).

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Screen printer extraordinaire Sparky Firepants was once again on hand to put the festival logo on anything he could get his hands on.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Among the invaluable volunteers, Jillian Procopio (L) and Tessa May served wine at the festival.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Eugene Lee (L) sold Harry Kim a cool new device called a UO Smart Beam that turns your smart phone into a mini-laser projector.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

TFF volunteers prepared the outdoor screening room on the TCC ball field for the opening night gala that presented the Dance Film Showcase of 17 short films while the second full Blue Moon of the year rose above. It will be another three years before we see another Blue Moon but only a year until TFF ‘16 returns.

PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER © 2015

Topanga Film Festival 2015

Alarge audience line at the Topanga Community House for the Saturday night screening of films on the ball field. This year, the weather was perfect for the outdoor event.