This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
There are lots of name attractions at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, which kicks off June 13 at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles with Pedro Almodovar's airborne comedy I'm So Excited! The indie-minded festival, presented by Film Independent, will shine its gala spotlight on Ryan Coogler's racial drama Fruitvale Station and Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling's ultraviolent thriller Only God Forgives, both fresh from the Cannes Film Festival. Michael Cera pops up as a guy who goes to Chile in search of a hallucinogenic cactus in Sebastian Silva's Crystal Fairy. And the curtain comes down June 23 with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back, a coming-of-age dramedy featuring Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney. But beyond those marquee attractions, festival organizations promise plenty to be discovered.
1. SLEEPER SURPRISES
Given that L.A. follows Sundance and SXSW on the festival calendar, it has sometimes found it hard to program new U.S. indies. But that didn't prove to be the case this year, says festival artistic director David Ansen. "There's a little comedy drama directed by Joe Burke called Four Dogs," he says. "I think it's a little sleeper. It's about a kid who's come out to L.A. to take acting classes. He's staying with relatives in the Valley and walking dogs. It's very droll, very unstereotypical, very fresh. Just a terrific little movie."
2. UNORTHODOX DOCS
Tapia, by Eddie Alcazar, looks at Johnny Tapia, the late boxer plagued by demons. Rodrigo Reyes' Purgatorio, which visits the U.S.-Mexican border, is "visually striking, not a standard talking-heads doc," says Ansen. And in Our Nixon, Penny Lane offers up an intimate look at the former president using footage shot by such aides as H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.
3. FORGOTTEN RARITIES
Combing through the Cohen Media Group's catalog, Ansen discovered a 1959 film, Two Men in Manhattan, by French director Jean-Pierre Melville. It's the only movie Melville ever shot in the U.S., capturing a moody, nighttime New York City, but it never has been released theatrically stateside.
4. CELEBRATED AUTEURS
On June 17, the festival will celebrate Greek director Costa-Gavras, whose 1969 political thriller Z captured a foreign-language Oscar. Now 80, Costa-Gavras is bringing his latest film, Capital, a globe-hopping tale of international finance. And at his request, Zero Dark Thirty's Mark Boal will conduct a conversation with him.
5. GOOD EATS
Need to break for a nosh? The festival has wrangled 10 to 15 percent discounts at immediately adjacent dining dens, including Rock N' Fish, Fleming's, Bottlerock, Border Grill and Soleto. But it's worth heading a few blocks further afield, to 10-month-old Le Ka (800 W. 6th St.) in the Financial District; it has just landed pedigreed French toque David Feau as a consulting chef. He recently departed the Royce at the Langham hotel in Pasadena and is now sending out fittingly ambitious dishes like bruleed kampachi. After all, man doesn't live by film alone.