City of Angels Film Festival Highlighted Independent Movie Gems
Annual festival saw sold-out screenings for "inspiring, innovative" films
The 15th annual City of the Angels Film Festival opened and closed with sold-out screenings at the Directors Guild of America, having focused upon “the most inspiring, important, and innovative independent films of the year,” say festival codirectors Craig Detweiler, who is codirector of Fuller’s Reel Spirituality Institute and associate professor of theology and culture, and Fuller student Eugene Suen. The festival featured four narratives, four documentaries, and the restored version of filmmaker Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles.
Opening night featured Academy Award-nominated documentary The Garden—Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s film following the struggle to retain the largest community garden in the U.S., located in central Los Angeles. Kennedy and his surprise guest, community organizer Rufina Juarez, participated in a post-screening discussion that featured animated conversation with inner-city high school students enrolled in a leadership program at Pepperdine University.
The festival concluded on Sunday night with a full house for The Third Wave, a documentary following four volunteers helping tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka. Filmmakers and subjects Alison Thompson and Oscar Gubernati were in attendance, and were awarded “The Spirit of Windrider Award” for combining service and storytelling in a compelling manner.
Additional highlights of the festival included a Saturday night screening of Lee Isaac Chung’s first feature, Munyurangabo, which “moves from haunting memories of the Rwandan genocide to powerful moments of reconciliation,” says Detweiler. Post-screening conversation focused on the role of art in therapy and healing. Chung was joined onstage by his wife, art therapist Valerie Chu, and Pepperdine Assistant Professor of Psychology Thema Bryant-Davis.
A Sunday screening of They Killed Sister Dorothy featured a discussion with director Daniel Junge and Tom Strang, brother of martyred nun Sister Dorothy “Dot” Strang. Both Junge and Strang spoke passionately about the best of Catholic social teaching and the call to care for the world, from the Brazilian rainforest to next-door neighbors.
The City of the Angels Film Festival’s major sponsors included the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts at Fuller Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Family Theater Productions, Pepperdine University, the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, and Priddy Brothers.