After 18 years under Film Independent, the Los Angeles Film Festival is no more.
Film Independent announced Wednesday that it was ending the festival — which had been moved this year from June to September — and replace it with year-round events aimed at building community and broadening its support of visual storytellers. Josh Welsh, president of the nonprofit, admitted that the event had “struggled to thrive.”
“We took a hard look at the healthy growth of Film Independent’s year-round programs and events over the past six years: the Spirit Awards, our film series curated by Elvis Mitchell, membership, labs, workshops, filmmaker grants and international programs,” said Mary Sweeney, chair of the Film Independent board of directors. “In the end, we concluded that the organization should explore a more nimble, sustainable form of exhibiting and celebrating independent film artists year round.”
Film Independent assumed control of the festival in 2001 after it first started 24 years ago as the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. The organization moved the festival from Westwood to downtown Los Angeles in 2010 and then to the Arclight theaters in Hollywood, Culver City and Santa Monica two years ago.
“While we are very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the LA Film Festival over the past eighteen years, the truth is that it has struggled to thrive, and the time has come for us to try something new,” said Welsh. “We are all deeply grateful to Jennifer Cochis for her vision, passion, and creativity and we’re enormously proud of the Festival that she oversaw these past two years. We remain committed to serving filmmakers and film audiences across Los Angeles.”
As a result of discontinuing the festival in its present form, the nonprofit arts organization will eliminate three full-time staff positions.
In recent years, the LA Film Festival placed a heavy emphasis on diversity in its competition film slate, with 42% of the films directed by women and 39% helmed by filmmakers of color. This year’s festival screened more than 200 features, shorts, and music videos screening, representing more than 40 countries. Andrew Slater’s music documentary “Echo in the Canyon” was the opening film at the Ford Theatre. The closing film was the thriller “Nomis,” starring Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley and Alexandra Daddario.
Notable premieres included “Dear White People,” “Snowpiercer,” Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma,” “Jersey Boys,” the third “Twilight” movie “Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” “Despicable Me” and “I’m So Excited.” The LA Film Festival had been moving away from major studio fare in recent years since premiering Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” in 2014. Last year’s festival opened with “The Book of Henry” and closed with “Ingrid Goes West.”
The move to September placed the LA Film Festival in the heart of awards season — just after the Telluride, Venice and Toronto festivals and just before the start of the New York Film Festival.
L.A.’s other major festival, AFI Fest, kicks off Nov. 8 and offers free tickets to the public. It has managed to secure a clutch of awards contenders for the past few years. Last year’s AFI Fest opened with Dee Rees’ “Mudbound” and closed with “Molly’s Game,” which replaced “All the Money in the World.” This year’s festival opens with “On the Basis of Sex” and will close on Nov. 15 with “Mary, Queen of Scots.”