By Jacqueline Monahan
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Las Vegas International Film Festival at Eastside Cannery Casino & Hotel Resort

The Second Annual Las Vegas International Film Festival (LVFF) was held at the Eastside Cannery from April 9-12, and featured over 100 films from around the world.  A short escalator ride up to the second floor yielded access to two large screens in adjoining ballrooms that ran concurrently (and constantly) throughout the four-day event.


It is apparent from their official poster that the LVFF embraces its Vegas location: a martini glass wrapped in celluloid film contains a dice speared like a green olive.  Don’t let that fool you.  The film selection is enormously varied in genre and subject matter.

Feature films, documentaries, shorts, animation, experimental films, television pilots and music videos made their way onto Screens 1 & 2.  Filmmakers were usually on hand for an audience Q&A immediately after each screening.  From its inception, the festival’s organizers have sought to connect emerging filmmakers with industry professionals, while providing audiences with interactive opportunities for discussions, panels and interviews with the artists about their work.

World premieres included “God’s Ears”, an unlikely love story between an autistic boxer and an exotic dancer; “The Ghost Mountain Experiment”, a true story of eccentric artist/author Marshal South’s renunciation of civilization while raising his family on a waterless mountaintop; “Broken Windows” details the unexpectedly entwined lives of four women as they journey through adversity and revelation; “Summerhood” is a coming-of-age comedy described as a “serrated sendoff” of the genre featuring “four best friends who hate each other”.

Other tantalizing feature titles included “So You Want Michael Madsen?” and “How To Be”, (starring "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson), “The Moon and Other Lovers” and “Blood River.”

A CSN showcase featured student work, and two or more screenings of film shorts per day took place, none of them repeated.  Countries represented included Italy, the Czech Republic, Canada, France, Mexico, Germany, Egypt, Singapore, Belgium, and the Philippines.  These little films proved their quality with good audio, artful visuals, non-linear storylines and sometimes anticlimactic endings.  Among them was the Academy Award®-winning "Spielzuegland"(Toyland).

Celebrity tributes honored actors John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, Nightmare on Elm Street) and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile).  Writers, producers and directors had their own panel discussions on consecutive afternoons and each night featured a party or reception, culminating in a Golden Aces Award Ceremony on April 12.  Attendees had access to all events, discussions and ceremonies for the prices of various tickets and passes, from $7 - $100.

Documentaries were impressively represented with "Prom Night Mississippi," featuring Academy Award®-winning actor Morgan Freeman, “Mosta’Mara: Notes on a Leper Colony”; the world premiere of “The Last Word” (about a death row mistake); and Cannes Film Festival winner “Medicinal”, about medical marijuana use and regulation.

Your humble correspondent was on hand to screen the following offerings:

“Paper Dolls” – no, not an expose on prostitution hiding in the personals page, this is actually an eerie feature shot in 35mm about Sasquatch murders in a remote Canadian forest.  Maximum creepiness on a minimal budget makes this film an effective thriller.

“The Other Side of Immigration” is a documentary shot in the small towns around Michoacán, Mexico, where 20-50% of the population routinely migrate illegally to the U.S. after 9th grade.  Think you know the story?  You’ll be surprised at the insight you gain after hearing a frustrated population’s tale of NAFTA, poverty, opportunity and despair.

“Most” (Czech Republic) Moving, Academy-Award-nominated short about a bridge man and his son, an accident and a redemption.

“Manana” (USA, Spain) A lonely man keeps putting off important things to be done, during one New Year’s Eve.

“Now and Before” (USA) Animated water colors come to life as a man looks back on his life in China.

“Armed Ambassadors” (USA) Documentary about a Marine base simulating an Iraqi village (Including extras) in the Mojave Desert.

“L’oro Rosso” (Italy) A mother tells her daughter the story of tomatoes, recalling an unpleasant experience along the way.

“The Key” (USA) A lonely man follows a woman with cameras (from his underground lair) until he gets his hands on the key to her door.

They’ve got proms, war, lepers, bathroom attendants, Bigfoot, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, synchronized swimmers, mixed martial arts, medical marijuana, the death penalty, microbes, grizzly bears, nuclear weapons, factory farming, and enough shorts to outdo Bermuda.  This is the Las Vegas International Film Festival and it’s here to stay.

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