Ventura Film Festival will debut in '09

By Kevin Clerici (Contact)
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Leave the glitz and superficial glam to Sundance and Cannes.
So say organizers behind the newly formed Ventura Film Festival, who are trumpeting authenticity over flash.

"We plan to focus on real people, true stories and new cinema," said Lorenzo DeStefano, a 30-year movie industry veteran and the festival's director.

DeStefano has participated in or attended dozens of film festivals, from Honolulu to London. "Some are so big, they are overwhelming," he said.

Too many new festivals are tempted to come out with a big statement and overly emphasize making money, he said.

Ventura's nonprofit festival, slated for March 27-29, will focus on original filmmakers and starting a dynamic, collaborative, imaginative movie and new-media event, he said.
"Hollywood is such a me-thing — my project, my film," the longtime writer-director said. "This is an ‘us' project."

To generate support and financial backing, organizers are holding a party and benefit auction Sunday evening at downtown Ventura's CandleLight Kitchen and Bar, 211 E. Santa Clara St. The party is free and open to the public, although a $20 donation is suggested at the door.

Excerpts from some of the festival's entries will be screened. Ojai musician Emy Reynolds and her band also are scheduled to perform.

"There is so much community support already. People I've talked to have wanted a festival for as long as they can remember," said festival Art Director Robert Catalusci, a visual and performance artist who moved to Ventura from San Francisco five months ago.

The festival already has secured films from China and Italy and will feature narrative, documentary, animation and video art forms. The revamped Elks Lodge on Ash Street will be used for showings.

The festival is working with public access television producers CAPS-TV and plans to draw local talent from the Brooks Institute and from what DeStefano described as "a vast pool of knowledge and experience lying dormant in our own region."

They are promoting a "Neighborhood Cinema" program, where locals can craft their own productions. Catalusci loaned a camera and equipment to a local young person for a documentary.

"It's a direct and personal effort to empower those in our community whose stories and experiences are routinely overlooked," DeStefano said.

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