LA Film Festival

Los Angeles Film Festival Director On Diversity, Plus 10 Films To Watch

Reels up!

The 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival is kicking off Wednesday (June 1) with the premiere of its opening night film Lowriders directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, and produced by Brian Grazer and Jason Blum. The film, starring Eva Longoria and Demián Bichir, explores East LA’s car culture and the intricacies of inner city life. It also shines a light on the plight of choosing between traditional Latino values and West Coast street culture.

“It’s about family and culture, and it’s about trying to make your way through reality,” says the Los Angeles Film Festival’s Director, Stephanie Allain, over the phone from Vancouver. “It’s so beautiful and so LA.”

Since her foray in 2014, Allain’s been pushing for diversity by giving women and more people of color a chance to showcase their work. This year a total of 42 premieres will be debuted, of which 43 percent are directed by women and 38 percent by people of color.

You’ll see stories about undocumented immigrants crossing the border on films like Desierto directed by Jonás Cuarón, which will be shown during the festival’s closing night (June 9). You’ll also see the lived experiences of a black transgender woman fighting against a legal system that works against her in FREE CeCe! directed by Jacqueline Gares and produced by Laverne Cox.

In addition to films, there will also be an educational component to the festival. In a special event on Thursday (June 2), Nate Parker will share what it took to make his Nat Turner biopic, The Birth of a Nation. (Which garnered the Sundance Film Festival’s biggest distribution deal this year). The event will be titled Nate Parker’s Labor of Love: The Birth of a Nation Conversation. Cast members, including the likes of Gabrielle Union and Aja Naomi King, will be joining Parker.

Ava Duvernay (Selma) and her distribution company Array Releasing will be honored with the Festival’s annual Spirit of Independence Award on Saturday (June 4). Ryan Coogler, the director of the Rocky sequel, Creed, will also be in attendance presiding over a master class discussing the art and design elements of a film, and how they are put together. Creed’s sound engineer Steve Boedekker will co-host. The event is set to be sponsored by the Dolby Institute.

With the diverse line up, and prominent filmmakers of color in the house, Allain is definitely churning the proverbial melting pot at this year's festival. She hopes that the multiplicity present eventually will gain even more access to Hollywood. And by the looks of it, what she is doing is working.

“In the last couple of years the sales from the festival have exponentially grown,” she says. “Last year we sold like 25 movies out of the festival. The fact that 25 films found homes means those filmmakers now are on the map. They are in contention for new jobs coming up—they have a place to go to when they make their next movie; to me that is the most important work that we are doing. Enough with the diversity programs, I want jobs. That’s what going to make the difference in Hollywood: people being able to practice their craft and get paid for it.”

That said, here are 10 films you should definitely be on the look out for:

72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?
Director: Raafi Rivero
"A charismatic teen is thrown into a crisis of life and love when he must decide whether to leave his rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn community to pursue a prestigious academic scholarship."

Like Cotton Twines
Director/Writer: Leila Djansi
"An African-American volunteer accepts a teaching job in a remote Ghanaian village and is ensnared in a battle between tradition and freedom when he is compelled to save one of his students from becoming a slave to the gods."

A Moving Image
Director/Writer: Shola Amoo
"In South London reality and fiction merge in this personal reflection on gentrification in Brixton, told from the perspective of a sincere, yet stifled, young artist who struggles with her own complicity as she confronts the changing landscape of her neighborhood."

Director: Maisie Crow
"This doc explores a single mother, an abortion clinic director and fervent pro-lifer as they lay bare their stakes in the fight of one of the last remaining abortion clinics to stay open against the pro-life movement’s efforts to make abortions illegal in the Deep South."

Director/Writer: Qasim Basir
"A man navigates parallel realities: one as a hardened criminal who has spent years building his drug empire; the other as an ambitious architect who has been working his way up the corporate ladder. Ensemble includes Hill Harper and Lala Anthony."

Director: Justin Tipping
"After getting his dream pair of Air Jordans snatched, Brandon and his friends go on a dangerously epic mission through Oakland to get them back in this vibrant coming-of-age story bursting with magical realism. CJ Wallace makes his film debut."

Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story
Director: Eric "Ptah" Herbert
"One of the biggest mysteries in basketball’s history is why Los Angeles legend Schea Cotton, one of the most highly touted high school athletes of a pre-social media era, never made it to the NBA."

Jean of the Joneses
Director: Stella Maghle
"Stella Meghie delivers real black girl magic in her directorial and writing debut. Jean of the Joneses is a welcome breath of fresh air, offering a new modern depiction of Black family life anchored in the firm, albeit complicated, relationships of these dynamic women."

Play the Devil
Director: Maria Govan
"Bursting with confidence, style and vision against the lush landscape of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, Bahamian writer/director Maria Govan’s sophomore feature complicates notions of masculinity, privilege and sexuality in this nuanced, yet brutal, coming-of-age portrait that deftly thwarts any easy moral judgments of her characters’ actions and desires."

They Call Us Monsters
Director: Ben Lear
"With unprecedented access to the juvenile facility, Ben Lear’s evocative and daring debut documentary allows audiences to get to know these young men through a screenwriting workshop in which they collectively fictionalize their lives and dreams. Lear delves into the lives of the victims of violent crimes committed by juveniles and follows legislative debates around bill SB260, which gives children a so-called second chance by allowing them parole eligibility after 35 years."













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Gang Member May Testify Against Defendants In 'Junior' Guzman-Feliz' Murder Trial

A member of the Trinitarios gang who witnessed the fatal stabbing of Bronx teenager Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz may take the stand against five defendants this week.

The first of two murder trials for the killing of Junior Guzman-Feliz began earlier this month, NBC4 New York reports. Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago (24), Jonaiki Martinez Estrella (24), Jose Muniz (21) and Manuel Rivera (18) and Elvin Garcia (23) were given second-degree murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, gang assault and criminal possession of weapon charges for the June 2018 stabbing of the 15-year-old.

It was previously reported that the leader of the Trinitarios gang assisted the police with information about the defendant but it isn't known if he is the same witness who will testify this week.

A total of eleven women and one man make up the jury. During the first few days of the trial, the courtroom watched three clips from the harrowing incident that showed Guzman-Feliz before and after the attack. The teen was reportedly stabbed by the defendants in a case of mistaken identity.

One of the clips was never seen by the public and showed the attackers dragging Junior out of the grocery story with the teen fighting back as the gang yielded machete and knives. Later in the trial, jurors were shown 13 different angles and the six locations of the group looking for the teen.

As family members sobbed in the court, prosecutors claimed that Junior's murder was premeditated given the weapons used. But defense attorneys deemed most of Junior's wounds as "superficial" and noted how the cut to his throat was the cause of his death. They also claimed four of the defendants did not intend to kill Junior. The defense rilled up the court, including Junior's family.

"Why would they need those weapons if they're not trying to kill someone?" sister-in-law Ione Guierrez told ABC7. "I need somebody to explain that to me." Junior's father was later escorted out of the courtroom for using profanity as the defendants reportedly laughed during the trial. "These guys are sitting there, just looking at us, just literally laughing," supporter Ilene Mariez told reporters. "The family got really really upset, and the father, towards the end, he was so upset he was using profanity," Mariez added. "So they pulled him from the courtroom."

Defense attorneys cross-examined witnesses like a woman who saw what happened from her apartment window. The witness said Junior motioned for her to call the police. After heading outside to help the teen, she said in disturbing detail his last word was "water."

A total of 14 people are facing jail time for Junior's death. The other nine suspects who are accused of taking part in other aspects of the assault will have a pretrial hearing dated for June 17.

Junior's passing sent waves around the country as clips were seen on social media. A number of celebrities took part in the #JusticeforJunior movement like Carmelo Anthony, Cardi B, Lala Anthony, Rihanna and Wesley Snipes. The street where Junior died was changed from Bathgate Avenue to Lesandro Junior Guzman Way. He was also honored by the NYPD with a scholarship created in his name. The teen was a member of the NYPD's Explores Program and had an interest in becoming a police officer.

"He was one of the good kids in the Bronx," his mother said at the time of his death. "He has never been in any fight, never, in 15 years. He was innocent. He never grew up on the streets. He was with me all the time."

If found guilty, the five defendants will face life in prison.

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Cardi B attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Cardi B's Fans Are Creeping Her Out With Comments About Her Family

Cardi B loves her fans, but she's making one thing clear to them: her family is off limits. During one of her popular Instagram live sessions, Cardi revealed that she frequently talks to her fan pages but that recently they've been crossing a few lines and talking "hella crazy" about her family, especially her sister Hennessy Carolina.

Before getting into it, the "Please Me" artist made it clear that she's incredibly thankful for her fans and that she goes out of her way to respond to their comments and like their pictures, they just have to leave her family alone.

"I am so thankful that I have people who love me, that follow up with my life, always supporting me, always supporting my music, my looks and everything," she said during the live.

"But it's like bro, no, you cannot talk about my sister. I would go to jail for my sister, I would die for my sister, I would take a bullet for my sister. So nobody could talk about my sister. I could be best friends with somebody for 100 years. Once they say something slick about my sister, you’re getting cut the f*** off, period.”

Cardi warned the Bardi Gang that hands would be thrown, regardless of whether they're a fan of hers or not, over her sister.

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Cardi B Awarded Crossover Artist Of The Year At 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards

2019 has been a pretty successful year for Cardi B. In February, Cardi won a Grammy Award for "Best Rap Album," and as of Thursday (April 26), the Bronx native was awarded Crossover Artist of the year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.

The 26-year-old won over  Demi Lovato, DJ Snake and Drake in the category. Cardi's been featured on some of the hottest Latin records that have ruled both 2018 and 2019. She has her hit song "I Like It" with Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, and she's featured in the tracks "Taki Taki" and "La Modelo" as well.

Cardi's win makes her the first female rapper to ever win a Billboard Latin Music Award. The MC took to her Instagram stories to thank the publication for the award, a move that comes after a recent squabble she had with gossip page "The Shade Room."

On Wednesday, in a series of now-deleted Instagram videos, Cardi slammed the gossip page for posts she felt harmed her husband Offset's image. In the video, Cardi called out TSR for allegedly only sharing negative news about her label mates at Quality Management, rather than uplifting them and the rest of the black community.

“Everybody that they know that I’m cool with, they always try to get them set up for people to talk sh*t,” she said. "Offset donated 25K to the Ellen foundation for the kids in Africa. Did The Shade Room post it? No… are they posting any positive sh*t and investment talk that he’s been talking about in his interviews? No. But they sure post the way he had drama with his baby mom. They sure posting about his court cases, right?"

Congrats to Cardi on her win. See the complete winners list over on Billboard.com.

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