PICTURED: Yeva by Iranian director Anahid Abad will be screened at this year’s Ojai Film Festival.
Twenty years may not seem like a long time, but in the film festival universe, it’s a milestone worth celebrating. Like startups and restaurants, most festivals don’t make it past infancy.
“Fewer than five percent of film festivals now functioning have been around as long as we have,” said Steve Grumette, the artistic director of the Ojai Film Festival (OFF).
What’s the secret for their success?
“One of the things we are very proud of is that we actually run on more than 100 volunteers,” said Dr. Jonathan Lambert, president. “Those are the people that allow us to have a festival. We have a board that works hard. It’s a working board.”
But perhaps even more important is the service that the OFF offers, both to the community and to burgeoning filmmakers.
“The community gets to see films that would otherwise be totally inaccessible to them,” Grumette added, “and the filmmakers get an appreciative audience for their films, which often helps them in their careers.”
When it comes to activities, it’s not just about film previews. The OFF’s programming includes:
Recognition of film stars. This year Pat Boone and Eva Marie Saint will be honored with lifetime achievement awards, plus viewings of Boone’s State Fair (Saturday, Nov. 2) and Saint’s North by Northwest (Sunday, Nov. 3). Film producer Hawk Koch will also feature his new memoir, Magic Times: My Life in Hollywood.
Koch will be available for a Q&A after a viewing of The Way We Were (Sunday, Nov. 3, 4 p.m.)
Women in Film. The festival will premiere two short biographies about Eva Marie Saint and Penny Marshall on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m.
Recognition of young filmmakers. On Friday, Nov. 1, there will be seminars designed for student filmmakers, followed by screenings of winning entries from the Young Filmmakers Competition.
The Focus Earth series. Continuing its tradition of showing environmentally conscious films, this year’s festival presents six films, one of them about the Thomas Fire. The Perfect Firestorm: The Thomas Fire Story will be shown on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m. and on Friday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m.
Film seminars. This year’s topics include motion picture financing, licensing music and hiring film composers, cinematography, and film distribution.
But let’s talk about the films. This year there are 81 entries, including seven world
The OFF is international in scope, featuring submissions from such locations as Albania, France, Spain, Greece and China. Everything is on tap, from documentaries to short films to animation to features.
Of note this year are the number of Iranian films.
“For the last few years, there has been an explosion in the Iranian film industry by young Iranian filmmakers,” said Grumette. “So this year, we have a dozen or so of their films.”
Iranian feature films this year include Golnesa, White Fish Season and Yeva.
Grumette believes the event’s growing popularity is because filmmakers feel welcome. While the festival might be smaller compared to other more famous film festivals, its hospitality and caliber of films is enticing to new directors.
“One of the feedbacks from filmmakers is that they really like coming to Ojai to our festival,” Lambert explained. “Part of it is because we’re friendly and part of it is the
quality of the films.”
And, as Grumette noted, “It doesn’t hurt that the website FilmFreeway [filmfreeway.com] ranks the Ojai Film Festival in the top five percent in terms of filmmaker satisfaction.”
The Ojai Film Festival takes place Oct. 31-Nov. 10. All showings will be featured at the Ojai Arts Center (113 S. Montgomery St.) and the Sane Living Center (316 E Matilija St.). For tickets, a full schedule and more information, call 805-640-1947 or visit ojaifilmfestival.com.