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A Thousand Junkies
A Thousand Junkies

The 9th annual DTLA Film Festival will kick off on Thursday, September 21st with the Los Angeles premiere of A Thousand Junkies, the feature film directorial debut from multi-hyphenate Tommy Swerdlow (Cool Runnings, Little Giants, and Snow Dogs), who directed and co-wrote the film and co-stars with Blake Heron and TJ Bowen, who shares a writing credit. In A Thousand Junkies features three junkies named for the actors playing them, crisscross Los Angeles in search of relief, considering increasingly reckless options in the pursuit of a score, and coming across all sorts of odd characters along the way. The film will be released theatrically by The Orchard later this year.

The Festival, taking place September 21 to 30 at L.A. LIVE, announced its feature films including all documentary and narrative feature-length films in competition. In keeping with this year’s theme – “Movies. Not walls” – the festival will host the first Enemy Nations Film Series. This series will present films from the countries labeled by immigration initiatives and Presidential tweets as homes to enemies of the state.

From The Orchard is The Work by directors Jairus Mcleary and Gethin Aldous, a powerful documentary set inside a single room in Folsom State Prison (California), which follows three level-four convicts as they participate in a four-day, innovative group therapy retreat. Rounding out the trio from The Orchard is Super Dark Times, Kevin Phillips’ harrowing, meticulously observed look at teenage age lives.

Continuing with the dark side, Most Beautiful Island explores the unforgettable and decidedly sinister day in the life of a young woman immigrant struggling to leave behind a mysterious past as she copies with life New York City. Ana Asensio directs and stars in this psychological thriller, which nabbed this year’s SXSW Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and will be released later this year by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

In Kasra Farahani’s Tilt, Joe is a filmmaker making a definitive documentary about the dark side of America’s post WW2 “golden age.” However, he soon finds himself falling down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and paranoia. In a similar vein Erik Nelson with A Gray State has created a chilling portrait of real-life alt right personality David Crowley as he struggles to complete his opus film project.

Adults struggling with children in their lives is at the heart of several of this year’s narrative features. In Adam Cushman’s Restraint a young married woman’s mental health begins to deteriorate as she attempts to adapt to life in suburbia with her controlling husband and his 9-year-old daughter. In Zach Brown’s Hard Surfaces (formerly Moleskin Diary) life in the fast lane for an artist-photographer suddenly grinds to a halt when he unexpectedly is left in sole custory of his 9-year-old niece.

In Jorge Xolalpa, Jr.’s Blue Line Station a high school couple have a child of their own on its way as they struggle with the best solution for an unwanted pregnancy. In Christopher J. Hansen’s Blur Circle, to be released later this year by Indie Rights, a mother desperately wants to find her missing child, even it means accepting help from a man with a shrouded past.

On the lighter side of relationships, in Jade Jenise Dixon’s Dog Park, also an Indie Rights upcoming release, it’s a canine to the rescue as a group of twenty-somethings struggle with the dating game. In Michael Ferrell’s Laura Gets A Cat, an unemployed writer considers what to do with her unexciting boyfriend while jumping into an affair with a performance artist, all fuel for your vivid imaginary life.

Striking a similar tone but in the context of a documentary, The Dating Project by Jonathan Cipiti confronts the eye-opening statistics that today in America fully half of all adults are single – a far higher percentage than with past generations. Five college-age single Millennials confront their own lack of success in finding a mate in this eye-opening look at dating in the age of social media.

The havoc wreaked by social media is reflected in two of the festival’s rom coms. In director David Tyson Lam’s Viral Beauty our protagonist simply wanted a date. She got a million subscribers, instead. Sloan Copeland’s Life Hack is a humorous but cautionary about privacy and cyber threats in the digital age. The take away? Cover your webcam.

On the other hand Gigi Gorgeous is one girl who ain’t complainin’ about the power of the world wide web. In This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous the life and history of the eponymous Internet superstar is explored in a poignant and inspiring documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA).

Could video games be a contributing factor to Millennials’ singleness? Who cares! In Jeremy Snead’s multi-episodic documentary Unlocked: The World Of Games Revealed everybody involved in all levels of video gaming from creators to players certainly seems to be having a helluva good time. Ditto, all those involved in that other counter culture revolving around music audio cassette tapes. In Zachary Taylor, Georg Petzold and Seth Smoot’s Cassette: A Documentary Mix Tape rabid mix tapes fans, including the likes of Henry Rollins, share what makes this once forgotten and now beloved blast-from-the-past so very au courant.

Yes, nostalgia for the music of the Eighties is part of the appeal of mix tapes. This same nostalgia is captured in Ellen Goldfarb’s Dare To Be Different, a look back at WLIR, the pioneering Long Island, N.Y. radio station that helped to pave the way for new wave and punk, and launch the careers of everyone from Blondie to Joan Jett. (Oh, did we mention Prince, U2 and Madonna were also heard first in the U.S. on the WLIR airwaves?)

The past meets the future in the “lost” 1938 screwball comedy set in the future of 2018 in Jamie Greenberg’s Future ’38. Confused? All will be revealed in this highly original satire that wowed the crowds at Slamdance earlier this year. Gabriel Cruz Rivas and Rodrigo Guardiola’s gaze is firmly fixed in the present in his documentary Zoe: Panoramas, an introspective look inside one of Latin America’s biggest rock bands.

The festival’s signature curated film series this year is entitled Enemy Nations, which refers to how whole nations of people suddenly became identified by the highest levels of the U.S. government as anti-American. The series presents a selection from each of these seven countries in an opportunity for you, the audience, to decide for yourself if the enemy is from beyond the borders, or within.

The series includes Shiva Sanjari’s Here The Seats Are Vacant, a stunning portrayal of Iran’s first female director, who herself became an enemy of her nation with the rise of the Islamic Revolution. Also part of the series is Avo Kaprealian’s Houses Without Doors, a documentary shot surreptitiously by director with a small camera from the balcony of his home on the Syrian front line. The camera records the dramatic changes in his neighborhood and his own family. Five short films, which will be announced later, are part of the series as well.

Forbidden Cuba is the first American feature film shot after the thawing of diplomatic relations between the island nation and the U.S. Art Jones’ picture is a cautionary tale about an American businessman who travels to Cuba to retrieve an executive gone rogue, only to have his own eyes opened to the beauty and vibrant culture of the country.

In Sea Gypsies: The Far Side Of The World filmmaker Nico Edwards sets off for his own adventure as part of a motley crew of amateurs and seasoned sailors attempting the nearly impossible and certainly risky goal of traversing the ocean between New Zealand and Patagonia by way of Antarctica in a sailboat – in the dead of winter. Yes, in the Digital Age real-life adventure is yours for the taking IF you’re willing to pursue it.

Water is also the subject of two more documentary films screening at the festival. In John Hopkins’ Bluefin, fresh from its U.S. premiere at Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this year, the plight of a magnificent oceanic creature, which unfortunately is best known as a mainstay of sushi, is explored from different perspectives. It’s fresh water and the plight of humans in developing countries who lack it that is explored in Brian Wood’s A World Without Water. This special screening and event will be co-hosted by Los Angeles-based PH8, a NGO with international outreach.

Rounding out the festival’s feature film line-up are two documentaries about the impact of encroaching civilization on precious forest land and its wildlife. Mónica Alvarez Franco’s Cloud Forest – which boasts stunning cinematography – documents the people of a small community in Mexico who are the guardians of one of the ecosystems most at risk in country. Tony Lee’s The Cat That Changed America is about a bona fide Hollywood star. P22 is the most famous lion in America, a cougar who lives in Griffith Park, and this is his amazing story.

A final note about a late entry to the festival. VAXXED: From Cover-up to Controversy was a feature-length documentary invited to make its world premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival when the screening was abruptly cancelled — the only film ever pulled from the festival’s line-up. Soon after, Robert DeNiro in his guise as Tribeca’s co-founder went on national television to proclaim he regretted his festival’s decision and urged the viewing public to go see the film, which by then had entered theatrical release. The man at the center of that film, medical researcher and author Andrew Wakefield, is also the focus of The Pathological Optimist, a biopic about the former medical doctor whose discovery of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism profoundly changed his life and challenged medical orthodoxy that all vaccines were safe for all children. In her film, which is making its Los Angeles theatrical premiere during DTLA Film Festival, director Miranda Bailey weaves a delicate portrait of a man who is both revered and vilified by millions, a full-access look at the man at the center of one of the biggest medical and media controversies of our times.

“One of the missions of our nonprofit film festival is to reflect the rich ethnic-cultural diversity and creative free spirit of DTLA and its surrounding environs. We believe our audiences will agree that this year’s line-up wholeheartedly embraces that mandate,” said Greg Ptacek, festival director.

The complete list of announced feature film presentations at the 9th DTLA Film Festival follows

2017 DTLA Film Festival | Feature Films

Director: Jorge Xolalpa Jr.
Country: USA, Running Time: 80″
A high school couple embarks on an unusual journey to planned parenthood, in order to find the best solution to an unwanted pregnancy.

Director: John Hopkins
Country: USA, Running Time: 53″
In the stunning documentary Bluefin, director John Hopkins crafts a tale of epic stakes set in the “tuna capital of the world.” Filmed in North Lake, Prince Edward Island, Canada, the film explores the baffling mystery of why the normally wary bluefin tuna no longer fear humans.

Director: Christopher J. Hansen
Country: USA, Running Time: 92″
Jill Temple is a single mother still grieving the loss of her young son after he disappeared two years ago. Unable to face the possibility that she has lost him forever, she pursues every lead and meets Burton Rose, a man with a shrouded past.

Director: Zachary Taylor, Georg Petzold and Seth Smoot
Country: USA, Running Time: 92″
Cassette inventor Lou Ottens digs through his past to figure out why the audiotape won’t die. Rock veterans like Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, and Ian MacKaye join a legion of young bands releasing music on tape to push Lou along on his journey to remember.

Director: Tony Lee
Country: USA, Running Time: 75″
P22 is the most famous cat in America, a mountain lion who lives in Griffith Park in the middle of LA. This is his amazing story.

Director: Mónica Alvarez Franco
Country: MEXICO, Running Time: 90″
The people of a small community in Veracruz are the guardians of one of the ecosystems facing the most risk in the country: the cloud forest. They are trying to redesign their own culture: needs, food, education and relationship with other people and with nature, searching for a simpler and sustainable life.

Director: Ellen Goldfarb
Country: USA, Running Time: 93″
A wonderfully nostalgic look back at WLIR 92.7, the Long Island-based radio station on the cutting edge of music throughout the 1980s. Going rogue, the station defied the record industry and played global imports before their release by literally picking up the singles at the airport,rushing back to the studio and spinning them live.

Director: Jonathan Cipiti
Country: USA, Running Time: 70″
50% of America is single. The way people seek and find love has radically changed. The trends of hanging out, hooking up, texting and social media have created a dating deficit. Dating is now…outdated. Follow 5 single people, ages 18 to 40, as they navigate this new landscape.

Director: Jade Jenise Dixon
Country: USA, Running Time: 91″
The romantic tribulations of a group of Toronto twenty-somethings whose relationships with their dogs are more stable and long-lasting than their romances with people.

Director: Art Jones
Country: USA, Running Time: 81″
The first American feature made in Cuba since the revolution of 1959. Part ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Hearts of Darkness,’ it’s a cautionary tale about capitalism and the state of the American soul. STORY: An American businessman travels to Cuba to retrieve an executive gone rogue, and finds his eyes opened to the beauty and vibrant culture of Cuba, challenging his corporate directives, his identity and everything he has known.

Director: Jamie Greenberg
Country: USA, Running Time: 75″
A 1938 screwball comedy set in the far future year of 2018.

Director: Erik Nelson
Country: USA, Running Time: 93″
In 2010, David Crowley worked on a film about a future in which the government crushes civil liberties. When Crowley and his wife and child are found dead in 2014, conspiracy theorists speculate that they have been assassinated by the government.

Director: Zach Brown
Country: USA, Running Time: 89″
Adrian is a self-made man, despite the tragedy of his parents dying when he was a child. He is a famous photographer who has earned a following for his provocative style. Life appears to perfect until his sister Samantha suddenly dies, leaving him as the sole guardian of her 9-year-old daughter Maddy, whom he has never even met. Even while he clings to his life in the fast lane, he realizes everything must change if Maddy is to avoid the same pain he suffered as a child.

Director: Shiva Sanjari
Country: IRAN, Running Time: 81″
This is the story of a relentless spirit that refuses to be broken. The Iranian filmmaker known simply as Shahrzad in 1977 became the first female director in Iran after a successful career as a singer-dancer-actress. Two years later the Iran Revolution roared across the nation, and it has no room for a self-made woman like Shahrzad. The government never let her work again. Worse, she was imprisoned where she became mentally unraveled, eventually ending up in a mental institution. Today, she is 72 years old and dealing with a life in a small village in Iran. Oh, but her memories are wholly intact. This poignant documentary includes fantastic archival film footage of Shahrzad at the height other career.

Director: Avo Kaprealian
Country: SYRIA, Running Time: 90″
The film portrays the changes in the life of an Armenian family on Aleppo’s frontline in Al Midan, an area that brought shelter to the persecuted Armenians 100 years ago and today to many displaced Syrians. From the balcony of his home, the director films with a small camera the changes in his neighbourhood and his own family, interweaving his images with extracts from classical films to illustrate the parallels between the Armenian genocide and Syrians’ reality today.

Director: Michael Ferrell
Country: USA, Running Time: 83″
An unemployed writer in New York City, tries to juggle an unexciting boyfriend, an affair with a performance artist, and a vivid imaginary life.

Director: Sloan Copeland
Country: USA, Running Time: 90″
A humorous, cautionary tale about cyber threats in the digital age. Cover your webcam.

Director: Ana Asensio
Country: USA, Running Time: 80″
Luciana is a young immigrant woman is struggling to make ends meet in New York while striving to escape her past. As her day unfolds, she is whisked, physically and emotionally, through a series of troublesome, unforeseeable extremes. Before her day is done, she inadvertently finds herself a central participant in a cruel game. Lives are placed at risk, while psyches are twisted and broken for the perverse entertainment of a privileged few.

Director: Miranda Bailey
Country: USA, Running Time: 106″
In the center of the recent Tribeca Film Festival scandal surrounding his film, VAXXED: From Cover-up to Controversy stands Andrew Wakefield, discredited and stripped of his medical license for his infamous study suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease, and autism. The Pathological Optimist takes us into the inner sanctum of Wakefield and his family from 2011- 2016 as he fights for his day in court in a little-known defamation case against the British Medical Journal. Wakefield attempts to clear his name as the media-appointed Father of the Anti-vaccine movement. Director Miranda Bailey weaves a delicate portrait of a man who is THE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST utilizing a never-before-seen, full access look at the man at the center of one of the biggest medical and media controversies of our times.

Director: Adam Cushman
Country: USA, Running Time: 95″
Angela Burroughs has been submerging her violent impulses for years. After moving to the suburbs with her controlling new husband and his 9-year-old daughter, Angela starts to unravel. She becomes obsessed with a short story called The Yellow Wallpaper and begins to see parallels between her own life and the life within the story. As her husband Jeff remains oblivious to her emerging demons, Angela plunges deeper and deeper into her own dark reality.

Director: Nico Edwards
Country: USA, Running Time: 77″
The story of a small group of modern seafaring gypsies, following them as they strike out across the largest expanse of uninhabited geography on earth, in search of adventure, awe and whatever else lies at the far side of the world.

Director: Kevin Phillips
Country: USA, Running Time: 100″
A harrowing but meticulously observed look at teenage lives in the era prior to the Columbine High School massacre.

Director: Barbara Kopple
Country: USA, Running Time: 91″
Are there limits to your love for your family? One family’s acceptance is tested when a champion diver, destined for the Olympics, announces they’re transitioning from male to female and invites their YouTube followers along for every moment. It’s a story about unconditional love and finding the courage to be yourself.

Director: Tommy Swerdlow
Country: USA, Running Time: 75″
Things grow more and more desperate, and ridiculous, as three heroin addicts drive all over Los Angeles in search of what they need.

Director: Kasra Farahani
Country: USA, Running Time: 99″
Joe is working on a political documentary about America’s “Golden Age,” with the support of his wife Joanne. However, he begins to descend into paranoia and roams the streets at night in this haunting psychological thriller.

Director: Jeremy Snead
Country: USA, Running Time: 90″
Video games have gone from an obscure science experiment in the early 1960’s to the biggest entertainment medium on the planet. Unlocked is a groundbreaking documentary from director Jeremy Snead that provides firsthand stories by industry icons, celebrities, consumers, and field experts on the culture, technology, history and future of the video game industry.

Director: David Tyson Lam
Country: USA, Running Time: 90″
She wanted a date. She got a million subscribers instead.

Directors: Jairus Mcleary and Gethin Aldous
Country: USA, Running Time: 89″
Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, three men from the outside participate in a four-day group-therapy retreat with a group of incarcerated men for a real look at the challenges of rehabilitation.

Director: Brian Woods
Country: USA, Running Time: 80″
Every day 3900 children die as a result of insufficient or unclean water supplies. ‘A World Without Water’ tells of the personal tragedies behind the mounting privatization of water supplies.

Director: Gabriel Cruz Rivas and Rodrigo Guardiola
Country: MEXICO, Running Time: 89″
A unique and introspective look inside one of Latin America’s biggest rock bands: Zoé. The film takes you on a contemplative and audiovisual journey through one of the bands decisive years.

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