Octavio Is Dead!
Octavio Is Dead!

The 10th DTLA Film Festival, taking place October 17  to 21, announced today the 11 documentary and 17 narrative feature-length movies in the 2018 line-up, under the of women’s empowerment, a nod to the #metoo and #timesup movements. In keeping with the theme, 18 of the 27 (65%) of the new feature films screening at the festival are by women directors.

In separate ceremonies, Rosanna Arquette and Malcolm McDowell are to be honored with the festival’s Independent Film Pioneer Award for their body of work in independent cinema. Arquette appears in two films in competition at the festival. She stars in Amanda Sthers’ “Holy Lands” as a matriarch attempting to hold her family together even as she must confront her own mortality. The film, co-starring James Caan, Tom Hollander and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, will screen as the festival Centerpiece presentation. Arquette also co-stars in Sook-Yin Lee’s “Octavio Is Dead!” a contemporary ghost story. In a career spanning four decades, Arquette has appeared in many signature roles, including “Desperately Seeking Susan” (1985), for which she earned a Best Actress Golden Globe Nomination, “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “After Hours” (1985) and “The Whole Nine Yards” (2000). Over the past year, she has become a public face of the #metoo movement.

McDowell stars in the festival’s Los Angeles premiere screening of director Kayla Tabish’s “Culture of Fear,”a dystopian suspense thriller. Forever known for his iconic starring role as Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” (1971), he would go onto star in “O Lucky Man” (1973), based on his concept and the script that he co-wrote, Paul Schrader’s “Cat People” (1982), “The Caller” (1987) “Gangster No. 1” (2000), Robert Altman’s “The Company (2003), “The Employer” (2013) and literally dozens of other independent and studios releases spanning six decades.

In the festival’s tradition of presenting an archival movie to conclude the festival, this year’s Closing Night Film will be a special 20th anniversary screening of director Kevin Rodney Sullivan’s “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”(1998) with appearances by the cast and crew.

In “A Tuba To Cuba” filmmaker T.G. Herrington profiles a cultural institution, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, as they journey to Cuba in search of musical camaraderie and historical root. In “Underdogs,”first-time director Téo Frank also is in search of musical origins but with the focus on hip-hop, as he travels from his native Paris to New York. Hip hop plays another leading role in Sam Bathrick’s “16 Bars,”the third documentary in the festival’s music series. The film follows three inmates as they collaborate with Grammy -Award-winning artist Speech of Arrested Development, discovering painful elements of their past in the process.

Three inmates are also the subject of Tamara Perkins’ inspirational documentary “Life After Life”as they set out to prove their success on the other side. The theme of overcoming challenges permeates two films about veterans. In “Surviving Home,” co-directors Jillian Moul and Matthew Moul document the lives of four generations of warriors after returning from war. In Anita Sugimura Holsapple’s “Battlefield Home – Breaking The Silence,”a Vietnam era military child exposes the unflinching impact of war on family dynamics.

A battle of another kind is the subject of filmmakers Tricia Russo’s and Craig E. Shapiro’s “Love Always, Mom,”an inspirational documentary about a stage-4 cancer survivor’s journey to build a family after diagnosis. Family is also the focus of Ensar Altay “Guardian of the Angels,”a documentary profile of a widower who continues to find his wife’s love in his care of their child with special needs. In co-directors Liza Meak’s and Kathryn Basiji’s documentary “The Edge of Success,”it’s youth who take matters into their own hands when their high school is plagued by suicide clusters.

Social justice is manifested in myriad ways in fiction and nonfiction films screening at the festival. In Sally Colón-Petree’s documentary “Women Like Us,”three American women are inspired by the powerful women they encounter in Kenya, who against all odds are successfully confronting a host of social injustices from female genital mutilation to child prostitution. In “Give Us This Day”co-directors Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist track a year in East St. Louis, the city with the highest homicide rate in the United States. Told from the perspectives of both police officers and residents, a community plagued by gun violence experiences complex challenges, heartbreak and hope.

Also screening at the festival are two dramas that tackle social injustice. In Laura Somers’ “Rich Kids,”economic class divide is the backdrop as a group of teens from a low-income community break into a mansion to enjoy the good life if only for a day. Class divides also figures into the theme of Collin Schiffli’s dramatic feature “All Creatures Here Below,”about a destitute couple struggling to find refuge for themselves and a stolen infant.”

The impact of crime is explored in Wes Miller’s “River Runs Red,”about a hardened detective (John Cusack) and a grieving father (George Lopez) who take the law into their own hands when police violence spirals out of control. Taye Diggs co-stars. Jay Francisco Lopez’s “Love, Cecy”is based on a true crime story of a promising high school student whose brutal murder was chronicled by the media nationwide. In Richard Levien’s “Collisions,”a 12-year-old must turn detective when she returns home with her younger brother to find their house ransacked and their immigrant mother missing.

Searching for a lost loved one is also the theme of Ilana Rein’s suspenseful “Perception,” the story of a successful businessman who comes to believe that a small-time psychic has the power to reconnect with his dead wife. Psychological thrills freefall in Angela Matemotja’s “Elevate,” a set of intertwining stories about people trapped in elevators who must face their greatest fears. In Amanda Kramer’s “Paris Window,” adult siblings Julian and Sunny are caught in a trap of their own making as they maneuver hallucinatory paranoia and sinister conspiracies in their otherwise lovely pied-à-terre.

Comedy and drama blur in several films screening at the festival. Director Sean McGinly uses a light touch to explore profound questions about life, love, friendship and family in “Silver Lake.”Wendy McColm’s “Birds Without Feathers”also navigates the shoals of human connections in her black comedy about six broken individuals on their quest for love. Nancy Goodman’s rom-com “Surprise Me”is a seemingly light-hearted story of an event planner but with a darker undercurrent about eating disorders. Jean Lee throws cautionto the wind in her absurdist comedy “Original Sin,”which follows the consequences to the marriage of a respectable couple when an enfant terrible artist pays a visit.

Lines blur as well in Joy Shannon’s genre-bending “My Dead Selfie,”a ghostly horror story that tackles head-on issues of racism and racial identity in America. In Anne-Sophie’s “Ballet Blanc,” the innocence of childhood reveals itself as a bloody terror in a unsuspecting small town.

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