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Sundance Programmers Talk LA’s NEXT FEST, Which Pairs Movies & Music Downtown

Sundance Programmers Talk LA's NEXT FEST, Which Pairs Movies & Music Downtown

Did you miss the Sundance Film Festival? Well, the Sundance Institute is returning to Los Angeles with the second four-day NEXT FEST (August 7-10). This time they’re not showing the program at the Sunset 5 but are reaching out to the hipster crowd at a new downtown venue, the restored Theatre at Ace Hotel. Tickets are available here.

Six films familiar to Sundance Film Festival enthusiasts were culled from the 2014 NEXT program, which according to fest director John Cooper is “based on certain aesthetic rigorous renegade storytelling more on outer edge.” But this time Sundance programmers, led by Trevor Groth, are pairing some films with a Q & A or live stage concert, to create a must-see event. Sundance is so packed with world premieres that even many attendees will want to play catch-up. 

The festival will kick off on August 7 with a 10th anniversary screening of “Napoleon Dynamite” with Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Among the film and music acts to show at the Ace are A24’s zombie love story “Life After Beth” with solo acoustic performer Father John Misty, “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” with the Zellner brothers (which lacks domestic distribution), Tribeca’s romantic comedy “Listen Up Philip,” “Imperial Dreams” and R&B singer, songwriter and performer Tinashe (which lacks a domestic distributor) , Picturehouse’s “The Guest” with director Adam Wingard, and Kino Lorber’s Iranian Vampire flick “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” with indie rock band Warpaint.

Sundance has been adding sidebar programs to the January festival. Sundance USA takes fest entries to cities around the country right after the festival. Film Forward, a foreign cultural diplomatic effort partnered with the U.S. government’s President’s Council for the Arts, targets underserved younger generations with programming, this third and last year in Sarajevo and Indonesia. Sundance London takes the Sundance mission beyond U.S. borders. “We’re doing these things including London as a continuing effort to build audiences for indie film and connect audiences with the work released in Park City,” says Cooper. “This NEXT FEST is a continuation of last year’s. Our genuine impulse was to put together a program that was inventive and different from any festival we’ve done before.”

In many ways the NEXT section offered the most exciting films on display at Sundance, so the programmers wanted to bring the films to more people. Last year, says Groth, “we learned there is definitely an appetite for these kinds of specialty films that have taken on a life of their own. We wanted to make the NEXT section even bigger, and bring bigger awareness for them. This is such a big town that to make noise you have to do something on a certain scale, so we picked a bigger venue. It’s important to Robert Redford, the cross-pollination of the arts. Music has a role in Park City and Sundance London. So we’re doing something new with Next Fest that’s all about new ways of telling stories in film.”

The Ace offered a venue where they could both do screenings and concerts and “create a social space around it,” says Groth, “with DJs in the lobby after the performance, so people can come out to talk about the film and the music, and extend the conversation round these films.” 

Groth also hopes that the LA screenings will “enhance awareness and excitement” around two of the films that still lack distribution, “Kumiko Treasure Hunter” and “Imperial Dreams.” 

The tickets are reasonable: $15 during the day and $25 with a nighttime performance. 

The full schedule is below:

Thursday, August 7Cinespia at the  Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Napoleon Dynamite (Director: Jared Hess, Screenwriters: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess) — From the rural town of Preston, Idaho, comes Napoleon Dynamite – a new kind of hero. He spends his days drawing magical beasts, working on his computer hacking skills to impress the chicks, and begrudgingly feeding his Grandma’s pet llama. When his friend Pedro runs for class president, Napoleon helps him triumph over adversity. The film premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Cast: Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Jon Gries, Sandy Martin, Efren Ramirez. Special guests to be announced. 10th ANNIVERSARY SCREENING

Friday, August 8, 8:00 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel 

Life After Beth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love. Soon his whole world turns upside down… Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Father John Misty — Father John Misty is the charismatic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and performer who released his debut album, Fear Fun in 2012 to universal praise. The acclaim, emboldened by his incredible live show, led to multiple sold-out tours and high profile TV performances on Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He is currently at work on his follow up, due in early 2015. NEXT FEST will feature a solo acoustic performance.

Saturday, August 9, 1:00 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel  

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter / U.S.A. (Director: David Zellner, Screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner) — A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune. Cast: Rinko Kikuchi. Winner of a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Followed by a conversation between director David Zellner and co-screenwriter Nathan Zellner with a special guest to be announced.


Saturday, August 9, 4:45 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel 

Listen Up Philip / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry) — A story about changing seasons and changing attitudes, a newly accomplished writer faces mistakes and miseries affecting those around him, including his girlfriend, her sister, his idol, his idol’s daughter, and all the ex-girlfriends and enemies that lie in wait on the open streets of New York. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Josephine de La Baume. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Followed by a conversation between director Alex Ross Perry and Jason Schwartzman with a special guest to be announced.

Saturday, August 9, 8:30 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel


Imperial Dreams / U.S.A. (Director: Malik Vitthal, Screenwriters: Malik Vitthal, Ismet Prcic) — A 21-year-old, reformed gangster’s devotion to his family and his future are put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles. Cast: John Boyega, Rotimi Akinosho, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer, De’aundre Bonds. Winner of the Audience Award: Best of NEXT <=> at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Tinashe — Tinashe does everything on her own terms. The stunning 21-year-old singer, songwriter and performer arrives with a distinct and dynamic vision of R&B punctuated by hip-hop attitude, pop flavor, rock swagger and electronica spark. It all comes to life vividly on Aquarius, her forthcoming full-length debut on RCA Records.

Sunday, August 10, 4:00 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel 

The Guest / U.S.A. (Director: Adam Wingard, Screenwriter: Simon Barrett) — A soldier on leave arrives at the home of a fallen comrade. Friendly and helpful, they welcome him in, but when people start mysteriously dying in town, mayhem ensues as their teenage daughter starts wondering if he’s responsible. Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Chase Williamson, Brendan Meyer. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Followed by a conversation between director Adam Wingard and a special guest to be announced.

Sunday, August 10, 7:45 p.m.

Theatre at Ace Hotel


Girl Walks Home Alone at Night / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour) — In the Iranian ghost town of Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, depraved denizens are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó, Milad Eghbali. LOS ANGELES PREMIERE

Warpaint — Warpaint was formed in 2004 and comprises Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa. They recently released their self-titled second album to rave reviews. Rolling Stone described it as, “The perfect backdrop for your next midnight séance or moonlit dance party” and W Magazine said, “If the LA band’s first album was the sonic equivalent of falling into happy slumber, then its newly released follow-up is a beautifully lucid dream.”

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