Livermore Valley Film Festival coming to town
By Lou Fancher
There may be no intersection as fertile or as varied in what it produces as the crossroad of science and art.
In the Tri-Valley area, the paths of science and art overlap most obviously and commercially at local vineyards and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where state-of-the-art technology and constant creativity meet up on a daily basis. And like a broad swath of multihued paint decorating the intersection, schools, medical centers, public libraries, small family-owned businesses, environmental activists and, of course, performing arts venues throughout the region add to the overall picture of a science-y, up-to-date, creative and energetic community.
So a film festival celebrating where science meets art is a no-brainer -- and with the first Livermore Valley Film Festival on May 13-15, it's a reality.
"I missed having a film festival," says festival Director Lynn Monica. "I've attended them all over -- Chicago, London. I've driven an hour to San Francisco or longer, to Mill Valley, but we needed one right here. We have everything else; why not films too?"
For seven years, the area did host the California Independent Film Festival, which moved to Orinda in 2010. Monica found out about the area's film festival history only after coming up with her plan, but Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center Executive Director Scott Kenison says he knew the local film audience was ripe for a new opportunity to engage with the art form."It's perfect for Livermore," he says of the festival's focus on film, science and art. Even so, he was surprised by the enthusiastic response to the 48 Hour Film Crush competition. Filmmaking teams will be given 48 hours this Friday through Sunday to make 5-minute films incorporating four prescribed elements and within selected genres.
"I'm disappointed that I'll be too busy to join a team myself, but, who knows, there's still time left to join ..." says Kenison.
Monica has, in one sense, already joined the filmmaking phenomenon. "I used to be in high-tech, mobile games development. I wanted to do something different," she says.
"Different" turned out to be volunteering for nonprofits after moving to the area in 2001 but also learning to make her first film. After enrolling in a nuts-and-bolts-type workshop like the kind that is included in the Livermore festival, Monica made her first short film.
"The workshop I took and the one we're offering is intended to teach people the whole process. It's not just getting your idea on film, but how to produce and distribute it once it's made. I went through it, and for me, it was wonderful to have an idea and actually get to the next step of doing it."
In addition to the how-to workshop, composer Joseph Julian Gonzalez will offer a lecture about the essential role of music in film and invited Bay Area filmmakers to bring to a panel conversation their real-life experiences on a variety of projects.
Of course, film festivals aren't solely or even mostly for people working within or wanting to enter the industry. It's the great films that attract audiences. Monica says the net was cast wide to invite films not only made with art and science but films that tell compelling stories about science or scientists.
In addition to aligning with the theme and having noteworthy writing, editing and cinematography, she says the judges looked amid the roughly 100 entries for films that expressed an international flavor. Pleased that of the 40 feature, documentary and short films selected that at least one-third are from outside the United States, she's quick to emphasize that local filmmakers were also important to include.
"We wanted to give an award to a local filmmaker. We want to encourage art created right here, where we live," she says.
The opening festivities include a Tri-Valley premiere of "The Man Who Knew Infinity," starring Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. Based on the 1991 book of the same name by Robert Kanigel, the film tells the story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a young man during World War I with no formal mathematical training. Ramanujan was taken under the wing of English mathematician G.H. Hardy, and together the two men had a lasting impact on the field of mathematics.
The "Red Carpet Premiere" event includes an appearance by award-winning Broadway actress and comedian Julie Halston.
And beyond the glitter of opening night and the fervor of the Film Crush competition, be sure not to miss other gems that hold promise: Among many are "A Beautiful Equation," in which eight elderly women describe the work and lives of physicists Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr; and "Kirk" is a 30-minute film about Bay Area kinetic sculptor Jerome Kirk.
Films will be shown at the Bankhead Theater, at the Vine Cinema & Alehouse and at iGate, all in downtown Livermore.