DTLA film festival to platform diverse slate of creatives

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The Downtown LA Film Festival will premiere 37 feature films, many set in L.A., and each meant to highlight different types of diversity. (Photo courtesy of DTLA Film Festival)

The Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, founded in 2008 as a non-profit volunteer-based organization, is holding its 11th festival from Oct. 23 to 27. With the main screenings held at Regal L.A. Live, alongside events in the Arts District and Pershing Square District, the festival will showcase more than 100 films with 37 features ranging from student short series to experimental short series. 

The festival’s aim is to showcase films by underrepresented groups in Hollywood like women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. 

“In a word, our festival is all about diversity,” said festival manager and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism alumnus Greg Ptaceck. “We’re hoping that our audiences come away from their experiences at the film festival with a better understanding of other people, people who come from a different culture, ethnicity, class or gender preference.”

Among the featured films is “Lost Transmissions,” a film set in Los Angeles that touches on issues of mental health and homelessness in the area, and “Pioneers in Skirts,” a documentary about the challenges women face in their professional careers.

“[‘Pioneers in Skirts’] follows my career as a director, but more importantly what women are dealing with in Hollywood,” said director and School of Cinematic Arts alumna Ashley Maria. “We speak to other filmmakers who are women and talk about what our common issues are.”

To address underrepresentation and gender bias in the film industry, 70% of the films featured at the festival are directed by women, hoping to correct the issues presented in Maria’s documentary. For Maria, the festivals’ efforts to include marginalized creatives help bring awareness to communities and topics that are often overshadowed.

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 “We’re raising awareness to a topic that can either be looked over really fast or assuming we’re done — we get that a lot where people assume that everything is fine, and we have to remind them that no, this stuff is still happening,” Maria said. “So, the fact that DTLA is bringing the awareness to it, bringing these films and bringing the audience in to see this kind of content made us excited to be a part of it.” 

Another unique characteristic of this festival is the Q&A section that allows audience members to ask the filmmakers questions about the filmmaking process, their directive choice and inspiration directly following the premiere of the film. 

“That’s a pretty unusual film experience, where you watch a film and then you get to ask the people who created it, the filmmakers, your questions about it,” Ptacek said. “It makes it a much more interactive experience.”

A turnout of 20,000 people, most of which would be young professionals in creative industries, is expected at the screenings and events based on previous years. Karolyne Sosa, the director of programming, said she hopes that the mission of entertainment and representation can extend to the large number of attendees.

“We’re hoping to entertain our audience and have them come away with an experience because we’re building a community in Los Angeles from filmmakers,” Sosa said. “We have filmmakers from all over the world, from the US, and of course in L.A., right in our backyard. We want them to have an experience with the film that they see or be exposed to a new subject matter.”

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