Ojai Film Festival To Honor Diane Ladd

The Ojai Film Festival (OFF) celebrates 24 years of “Enriching the Human Spirit through Film” November 2 through 19. The live event kicks off with free opening night festivities at Libbey Bowl. Music by Spencer The Gardener welcomes patrons starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by Diane Ladd accepting the 2023 Distinguished Artist Award at 6:30 p.m., accompanied by a screening of her latest film “Isle of Hope.”

OFF moves to the Ojai Art Center for the next four days, November 3 through 6, to present 86 short and long films, including narratives, documentaries, and animations, plus seminars.

“Over the last 24 years, the Ojai Film Festival has been a source of joy and cultural enrichment for our community,” Artistic Director Steve Grumette said. “We’re proud of the impact we’ve had and look forward to many more years of bringing people together through the power of cinema.”

Many of the films examine people’s relationships. Short films “Bound” and “Shadow Brother Sunday” explore strained bonds between brothers. On the other hand two documentary features depict brothers collaborating. In “Live at Mister Kelly’s” two brothers transformed a family coffee shop into an entertainment empire. “The Canote Twins” shows identical twins who’ve played music together for most of their 70-plus years.

Several other films revolve around music as well. “Called to the Mountains” documents a Japanese bluegrass band. In “The Orchestra Chuck Built” a lawyer-turned-conductor sets out to rectify the reality that blacks comprise less than two percent of professional orchestras. The short “Career Day” shows how a depressed accountant finds new hope when he resurrects his former identity as a singer in a boy band. In “First Chair” a gifted clarinetist struggles with rivalry.

Music also found its way into the Gold Coast program which spotlights filmmakers from the region surrounding Ojai on Monday, November 6. Peter Fox, a longtime fixture in the Ojai theater community, directed “Good Vibrations” a short about a girl who becomes bewildered when her music teacher suddenly retires. Bookending OFF’s first weekend with Spencer The Gardener, “More Than Just A Party Band” chronicles the colorful life of Spencer Barnitz.

Sprinkled throughout the weekend festival goers will find special events, including speakers and panels on film related topics. Mary Duda will shed light on how “AI is Changing Filmmaking.” Author Harry Medved will discuss “Hidden History of Hollywood West: Ojai and Ventura County’s Classic Movie Locations.”

For the third year in a row OFF continues its Diversity & Inclusion Program, sponsored by Panavision, with two panels on Saturday, November 4 at 4 pm. Luis Ramón Quintero, a director, writer and producer from Pacoima, will lead a dialog about “Latin Filmmakers in America.” Rosa Costanza, whose various roles ranges from producer to screenwriter and director, will moderate a panel on “Growth for Female Filmmakers.”

The female vibe runs strong through this year’s OFF. Two women celebrities, both subjects of documentaries, plan to make appearances. After “Unveiled: Joyce Tenneson & the Heroine’s Journey” on Friday, November 3, photographer and author Joyce Tenneson will sign books and exhibit photos at a reception in the Art Center courtyard. ‘Hot Tamale’ Susan Feniger, star of “Susan Feniger. FORKED.,” will bring her food truck on Sunday, November 5.

Online streaming of films begins Tuesday, November 7. While the virtual festival takes place in cyberspace until November 19, some live events will continue in Ojai. The highly anticipated follow up to the global hit “Kiss the Ground,” Big Picture Ranch’s “Common Ground,” screens at Matilija Auditorium on Saturday, November 11, 4 p.m..

Stay tuned to for updates on other events and to read descriptions of all festival films. Tickets come as single entry, four or six packs, or VIP passes. All seniors, students, active military, and groups of ten or more receive discounts. Ticket prices go up on November 1.

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