The LA Film Festival gets a fresh fall start

LOS ANGELES — The LA Film Festival may be in its 24th year, but the local independent film showcase is stepping up with a new fall date, starry premieres featuring the likes of Tiffany Haddish and Henry Cavill and a re-energized commitment to spotlighting documentaries and diverse filmmakers.

The festival kicks off Thursday with the world premiere of "Echo in the Canyon," a Jakob Dylan-produced music documentary about the Laurel Canyon music scene of The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and the Mamas and the Papas and how it continues affecting musicians today. The event, which will be held at the thematically appropriate Ford Theatres in Hollywood will end with a live performance under the stars.

It closes September 28 with the premiere of "Nomis," an independently-financed police thriller about an online predator from first-time director David Raymond. It features a notable cast including Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci.

"It's a role I know no one has seen Henry do. He's brilliant in it," Raymond said.

The bookends of "Echo in the Canyon" and "Nomis" encapsulate what the "new" LA Film Festival represents, festival director Jennifer Cochis said.

"We're trying to support films and filmmakers who might not be amplified elsewhere and at the same time provide audiences with unique filmgoing experiences," Cochis said. "Opening in the canyon with a musical performance after? That's something I won't be able to replicate."

Cochis, who is in her first full year as the head of the festival, has been behind many of the changes, including pushing the often-overlooked festival from its longtime spot in the summer back to September. It now follows some of the year's biggest festivals like the Toronto International Film Festival and Telluride.

"There was a disconnect between the types of films the festival was playing in its core programming and what was out in theaters. Moving it to the fall is almost realigning ourselves with the type of storytelling that was present in the fall corridor," Cochis said. "It feels like a more natural fit."

The festival which is put on by Film Independent, the organization behind the Indie Spirit Awards, has also long supported diverse and unknown filmmakers, and this year is no different. Of the feature films, 42 percent were directed by women and 39 percent by persons of color. In the short film section, the numbers are even higher.

It also features offerings from some of the year's higher profile festivals, including the buzzy climbing documentary "Free Solo," ''Tea With the Dames" and Rupert Everett's "The Happy Prince," and retrospective screenings of films like Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet," ''The Dark Crystal" and "Mystic Pizza."

The political comedy "The Oath," starring Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish will also get its world premiere at the festival on Tuesday, before opening in theaters nationwide in October.

"Our programming is not some overwhelming thing. It's a tight selection of movies," Cochis said. "Truly, without sounding like a car salesman, there really is something for everyone."

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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