After Jon Fitzgerald and Brad Parks’ philanthropic body Cinecause acquired the Hollywood Film Festival (HFF) in February of this year, the event has received a total make-over and now promotes socially conscious films.
Fitzgerald, the Slamdance co-founder and former executive director of AFI FEST and the Santa Barbara and Abu Dhabi festivals who served as HFF executive director in 2013, has introduced the Horizons discovery section and lined up a string of presentations. The festival runs from October 16-19 and will screen 60 films and award four prizes.
Opening night films are world premieres of Justin Arana’s My Name Is Water (pictured) produced by Sharon Stone and Yasu Shibuya’s Pancakes, alongside the US premiere of Michael Barnett’s Becoming Bulletproof. Harry Belafonte has been awarded the first Cine Cause ChangeMaker Icon award.
Fitzgerald and managing producer, tech mogul and Cinecause partner Parks talk about their new festival. For the full festival line-up click here.
Why did you and Brad buy the festival?
Jon Fitzgerald: Brad, my partner and I decided it made sense to acquire the festival because it fit into the mission of connecting social impact films to related causes. This was an opportunity to make this festival socially relevant. I was very aware there were a lot of festivals in Los Angeles and the most important question was can we make this different.
Brad, what drew you from the world of socially conscious tech to film?
Brad Parks: I’d met Brad at a film festival and was attracted by what I saw. When Jon said we should acquire the festival I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I came over in February [from Iowa] and have been here ever since.
Tell us about moves in the Cinecause Spotlight section
JF: The Cinecause Spotlight is the name of the section in the festival that will become our most important section. When you think about social impact films the instinct is to think documentaries and while we have a lot of documentaries in that section, there are some really interesting narrative films.
One of them is called Noble, which has won awards and is about [Christina Noble Children’s Foundation founder] Christina Noble’s work supporting children in the streets of Saigon. The other one that’s really interesting is an international film called Sold, about human trafficking. It’s about a young girl sold into a brothel in India. It’s important to know that we want to acknowledge all social impact stories and not just the documentaries.
There are lots of movies on show. What are the other expected highlights?
JF: In addition to doing films and Q+A’s we’re doing some very unique presentations that are essentially glorified panels on really intense subjects that create a platform for audiences to learn more about issues and take action. We’re doing one on human trafficking.
One of the other major themes in a few of the projects is the issue of the water crisis. We have two films: Slingshot and My Name Is Water. [Inventor Dean] Kamen is the subject of Slingshot and he has created this device, while My Name Is Water is about this man who brings wells to poor regions.
We will see some interesting presentations, too: one of them is the drinkable book. Another theme is the idea of displacement. #ChicagoGirl is about a girl who helps revolts through social media and gives information to people in Syria.
Have partners got behind the idea of a festival dedicated to social impact films?
BP: Everyone has become engaged by the idea that out of 20,000 films a year there are a couple of hundred really good ones and maybe 10 that are amazing and as a culture we should help these films find audiences.