California Independent Film Festival Returns to Orinda Theatre

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(Courtesy of CAIFF)
A scene from Last Film Show, directed by Pan Nalin, is the opening night film of the California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF) at the Orinda Theatre. The film festival runs Nov. 10 - 17. Owner of the Orinda Theatre, Derek Zemrak, said this is the first time they’ve opened CAIFF with a foreign film with subtitles.

    Venice, Cannes and Orinda. Is one of these not like the other?
    It might seem that way, but in fact each is home to a world-class independent film festival.
    Although the European cities might be a little more famous, Orinda’s California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF) enjoys some distinct advantages, and not just because it doesn’t require a long flight and pricey hotel stay to enjoy extraordinary cinema.
    “Our festival is quality over quantity. You will not find a bad film,” said Program Director Efi Lubliner, who also runs the monthly International Film Showcase at the Orinda Theatre.
    CAIFF runs Nov. 10 – 17 at the Orinda Theatre, located at 2 Orinda Theater Square.
    “With other festivals, there’s a lot of mediocrity,” said Lubliner. “They have so many venues they have to fill.”
    Lubliner said he has carefully curated 24 films, including both national and global independent films. The program has something for everyone including dramas, comedies, timely documentaries and animated movies.
    The opening night selection, Last Film Show, is India’s submission to the 2023 Academy Awards. Reminiscent of Cinema Paradiso, the film celebrates movies with the tale of nine-year-old Samay’s passion for filmmaking and the struggle to achieve his dream.
    “It’s the first time we’ve opened with a foreign film with subtitles,” said Derek Zemrak, founder and president of the festival and owner of the Orinda Theatre. “Sometimes people are discouraged by subtitles, but they shouldn’t be. This film is so beautifully shot, you don’t even need to read them. That’s what motion pictures are all about, telling the story with moving pictures.”
    “It’s so charming, touching and wonderful,” said Lubliner of the movie: “People are going to fall in love with this film. They are going to leave the theater with a big smile on their face.”
    Opening night also features a party with a reception in the theater’s lobby and outdoor tent, accompanied by cocktails and appetizers prepared by Orinda’s Saffron Indian Restaurant & Bar.
    Viewers are invited to sing along with the classic musical romantic comedy Grease. Director Randal Kleiser and actor Barry Pearl, who played one of the T-birds, will offer commentary and answer audience questions.
    Kleiser will also be presented with the festival’s Golden Slate award, given each year for excellence in directing. Other directing credits of his include The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, The Blue Lagoon and Honey, I Blew Up the Kids.
    Two free family movies run Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 12-13 at 10 a.m. Saturday’s showing is Cats Don’t Dance, with veteran Disney animator Dave Woodman joining via Zoom. Sunday’s pick, The Court’s Jester, is a classic comedy starring Danny Kaye, which will appeal to children and adults alike. 
    A Man of Integrity, the Cannes Award-winning drama about injustice and corruption in Iran, will also run. The film’s director, Mohammad Rasoulof, is currently serving a prison sentence for his social media protest against police violence.
    The closing night film, Bet on Revenge, is an adventure film about one man’s struggles and redemption after the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. Director, Gábor Herendi, presently under house arrest in Hungary, joins the festival via Zoom.
    Several other directors from around the world will make Zoom appearances, giving audience members an opportunity to pose questions to them.
    Sidelined by COVID-19 concerns, this is the first Orinda film festival since August 2019. While other festivals transitioned to streaming during the pandemic, CAIFF Board members decided against that route.
    “We believe film festivals are about people getting together to experience films and talk about them,” said Zemrak. “Everyone is really happy to be back.”
    Visit www.caiff.org for more information.

Kathy Cordova can be reached at khcordova@gmail.com.

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