On June 1, the LA Film Festival kicks off its 21st year in its new primary location at the ArcLight Culver City with a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion. The festival’s feature competitions – U.S. Fiction, Documentary, World Fiction, LA Muse and Nightfall categories proudly herald the fact that 43% of the films are directed by women and 38% of the films are directed by people of color. As Festival Director Stephanie Allain notes, “The competition lineup of 42 world premieres echoes Film Independent’s mission to celebrate diversity and showcases a multitude of innovative, fresh voices.”

Looking at the U.S.

Fiction competition here are five films to be excited about.

“11:55” (Directed by Ari Issler and Ben Snyder)

With a nod to the classic western, “High Noon,” Ari Issler and Ben Snyder’s “11:55” follows U.S. Marine Nelson Sanchez (Victor Almanzar, also a co-writer) who is involved in the fatal shooting of a local drug dealer. When the brother of the deceased learns of Nelson’s homecoming, the clock starts ticking for an intense showdown.

“Blood Stripe” (Directed by Remy Auberjonois)

Another tale highlighting a protagonist from the military, “Blood Stripe” stars an impressive Kate Nowlin as battle-scarred marine returning home to Minnesota. Trying to readjust to ordinary life, Our Sergeant tries to keep it together and at first seems to be finding success by working at a picturesque summer camp.

But PTSD lurks below the surface and soon memories, nightmares and paranoia bubble up.

“Chee and T” (Directed by Tanuj Chopra)

There is no arguing that most film festival fare falls into the intense drama genre. But when a raucous comedy slips in, it’s like a breath of fresh air. A couple of years ago at LAFF festivalgoers were treated to the droll and hilarious “Forev.” Last year the comedic documentary, “Meet the Patels” took the baton.

This year the hope is high for “Chee and T.” Directed by Tanuj Chopra (who also is a co-writer along with Chee Malabar), “Chee and T” follow non-techie friends, Chee and T as they bust through Silicon Valley chasing down debtors, as well as their boss, Uncle Rob’s pill-popping, crazy-talking nephew.

“Paint It Black” (Directed by Amber Tamblyn)

Amber Tamblyn is a smart, talented actress, and her directorial debut, “Paint It Black,” hits LAFF with buzz. Adapted from Janet Fitch’s book, “Paint It Black” follows a young woman trying to cope with the death of her boyfriend, while navigating the twisty relationship with the deceased’s mother who holds her responsible. Starring Janet McTeer and Alia Shawkat, “Paint It Black” looks to astound.

“Tracktown” (Directed by Jeremy Teicher and Alexi Pappas)

Maybe it’s because of this summer’s Olympics, but excitement is high for “Tracktown.” Starring Alexi Pappas, who also co-directed and co-wrote along with Jeremy Teicher, “Tracktown” tells the tale of an elite runner who, on a forced day off, experiences life as a “normal” person.

An elite runner herself, Pappas will be competing in this summer’s Olympics in Rio (running for Greece).

The LA Film Festival produced by Film Independent runs from June 1 – 9 at the ArcLight Culver City. For Festival information visit the LA Film Festival website.

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