Kicking off Wednesday, the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) celebrates its 23rd edition with a strong slate of 48 feature films and 66 short films, including 37 World Premieres, two International Premieres, and nine North American Premieres. Produced by Film Independent, LA Film Festival Director Jennifer Cochis proudly exclaims that, “Within each [competition] section you’ll find discovery, diversity, and promising talent both in front of and behind the camera.” From opening night June 14 to close on June 22, festivalgoers will be treated to fine works of independent film from around the world. If given the opportunity, these are three sections to track at this year’s LAFF.

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Gala film screenings

The festival’s opening night film, Colin Trevorrow’s, “The Book of Henry” starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, and Jacob Tremblay is a tough ticket to score, as is the closing night film, Matt Splicer’s “Ingrid Goes West” starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. But looking for some buzzy star-power then check out the evening with Sofia Coppola, who will be screening her Cannes Film Festival winner, “The Beguiled” plus her earlier “Lost In Translation.” Two other galas are Ric Roman Waugh’s prison drama “Shot Caller” starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the comedic “Brigsby Bear,” starring SNL’s Kyle Mooney (who also co-wrote the script).

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LA Muse

One of the more popular selections of LAFF is the LA Muse competition. These are fiction and documentary films that “capture the spirit of Los Angeles.” Of the few films that I’ve had the opportunity to preview are two standout documentaries, “Skid Row Marathon” directed by Mark Hayes and “Mighty Ground,” directed by Delila Vallot. Both films chronicle the L.A.’s plight of skid row’s homeless, yet both offer subjects that are as unique, inspirational and should be celebrated for their diverse journeys.

Other titles getting early notice are “Fat Camp,” “The Classic” and “The Year of Spectacular Men.”

Nightfall

It’s interesting to see how horror film sections have become the norm at film festivals, and why not since the genre is consistently pushing the envelope. “Annabelle: Creation,” produced by the “Conjuring” team of Peter Safran and James Wan and written and directed by David F. Sandberg (“Lights Out”) receives a special advanced screening.

Plus there is the fright to be found from other voices around the world. LAFF offers eight films in competition to watch after dark. Three films of interest are Derek Nguyen’s “The Housemaid” from Vietnam, Sam Patton’s “Desolation” from the U.S., and Amanda Evan’s “Serpent” from South Africa.

Ticket and film schedules can be found at the Los Angeles Film Festival’s website.

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