Your Behind-the-Scenes Guide to an L.A. Weekend at NEXT FEST

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L.A. Times

Detractors will have you believe Los Angeles is a town too sprawling, too disconnected, too eternally vain to become a whole – let alone argue whether that whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Au contraire! Sundance NEXT FEST, our summer film and music festival eschews Eastside vs Westside, Beach vs Valley, and 405 vs 101 in favor of convening our collective stories and soundtracks at the heavily air conditioned Theatre at Ace Hotel DTLA for a weekend in sweltering August.

Direct from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, these movies make their LA debuts alongside comedic and musical performances and Q&As moderated by special guests. You can find the entire program here, and our own Senior Programmer and NEXT FEST brain trust member Charlie Reff Sextro is here to walk us through it all.

Gente-fied, both formally and narratively, feels right at home in this program. It’s a web series, but it also has this intimate relationship with LA and the effects of gentrification on Latino culture.

Charlie Reff Sextro: The cool thing is that so many of the projects and musicians playing at NEXT FEST are Los Angeles-based, and a lot of these projects were shot in LA. Gente-fied made sense because the community that it’s about, Boyle Heights, is a neighborhood that’s extremely close in proximity to the [Theatre at Ace Hotel in DTLA]. It’s a few miles away. We didn’t get to show the entire season at the Festival in Park City, so now is the first time we’re going to show it in full. [Get tickets to Gente-fied]

And immediately after you're showing Gook, which is a more hard-hitting look at race relations in LA at the time of the Rodney King riots. Even the name, a pejorative, suggests a lot about the film.

Charlie: ...and it goes into the movie Bitch afterward [laughs]. There are weird themes that come out when we’re placing this program and when we think about what would be appealing as a double feature or a full day at the theatre. But with Gente-fied and Gook, both movies depict such obvious and real things happening in communities within LA, and both take a close look at how these communities deal with both the external and internal pressures. They show LA in very different ways stylistically, but they get at the same core truths. [Get tickets to Gook and Bitch + Sleigh Bells]

Brett Gelman in Lemon.

Lemon seems like a film conceived for actor Brett Gelman, who has this capacity to make things as discomfiting as possible in the most comedic way. How do you describe this film to audiences and what’s the relation to the post-movie performance from Lizzo?

Charlie: Lemon is a very funny comedy, and playing it for the first time in Los Angeles is going to attract a perfect crowd. It follows Isaac Lachmann (Gelman) as he goes through a real comedy of failures in his life, from his career to his relationships, including his blind girlfriend leaving him. It’s going to be a raucous experience; people are going to lose their shit. And then Lizzo, while she’s pop and fun, she’s also very subversive and she’s got a real strong sense of humor. She’s an incredible entertainer. That was the conversation we had with Brett Gelman and [director] Janicza Bravo when we were trying to set the right energy following the film. [Get tickets to Lemon + Lizzo]

L.A. Times is a real clever evaluation of the times in the way that it looks at self-perception and the carefully crafted versions of ourselves that we share with the world.

L.A. Times is such a good match for the day with Golden Exits, which plays earlier in the day on Sunday, because they follow these groups of loose acquaintances and they both examine the internal dilemmas of day-to-day life and relationships. They really dig into the malaise and humor and uncomfortable relationships in a very human way for audiences to identify with.

Jorma Taccone from Lonely Island produced and acts in L.A. Times, and his younger brother Asa is the lead singer of Electric Guest, who are performing that evening. It’s our Taccone brothers spectacular. Created specifically for those people who were looking for a Taccone brothers pairing [laughs]. [Get tickets to L.A. Times + Electric Guest]

Lead photo:

L.A. Times