Santa Clarita hosts the international festival

Movies are a powerful way to tell stories and provoke great emotions, but for independent filmmakers it can be difficult to get funding and viewers compared to established filmmakers in Hollywood.

So a small team of artists, entrepreneurs and small business owners with a common goal of supporting independent filmmakers created the Santa Clarita International Film Festival.

“I wanted to set the tone for this festival and part of a new platform for independent filmmakers, musicians, comedians, artists, etc.,” said Lisa deSouza, of Canyon Country, co-founder of SCIFF. “If you are a producer, a distributor looking for quality content, this is the place to come. That’s the point.

SCIFF had its opening night Thursday at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall, with a short film, “Two Heads are Better Than One”, and the feature film “Fireboys”. Each film was produced by independent filmmakers.

“Two heads are better than one” recounts conversations about peace and tolerance between Benjamin Ferencz, the last chief prosecutor living at the Nuremberg trials, and Yaacov Heller, a world-renowned artist and sculptor. These meetings led Heller to make the bust of Ferencz, now a hundred years old.

“We have to start with the young people,” Heller told the festival in a question-and-answer session. “Compassion and tolerance are what we need to be taught and learned by young people. All Holocaust studies are only compulsory in 19 states in this country, and they should be taught in all.

Opening night- host and emcee, Fritz Coleman, entertains with his stand-up before the start of the inaugural Santa Clarita International Film Festival held at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall on Thursday 120921. Dan Watson / The Signal

The bust was accepted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2020, according to Eric Kline, the film’s director.

“Fireboys” is the untold story of young men imprisoned in California who are offered a way out: by fighting forest fires. The film is a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of young men as they find the courage to fight fires and confront their pasts.

“Yes, it’s very unfair (the amount of money these young men make as firefighters while incarcerated). It also testifies to the contradictions that exist in this particular space of our prison system, ”said Jake Hochendoner, co-director of“ Fireboys ”, during the question-and-answer session. “And there is prison labor exploitation across the country where people are doing work – in this case, doing life threatening work and doing life saving work at the same time.”

There are writers and directors who cannot be heard or seen, so SCIFF is the place and the platform for them, deSouza said.

“These are the stories that need to be told,” deSouza said, referring to “Two heads are better than one” and “Fireboys”. “These are the stories that have to (be heard). Unfortunately, in the mainstream, you don’t understand this at all right now. ”

SCIFF was created just for this purpose, according to deSouza.

Kevin Roy, a member of SCIFF, said they wanted to start the festival two years ago, but COVID-19 pushed him back.

“But it gave us more time and we got the right people involved to help, like our hosts and the city,” Roy said. “We turned the negative into the positive and got all of these people on our side which really helped on opening night.”

SCIFF takes place this weekend and ends Sunday.

In total, SCIFF will show more than 100 films at the Regal Edwards cinema in downtown Westfield Valencia. The organizers will host 30 groups and 27 comedies which will perform in the square, which will be free for the public.

Opening night- host and emcee Fritz Coleman, left, chats with David Sonne, Trustee of the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Charitable Foundation before the start of the first Santa Clarita International Film Festival which took place held at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall

There is also a virtual program of over 30 films that anyone can enjoy.

“When we all got together we said (that) we were in it,” deSouza said. “We will see this until the end. Our goal is to be the next South by Southwest (an annual festival in Austin, Texas). In five years, that is our goal.

Members of SCIFF said the opening night was the inauguration of the festival. They believe that the festival can benefit the SCV by providing tourism and sponsorship.

But in the end, the organizers of SCIFF are grateful to the community that supported them, and deSouza said they were grateful to Regal Edwards Cinema, Newhall’s Laemmle for the venue and the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Foundation. for the financing of the festival.
The Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Charitable Foundation partners with colleges and universities across the country to provide scholarships, lectures and screenings to students of comedy in theater, film and television.

“I can’t tell you how many small businesses have gone out and bought (a sponsorship),” deSouza said. “Membership in the community, I think people have understood that. ”

For ticket prices and information, visit sciff.org.

Participants wait for the films to begin at the inaugural Santa Clarita International Film Festival held at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall on Thursday, 120921. Dan Watson / The Signal


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Darcy J. Skinner