The Los Angeles Film Festival unveiled its lineup of movies and closing night film, Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, for the 10-day event in Hollywood's hometown that annually lures some of the world's top filmmakers.
Magic Mike, a comedy loosely based on actor Channing Tatum's days working as a male stripper, joins nearly 200 other movies, short films and videos with a wide range of subjects made by first-time filmmakers and veterans such as Woody Allen, whose new "To Rome With Love" will open the festival on June 14.
"We've very excited about our opening and closing nights, from Woody Allen to Soderbergh's Magic Mike," artistic director David Ansen told Reuters. "I think we've got some really dynamite big movies and some amazing galas."
Also having its world premiere is screenwriter Alex Kurtzman's directorial debut, People Like Us in which Chris Pine stars as a fast-talking salesman who must fulfill his estranged father's dying wish.
Gala screenings will take place for Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won a top jury prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, as well as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, and Middle of Nowhere by Ava DuVernay, who won a best director trophy at Sundance.
The Los Angeles Film Festival, or LAFF, is run by non-profit arts group Film Independent, which also sponsors the Independent Spirit Awards that annually take place the day before the Oscars and are among the top honors for indie and art house movies.
In its 18th year, LAFF has gained in stature among the world's top movie gatherings by screening a range of films from big names like Allen or Soderbergh and by breaking out emerging filmmakers in its competitions.
This year's narrative films vying for awards include 10 premieres with titles such as Dead Man's Burden from director Jared Moshe and Breakfast with Curtis by Laura Colella.
Nine documentaries will compete for honors including 25 to Life from director Mike Brown and Vampira and Me by R.H. Greene. In other sections, LAFF also showcases international films and U.S. independent movies, such as Jonathan Demme's Neil Young Journeys.
This year's movies, picked from around 5,200 submissions, come from 30 countries around the world. The audience, by contrast, will be made up of movie fans and major studio executives and industry professionals who have the potential to springboard a first-time filmmaker into a full-time career.
"It's LA. It's the heart of the entertainment business. The craftspeople, the artists are all here. So we have a great opportunity to really blow that out and we plan on doing it," said festival director Stephanie Allain.
Before the festival, filmmakers will gather at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in northern California where they can get to know each other away from the glare of Hollywood's lights.
Included is a Craft Day on which young filmmakers and festival attendees gain access to composers, editors, cinematographers and other working professionals.
"It really does speak to the mission statement of our parent organization, Film Independent," said Allain. "It's really about getting unique voices out there and supporting independent filmmakers. The festival is really a reflection of that."
LAFF runs from June 14 to June 24. A full list of films in the lineup can be found at www.lafilmfest.com