Malibu Celebration of Film calls for

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Winners of last year's MCOF FILMS"COOL" competition at a dinner with legendary director, Robert Altman. From left: Samantha Reynolds, Ethan Kuperberg, Robert Altman, Chen Hsi Wong, Shea Kammer and Mel Shaw. Photo by John Heller

short film submissions from local youth

The second annual festival will have its film mentoring program, FILMS”COOL.” Winners of entries to the competition will have their films screened at the festival.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Celebration of Film will hit local screens in September for the second annual film festival that aims, as executive director Kim Jackson said, to showcase “the best of the best.”

MCOF is designed as a local community event to show films that have already won international film festivals during the past year-including award-winning features, documentaries, short films and animation screening-during five days at venues throughout Malibu.

Running Sept. 26-30, MCOF promises a diverse slate this year, with a new highlight, an Audience Award.

One of MCOF’s salient features is FILMS”COOL,” a part of its educational outreach program that awards prizes to the best short films created by young local filmmakers. This year’s screening committee of industry professionals includes Malibu residents Daniel Stern and co-chairs Amy Madigan and Ed Harris.

The entry deadline for the program is July 15, and MCOF will select six short films for presentation during the festival. The creators of the winning entries will be honored at a special ceremony and their films will be screened at the debut of the festival. The first prizewinner in each division will receive $1,000 and a mentorship with an entertainment industry professional.

“We have a mentorship with the producers of ‘Cold Case’ this year,” Jackson said. “This competition is open to all Southern California students and we’ll honor first, second and third place in each of two divisions, high school and undergraduate.”

The short film competition participants will enjoy extensive Q & A sessions with mentors and filmmakers after their screenings. “This gives voice to the next generation of talent,” Jackson said.

Several participants in last year’s FILMS”COOL” are pursuing their filmmaking dreams.

Ethan Kuperberg, who graduated from Agoura High School earlier this month, took last year’s first prize in the high school division with his short film “Anthony in the Key of B,” submitted when he was a sophomore.

“It was a musical satire on the whole college admissions process and how stressful it is,” Kuperberg said.

He shot his film with a mini digital video camera and edited it on his home computer.

“The festival last year was a great networking opportunity,” Kuperberg said. “But the best part was meeting Robert Altman!”

The late director was last year’s recipient of MCOF’s Courage Award.

The young filmmaker says he is attracted to “quirky comedies that celebrate the underdog and have big heart.” Kuperberg is off to Yale in September to study creative writing and film. “I don’t see myself ever doing anything else,” he said.

Shea Kammer won the undergraduate division last year with his short film, shot on 16mm film, “Everything Looks Perfect,” about a schizophrenic woman convinced a car is telling her it wants to be stolen. “I used to work at a mental health center in Long Beach and there was a lot of inspiration,” Kammer said dryly.

Kammer followed up his graduation from USC with jobs on local productions and is currently working as an accounting assistant with David Mamet’s production of “Redbelt.”

“I was thrilled to meet Robert Altman last year,” Kammer said. “He told me how prospects for young filmmakers are so dynamic now because production is more democratic and distribution is so accessible, thanks to the Internet.”

Artistic Director for MFOC, Nancy Collet, said she is selecting films for screening that “give the audience what they’ll like in terms of artistry and expression, but also will open their eyes to something new.”

“I’m looking for good story-telling,” Collet said. “I don’t read the credits. I put away the press kit. What makes a film unique is the vision of the director and the performances by the actors. If I am moved to tears, that’s good.”

This year’s MCOF lineup will offer a great deal of international fare representing different cultures and styles.

“The films you will see are audience-pleasing, certainly,” Collet said, “but you will also see stuff that reminds us that the whole world is not like privileged Malibu.”

Screening venues for this year’s festival will be at Pepperdine University, the Malibu Cinema in Cross Creek Plaza, Bluffs Park and the pier. Jackson has scheduled a press conference Aug. 28 to announce the program guide and the winners of the FILMS”COOL” competition.

MCOF is partnering creatively with local businesses to “celebrate Malibu as a community,” including the Malibu Beach Inn, which will host the gala for the Courage Award recipient.

And, with a nod to growing environmental awareness, Jackson said, “We are promoting green practices with this festival. We recycle all our electronics and use recycled paper products. It’s about working to keep our Malibu event green, but keeping our planet [healthy] as a priority.”

More information about the MCOF can be obtained online at www.mcof.org