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Photo by Barbara Moore A fashion show featuring Burray Olson was the highlight of the opening night party for the Malibu Film Festival Friday night. Above, Model Ava Jensen, a Czechoslovakian screen star, models Olson's creation with flair.

The Malibu Film Festival celebrates its fourth year

By Kim Devore/Staff Writer

There have been highs, there have been lows, mishaps, mix-ups and meltdowns and yet, the International Malibu Film Festival has managed to sail through another year. This year’s celluloid showcase got off to a smooth start on Friday night with a screening of “Lou,” the story of a stuttering world-class boxer turned motivational speaker directed by Malibu filmmaker Bret Carr.

Following the presentation, an eclectic group of locals with tudes, out-of-towners with tats, directors, models, actors and others made their way down the coast for the opening night gala at Duke’s Malibu restaurant. It wasn’t quite the posh confines of the Malibu Castle of years past, but what it lacked in elegance, it made up for in spirit and style.

Speaking of style, there was definitely a fringe element in this crowd. The evening featured a fashion show of fab Pocahontas frocks courtesy of ’70s fashion icon Burray Olson. Olson’s terrific togs have graced the bodies of musical legends like Janis Joplin, Neil Young and Crazy Horse as well as Carlos Santana – and if you’ve ever spied cowboy crusader Jerry Spence on “Court TV,” you know just the kind of buckskin beauties we are talking about.

Festival hipsters lined up at the Patron tequila bar and talked shop while sampling a Hawaiian smorgasbord of baby lamb, spring rolls, seared ahi and roast beef. They included 20-year old Brandon Crawford who is playing the lead in a low budget short called “Shadow Chaser.” “I am hired by the Chinese Mafia to be a stalker, but I fall in love with the girl.” Does the girl fall in love with him?

“No, she doesn’t even know I’m alive.”

Ahhh … a timeless story.

With screenings on the twin screens of the Wallace New Malibu Theater, the festival offered up seven features including one by actor/director Steve Guttenberg, and another by local Ash Adams, who co-produced, starred and directed his feature “After the Past.” There were six animated films as well as 11 documentaries on subjects covering everything from the 2000 presidential election in “Unprecedented” to the story of World War II Navajo code talkers called “True Whispers.” There was also a string of shorts. They ranged in length from 2 minutes to 37 minutes with catchy and intriguing titles like “003-Embryo,” “As Virgins Fall,” “Firepussy” and “20 Floors Under the Sea.”

For all the hoopla, the festival’s future remains uncertain. Festival organizer David Katz was pleased with this year’s attendance, but disappointed in what he sees as a lack of community support. Katz says he needs about $200,000 to keep the show up and running. If it does make it to year five, future festival winners could put their entries up for consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The festival wrapped up in traditional style with an awards presentation at Taverna Tony’s. But win or lose, the festival continues to serve its purpose-that is, giving independent filmmakers a place to showcase their talents. Although some could go on to become the next Nicholson, Spacey or Spielberg, many seem to have realistic expectations.

“The chances of making it big as an actor are one in a million,” said Crawford, a one-time business major. “My parents want me to stick with something more stable.”

Still, it’s hard to shake Hollywood’s irresistible allure.

“It’s been great,” he adds,” makes me want to act even more.”

See next week’s issue for reviews on the winning films and a wrap on the awards dinner.