Seeing Stars

By  Logan Broyles

(Published in the September 2010 issue)


When Robin Laatz-Kozak moved to San Diego in 2000, she had no idea what she was going to do next.

"I didn't have a job," she says. "All I knew how to do was plan events, and the only contacts my husband had were in the film industry, so I thought it was only natural."

What came naturally to Laatz-Kozak (with help from her filmmaker hubby), was the San Diego Film Fesitval (SDFF). Ten years and nine film fests later, her efforts have helped to establish the SDFF as one of the nation's most respected events among movie buffs. The festival has premiered blockbuster and prize-winning films like Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite and Hustle & Flow (see the following page for three of this year's highlights), while also attracting Hollywood heavyweights like Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Dreyfuss, James Woods and Zach Braff.

MovieMaker magazine recently declared SDFF the "Best Regional Film Fest," put it among the "Top 25 Fests Worth Your Entry Fee" and placed it in the "Best Festival" category. SDFF has also garnered a reputation (one that Laatz-Kozak, as a former party planner, is proud of) for throwing the best afterparties. The industry's authoritative guidebook, The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide, placed SDFF in the top 10 of the "Best Party Fest" category. This year's soireés include the Se Hotel rooftop for opening night, the W Hotel for Friday night and a closing party at downtown's Wine Steals on Sunday.

Even with all the glitz, Laatz-Kozak maintains that anyone with a passion for movies is welcome to attend. Prices range from $12 for individual film screenings to $135 for a pass that grants access to all films and after-parties.

"The most important thing about our festival is that it's very accessible," says Laatz-Kozak. "That's the way we've kept it since day one."

San Diego Film Festival
September 29 through October 3, at multiple venues in the Gaslamp
sdff.org

Best known for his roles on TV shows like Felicity and Head Case, Rob Benedict stars alongside Jenna Fischer and Chris O'Donnell in A Little Help, which premieres in San Diego during the SDFF. Here, Benedict dishes to PacificSD on everything from kissing Fischer to his mad video-game skills.

PacificSD:

How is acting for a feature film different from acting on TV?
Benedict: You can't get away with as much in a movie. That is to say, with your face up on the big screen, the camera catches everything. Especially with a movie like this, you have to keep it real.

What was it like to work with Chris O'Donnell and Jenna Fischer?

Benedict: They are both terrific actors who give 100 percent to the performance. It was great.

There's a love triangle involving you and Jenna Fischer in the movie. Any steamy scenes?

Benedict: Yes.

Rate Jenna as a kisser on a scale from one to 10.

Benedict: I don't kiss and tell.

You have some of the most recognizable eyes in the biz. What's your second best physical quality?

Benedict: I've got great video-gaming thumbs. I mean, really, I'm a natural.

What are your favorite places in San Diego?

Benedict: A friend of mine studied at the Old Globe, so I've spent a lot of time in that area. There are some great restaurants nearby, and the experience of seeing a show there is truly spectacular.

The San Diego Film Festival is screening more than 75 movies and documentaries. Here are three that we think are especially worth grabbing a seat for.

Waiting for Superman

Director: David Guggenheim
Why you should see it: From the producer of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, this documentary tackles the issue of the United States' education system, offering a searing critique of our schools by following the struggles of three families.

Butthurt

Director: Vinnie Jones
Stars: Don Cheadle, Ben Affleck
Why you should see it: As if the title and seeing Vinnie Jones' directorial debut weren't enough (you may remember Jones as the crazed Brit in Snatch), the film's stars play extras in the gay porn industry. Uh...don't bring the kids.

Norman

Director: Jonathan Segal
Stars: Richard Jenkins, Adam Goldberg
Why you should see it: For Norman Long, lying about having cancer seems like an easy way to keep everyone at arm's length as he deals with his mother's death and his father's terminal illness. Leading actor Richard Jenkins was recently nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.


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