The 5th Annual Burbank International Film Festival (BIFF) got off to a strong start last Wednesday with its screening of the full-length documentary, The Brothers Warner at Warner Bros., a landmark Burbank business since 1928. “I can’t tell you what it means for me to open this film on the family lot,” said writer/director Cass Warner Sperling, granddaughter of studio mogul Harry Warner. And it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate place for BIFF festivities to begin. “It all started in Burbank with Warner Bros.,” stated BIFF President and Festival Director Jeff Rector.
The fun continued Thursday at Universal Studios, with comedy and new media/drama offerings. Friday and today, Saturday, Burbank’s AMC 6 features animation, drama, faith-based films and sci fi/horror fantasy. Tomorrow, Sunday, Woodbury University will host foreign film and documentary shorts. BIFF concludes at the Castaways tomorrow night with the Closing Night Dinner and Gala Awards Show, with ever-popular Fritz Coleman hosting.
“I want this festival to be the next Cannes,” stated Rector. And why not? As Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy reminds us, “Burbank is the media capital of the world. It’s important to have a film festival here.”
And it’s important for the filmmakers whose work BIFF is showcasing. “It’s a calling card,” Jeff states. Many of the films, especially the shorts, won’t be shown in today’s multiplexes. (Although the infomercial parody Guru to the Stars would be a great warm up act to any comedy feature. Burbank’s own AMC Theaters should give it a try.) Even films of feature length may not find a match among the brick-and-mortar venues. But at the very least the films can provide a convincing way for their creators and performers to shout, “Hey! I’m not just another wannabe. Watch what I’ve done! I’ve got snap! I can bring hot food to your party! Or if you like, some cold beers!”
Jeff wants to increase corporate sponsorship for BIFF. Mayor Emily points out in the BIFF program that there are “countless media businesses that provide animation, dubbing, mixing, editing, music, virtually any type of media services needed to support our Number 1 industry!” It would seem that BIFF could be a great publicity vehicle for these often-unsung heroes of the industry.
Jeff’s own comedy short, The Boardroom, is about an executive meeting where modern day corporate terrors are exaggerated only slightly. So it’s understandable that industry execs may want to escape their LA offices for film festivals on the French Riviera or the slopes of Sundance. But budding filmmakers should have at least one opportunity to make the hajj to Hollywood and see at closer hand the corporate world many of them hope to navigate their while somehow keeping their vision and inspiration (mostly) intact.
And wouldn’t it be a nice source of local pride if some future Spielberg or Tom Hanks were to say, “I want to thank BIFF for being one of the first to believe in me and encourage me to go on at a time when I was still just another unknown, and in hock up to my eyeballs.”
For more information, please visit www.burbankfilmfest.org. Quick notes: BIFF’s “faith-based” category recognizes an important film genre that reminds us that religious belief continues to be a wellspring of artistic inspiration. And especially praiseworthy is BFF’s showcasing of film from local middle and high school students, including those from Jordan Middle School (You Are Special), Burbank High School (Being) and Providence High School (The Catcher.)