Annual Las Vegas Film Festival makes its return
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Feature films, selected shorts and music videos reach the Las Vegas Hotel Theater and Shimmer Ballroom once again
Last weekend at the Las Vegas Hotel, many were witness to the Las Vegas Film Festival: a four-day event with screenings, awards and panels, and even a couple of big names along for the ride.
Thursday’s presentations primarily focused on Asian filmmakers, with screenings from movies that have dotted other festivals such as the San Diego Asian Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. While I didn’t manage to make it down that day for the festivities, the trailer for the Hangover-influenced Hang Loose did look pretty amusing.
Friday expanded into a wider selection with screenings encompassing documentaries on what it’s like to be a Bollywood star to an action thriller that takes place here in Las Vegas.
I opted to head down and catch Satellite of Love, a feature length exploration into what was one of the more odd love stories I’ve seen, yet fortunately wasn’t one of the cheesy romantic flicks typically in theaters.
Without divulging on details of the drama, the visual and audial aesthetics of the film were excellent, with settings taking place at some scenic, remote vineyard in the middle of nowhere with sounds ranging from Chopin to Thee Oh Sees. The ending wasn’t all that satisfying, but it certainly left one wondering.
Saturday brought the bar higher with a full selection of feature films, blocks of short films and appearances by Lea Thompson — who you might remember as Marty McFly’s mom in Back to the Future — and academy award winner Louis Gossett, Jr who won the award for best supporting actor in the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman.
As one might guess, the UNLV Film department was present in the form of an hour and a half presentation of short films.
While the 10 or so films all had a good portion of creativity and entertainment, there were a strong few that really stood out.
Homophobic, directed by Constanza Castro, had the crowd roaring with near-nonstop laughter leading all the way up to its climax, and continuing strongly afterward. Mentioning any of what made it so hilarious would surely give it away, and the title doesn’t really give a good hint of what it’s about. But when it all clicks, it does perfectly.
Ergo Sum, directed by Sigmund Wong, was the only thriller-esque mystery of the bunch, but it managed to hold well on its own with a gritty black and white setting and a plot looking into how the main character woke up in a bathroom with two dead people. The gritty setting plus the nonlinear plotline reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s early films, such as the neo-noir Following and psychological thriller Memento, which surely earns it stars in my book.
My personal favorite was Shrunk, directed by Christine Melton, which focused on a young psychotherapist who has a few issues of his own —well, with his patients — but ends up seeking his own therapist in order to better manage his own sanity. An acid tab popped and a bottle of whiskey abound at points only add to the hilarity. Results? Awesome.
While the Las Vegas Film Festival is certainly no Cannes, nearly no Sundance and still in its humble stages after a few years of existence, it will hopefully grow over time. In the meantime, make sure to keep an eye out for some of the great work the UNLV film students are producing. You’ll be glad you did.