A highlight of the festival was the Best Documentary winner,
â€śFreedom From Despairâ€?
A Studio City Journalist Highlights "Freedom from Despair"
- by Marci Marks
Last Sunday the parking lot next to the Mannâ€™s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard was turned into a winter wonderland for the premiere of â€śThe Polar Expressâ€?. Cavorting in the fantasy land of snow and polar bear sculptures were star Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri who composed the original songs for the film, and Rob Reiner with a bunch of his kids loving every minute. Later, as the lights went down in the theater, Tom Hanks yelled â€śAll Aboardâ€? from the center of the theater to the delight of the crowd. Missing and missed was Josh Groban, stuck in NY, who sings the beautiful ballad â€śBelieve,â€? which is heard as the credits roll at the end of the film. Grobanâ€™s upcoming album and DVD, recorded â€śLive at the Greek,â€? in L.A., will be out next month.
Competing with the AFI Film Festival and the American Film Mart, The 2nd International Student Film Festival brought an extraordinary six-day program to the El Portal Theater in NoHo. Beverly Garland told the young filmmakers to never stop pursuing their dreams in the opening night ceremony at which Jennifer Lynch, following in dad Davidâ€™s footsteps, received the Honorary Young Directors Award. The Festival had over 100 films screened during a five-day period. Entries came as far away from Russia and as close as L.A.Valley College. Founder and ISFFH President Robin Saban said it best at the awards ceremony, â€śWhile we can only give out so many prizes, you are all winners,â€? perhaps speaking to a future Spielberg or Coppola.
A highlight of the festival was the Best Documentary winner, â€śFreedom From Despairâ€?, by Brenda Brkusic, a moving account of the untold history of Communist Yugoslavia. The film portrays the incredible journey of Kruno Brkusic, Brendaâ€™s father who as a young boy risked his life crossing the border to Italy from a repressive regime that suppressed Croatian culture through state-sanctioned terror, imprisonment and exile. Years later, as a successful businessman in Chicago, Brkusic became a voice to challenge the journalistic community and the first President Bush on their silence as Serbia massacred over 250,000 people in the Balkans. Acclaimed actors John Savage and Michael York donated their talents as the Narrator and translating Voice Over, respectively. Savage was also at the closing night ceremony to congratulate Brenda on her win. He spoke of how filming on location overseas had introduced him to the beauty of the land and the people of Croatia. This committed actor, who organized a childrenâ€™s theater group to perform for free in public housing, is currently filming the second season of the HBO Series â€śCARNIVĂ€LEâ€?, which I am anticipating.
Ashlee Simpson put the â€śSaturday Night Liveâ€? lip-synching debacle behind her with a shopping spree at Dari, the ultra hip Studio City boutique owned by William Shatnerâ€™s daughter, Melanie. With camera crew in tow, the younger Simpson sister showed she has the chops when it comes to shopping.
Studio City Sun