Topanga Film Festival Recap

Topanga Film Festival organizaers Shauna Farrell and Devon Baur demonstrated the power of community through local engagement. Photo by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times

Despite pouring rain that initially dampened the organizers’ spirits, the long-awaited Topanga Film Festival launched on a recent Friday evening and took off with a substantial crowd who turned up for the opening reception. They were not disappointed. After a wet dash inside, local and regional film aficionados were warmly greeted in the cozy surroundings of Rosewood’s Medici room that had been transformed into an indoor/outdoor lounge serviced with an ornate marble and wood bar.

Warmed up with wine, light snacks and live music from Ashley Norris, Corey Klass and Michelle Capra, the guests were led up to the Grand Salon, set up movie theater style. Under dimmed lights the big screen filled with expressive dancers and music that was alternately languorous, then kinetic, then orchestral. The Showcase of “movement driven short film work” was curated by Cari Ann Shim Sham, (NYU Tisch Associate Arts Professor,) her eighth year of participation. Each submission demonstrated compelling storytelling in under seven minutes, ranging from hyper-sensual, to playful, to sky diving intensity, with the audience visibly carried by the experience.

Another highlight was the Annual Short Film Competition: timely and innovative films showcasing emotionally resonant storytelling. Following the screenings, the crowd moved to Froggy’s for a jubilant after-party, while the competition judges retired to the privacy of the Rosewood kitchen to debate the highlights and merits of the films they had just seen. The winners: First Prize – Belle Gueule, Emma Benestan; Second Prize – A Doll’s Eyes, Jonathan Wysocki; and an honorable mention to High Chaparral, David Freid.

By limiting the number of tickets available, the TFF team focused on smaller audience sizes that fostered an intimate experience for all, holding space for deep and thoughtful conversations. With an eye on their Topanga roots, the team worked closely with community partners. Miranda Robin brought in restaurants, breweries and other local foodstuffs for the enjoyment of the attendees; she also organized an incredible volunteer team. William Bowling, Technical Director, and his team of wizards kept all systems go, effortlessly it seemed. Shauna Farrell, TFF producer, stated in the LA Times “This year’s festival started with a budget of zero dollars and grew into what it was through collaboration with lots of different people who got together behind our vision,” said Farrell. “TFF was and is a grassroots community effort.”

Filled with intriguing programs, panels of distinguished and extraordinary experts, stunning films and some of the world’s best and most awarded VR experiences, this 13th Annual Film Festival did indeed, go “deeper”.


Bonnie Morgan

Bonnie is the Chief Operating Officer for the Messenger Mountain News. She comes from a rich background of research, marketing and technology and is the company's business manager, web designer and social media geek.

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