When Worlds Collide

Community Partners Coordinator Miranda Bowling, Festival Director Devon Baur, and International Short Films Curator Shauna Farrell.


For the Topanga Film Institute (TFI), the art form of moving pictures is at the heart and name of their work. Even so, TFI sets its sights on the beyond time, where the unknown limits of visual storytelling are embraced with wonder. It’s fitting that TFI chose Rosewood as its cultural home to explore this dynamic, quickly evolving territory. The Spanish Colonial that shares a driveway with Froggy’s restaurant has thick adobe walls and the personality of a toreador in drag, with furnishings, fabrics and proportions that reflect a colorful past. Fused to this gorgeous, quirky structure is a series of streamlined contemporary work environments, airy volumes shaped with glass and white walls. These flexible, creative spaces welcome air, light and ideas and completely engage the beauty of Topanga’s landscape. It’s a bit of a fairy tale, the ultimate collision of past, present and future and an ideal setting for the 13th Topanga Film Festival.

Festival Director Devon Baur, grew up with the event that started in her parents’ backyard and developed into an annual cultural happening that vigorously embraces the evolution of the art form. Baur shared what’s new and different about this year’s festival.

Messenger Mountain News: What influenced the decision to move TFF from July/August to February?

Devon Baur: We wanted to host the event in our new space, but it was still under construction last summer. We thought the festival would be a great way to open the space to the public and a timely launch for our new year-round monthly screenings and events!

What will people experience this year that’s different than previous years? 

We are in only one location this year with a smaller event, while delivering the highest quality experience in a distilled, intimate quick burst of sensational films, panels, workshops and virtual reality (VR) with great opportunities for conversation and networking. In three days, we will cover dance films, short films, composers, makers, immersive storytelling, social impact, documentaries and more! The selected shorts will take the audience on a compelling journey through the experiences and imaginations of filmmakers from around the world that will be both thought-provoking and inspirational for all.

VR installations including The Doghouse by Makropol, which makes its the west coast debut here, and Giant by Milica Zec, a favorite at Sundance last year and one  that needs to be seen only in a festival context. 

What elements are you bringing back?

The International Short Film Competition has been the root of our festival since the beginning. Curator Shauna Farrell’s focus was to highlight excellence in storytelling. This will showcase and celebrate works by innovative and creative filmmakers from diverse backgrounds and investigate their themes without inhibition.

New media artist and filmmaker, Cari Ann Shim Sham, is flying in from New York to present another exciting Dance Film Showcase on Friday night, and SIMA (Social Impact Media Awards) will present a showcase of social impact short films curated specifically for Topanga. 

We will still have panel discussions with local and international industry professionals, on-site screen printing from Sparky Firepants, and of course our TFF party (TBA).

How was the curating process different than in previous years?

The two main questions that guided the curating process were, “What stories need to be told now,” and “How should we tell them?”

Is the website the only way to purchase tickets or can they be purchased at the gate?

A few tickets will be sold at the gate, but there will be only 100 seats for each event due to space constraints. We strongly advise people to book in advance.

You received a Masters degree in Performance Studies at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, with a special focus on “liveness” in digital culture. What from your studies and experiences in another country most deeply influences your work as Festival Director?

My studies make me question how stories are being told. We’re looking for innovation and creativity this year: When is it true to the story, and how to enhance it rather than dilute it. 

After receiving my Masters at Trinity, I was very fortunate to work for two years for “Live Collision,” a Live Art Festival in Dublin, directed by Lynnette Moran. From her I learned the importance of artful curation, finding the right stories for this time and city and how to create a context in which to present them. 


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