First published in the Sept. 17 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The 14th annual Burbank International Film Festival (BIFF) culminated with a closing night awards gala at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center this past Sunday evening.
During the red-carpet arrivals of dignitaries, filmmakers, actors and actresses, Kurt Patino, who grew up in Burbank and now serves as the BIFF president, said he was extremely pleased with this year’s festival.
“We really expanded the festivities and heard from many filmmakers and attendees that they loved Burbank — the theaters, the people and being in the place where films are made,” Patino said.
Queried on his overall take on the 180 films from 25 countries that were showcased in this year’s four-day festival, Patino said he was very impressed and found it interesting that so many were intimate, personal, and family stories.
“I think that was very much inspired by the pandemic,” Patino reasoned.
Later in the evening, following dinner, Patino welcomed the assemblage to the ceremony telling them that, for him, the last few years have felt like we were all living in a movie.
“We all ran through the gamut of emotions associated with [the pandemic]. So, what did most of us do as we struggled with the outside world during that time? We found comfort sitting in front of our television screens and exploring new worlds,” Patino said. “Something inspired all of you to create, and I’m so very grateful that you did.”
Following his welcoming remarks, Patino introduced the evening’s hostess, actress and director Christine Lakin best known for her role as Alicia “Al” Lambert on the 1990s ABC/CBS sitcom “Step by Step.”
Inviting a cavalcade of people from all aspects of the film industry to the stage to make presentations of the evening’s awards, Lakin’s introduction of the presenter of the Collegiate Filmmaker Spotlight Award was received with rounds of laughter.
“Please welcome Lori Loughlin … oh, wait, no … she was unavailable,” Lakin said. “Actually, our next presenter is the most powerful man in Burbank, next to Fritz Coleman that is. Please welcome Mayor Jess Talamantes.”
After presenting the award, Talamantes left the sage as Lakin watched him.
“You know, we’re the only film festival that was able to book the mayor of Burbank,” she said with feigned smugness.
Along with Talamantes, other notable Burbankers in attendance included Natasha Middleton, the artistic director of the Burbank-based Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre, whose film “Dissension Within” was included in the festival.
Greeted by Mayor Talamantes and his wife Sandy as she arrived with her mother Natalie Tremaine, cinematographer Jose Hernandez, and her dance company’s producer Yasuein Paradise, Middleton was touched to learn that Patino had earlier passed the comment that her film was: “beautifully shot and emotionally captivating.”
“I was honored that our film was among those screened at this year’s festival,” Middleton said. “I have been so pleased with the feedback we got from so many people.”
A highlight of the evening honored another Burbank resident, Alessandro Gentile, a cinematographer who directed “Lodo,” a film that was included in the festival about a boy who experiences a series of supernatural events and an unexpected encounter in a forbidden cemetery.
Gentile received the inaugural presentation of the Tim Burton Burbank Native Visionary Award which is given in the name of the legendary filmmaker who grew up in Burbank and attended Burbank High School. The award was created to honor a filmmaker living in Burbank who has shown unique Burtonesque imagination and creative flair in their work.
Gentile, who was accompanied by his wife Luisa Frias and “Lodo” cast members Marita De La Torre, Laura Patalano, and Daniel Mora, said the award meant a lot because he has been greatly inspired by Burton.
“He really impacted my career, especially his film ‘Big Fish,’ which put me over the edge,” Gentile said. “So, when I heard my name called, I was floored. I had my hands over my face and was completely shocked. I was also grateful that I was given the opportunity in accepting the award to encourage my fellow independent filmmakers because we are engaged in an art form that is so special and unique.”
The following day Gentile reflected on the festival.
“Filmmakers really felt like they were cared about, and that makes sense because Burbank is the heart of the industry,” Gentile said. “Most other film festivals don’t offer anywhere near the same level of care, appreciation and respect for filmmakers.”
Mayor Talamantes said he had heard similar sentiments from many of the participants during the festival that, along with screenings, presented Q&A sessions featuring celebrities and industry professionals, receptions, parties and special events.
“As the host city, we have gotten a tremendous response from people who loved being here in Burbank which is so associated with the film industry,” Talamantes said. “We are equally thrilled to have them here because it is a great industry and the people who make films are the engine that makes our city work as the media capital of the world.”
At the conclusion of Sunday’s awards gala, Lakin thanked all the attendees.
“We hope to see you all next year,” she said. “And for you locals, I’ll see you all soon … while waiting in line at Porto’s.”
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.