Life Out Here: More nutritious: film or carne asada?

It’s probably going to be too hot this weekend to go to Cousin Mikey’s annual backyard carne asada party, so your best alternative for entertainment — a great alternative, in fact — is the World’s Hottest Film Festival.

The third annual Imperial Valley Film Festival & Artist Showcase, a grand extravaganza indeed, will be staged in the Imperial Valley Mall, in various locations including the theaters, on Friday and Saturday.

I don’t get involved in community events in the Valley much anymore because, among other reasons, I realize my participation can be a negative as much as a positive. But the film festival is something different, something I truly believe in, and something to which I think I can make a contribution.

The previous two festivals were good but this one should be even better. We’ve moved the festival to summer, which is why it is, quite righteously, known as the World’s Hottest Film Festival. It is also hot this year because we have some well-known and well-connected movie producers and directors participating. We also have some fine films to be shown, awards to be given to locally connected filmmakers and educational workshops for the public.

The festival’s featured film, “Little Birds,” filmed in the Salton Sea area and featuring Juno Temple, one of show business’s hottest actresses, will be shown at 8 p.m. Friday. Elgin James, the movie’s director, will do a question-and-answer session after the movie is shown.

An award-winning short film called “Ella,” written, directed and produced by Myles Matsuno, will precede the showing of “Little Birds” and start at 7:30 p.m. Matsuno spent part of his youth in the Valley and has many relatives here. I’ve seen “Ella” and can tell you it’s a wonderful experience, full of true heart, captivating camera work and vivid atmospherics. I’m proud to say Matsuno and I are collaborating on a feature film project.

Saturday night’s feature film, “Mano a Mano,” will start at 8:30 p.m. and conclude with a Q&A session with the filmmakers. Saturday also will feature workshops on screenwriting and new media.

The new media session will be hosted by Raul Celaya, a successful film, television, video and commercial producer who grew up in El Centro and generously helps coordinate and put on our local film festival each year. Raul is an engaging speaker and tremendously helpful to locals interested in getting into the business. His workshop starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

I will host the screenwriting session that starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, and while I may not know what I’m talking about, that’s never stopped me before. I’m kidding, actually. I’ve had some success in screenwriting, including having some television episodes produced and a couple of feature screenplays either optioned or set for production in the coming year.

The weekend’s events start with a mural art workshop at 10 a.m. Friday and events continue that evening, followed by a packed schedule from 9 a.m. Saturday until people collapse Saturday around midnight.

Art by gifted local artists will be on display throughout the events and the films entered in the festival will be screened at various times Saturday, as will movies not entered into the competition but deemed to have enough merit to be screened at the festival. As one of the festival’s judges, I’ve seen all films entered. Many are really good and demonstrate the immense talent we have around here. And part of what we like to do, and have done, is advance careers in the business through the festival.

It sounds like fun, right? The price for an all-access pass, for two days of serious fun and enlightenment, is $30, but only $15 for students.

You probably would spend at least that much bringing beer and chips to Cousin Mikey’s carne asada party anyway, right?

Bret Kofford teaches writing at

San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His comments don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of SDSU or its employees or those of

the Imperial Valley Press and its staff.

Kofford can be reached at




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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