Newport Beach Film Festival: Programmers' Picks!

A dozen of the finest the fest has to offer

9. Simple Simon. If festival director of programming Erik Forssell had been in the room with the rest of us and not out teaching his film class (um, priorities!), he would have told me his favorite is Swedish director Andreas Öhman's sweet boy-meets-girl story—with a strange twist. Simon is an 18-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, who likes space, science and circles but knows nothing about love. Then his brother gets dumped, and Simon takes it upon himself to find bro a new girlfriend—using science, of course. At Big Newport. May 3, 7:45 p.m. $15; screening followed by International Showcase Party at Fashion Island (401 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach), $35; party only, $25. 21+.

10. Space, Land and Time: Underground Adventures With Ant Farm. I've learned not to question the Art, Architecture + Design program Feibleman puts together every year as her selections are invariably the best documentaries presented at the festival. When she says don't miss Elizabeth Federici and Laura Harrison's documentary about the 1970s architectural collective Ant Farm, book it. Best known for its Cadillac Ranch land-art piece, the collective shunned the traditional corporate architectural model, embracing alternative methods, materials and lifestyles. Like the collective, Feibleman says, the film "celebrates the joy of creating." At Triangle Square. May 1, 1 p.m. $12.

11. Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney shares directing duties with his producing partner Alison Ellwood for this examination of the trippy California-to-New York trip taken by 1960s icon Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest not only led the journey in a drug-loaded school bus painted in psychedelic colors, he captured it on 16mm film, but his footage had not found an audience until Ellwood and Gibney restored it with the help of Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation. "That one I think will do very well for us," Feibleman said of the Sundance hit that contains never-before-seen footage of the Grateful Dead and Jack Kerouac's On the Road partner Neal Cassady. At Triangle Square. May 1 , 8 p.m.; May 5, 2:15 p.m. $12.

12. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Everyone was excited about the new music series, and eyes really lit up during our discussion of Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler's documentary on the South-Central LA punk-funk band born the year before Ronald Reagan seized the White House. Brothers John Norwood Fisher and Phillip "Fish" Fisher, "Dr. Madd Vibe" Angelo Moore, Kendall Jones, "Dirty" Walter A. Kibby II and Christopher Dowd smashed musical genres, racial stereotypes and political order, along the way influencing Ice-T, Perry Farrell, Gwen Stefani, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gogol Bordello, among others. Some turn up to praise the 'Bone, while Laurence Fishburne narrates. You will be funked. At Triangle Square. May 4, 7:30 p.m. $12.

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