Newport Beach Film Festival's Social Network

A curated sample of socially relevant offerings at the 2012 festival

LAST CALL AT THE OASIS
Water plays a vital role in our daily lives so, naturally, we ignore it. We won't for long. Festival filmmaker alum Jessica Yu (2004's In the Realms of the Unreal and 2008's Ping Pong Playa) returns with an examination of the global water crisis featuring Erin Brockovich, UC Irvine Earth Science Systems professor James S. Famiglietti, and Macarthur Fellow and Pacific Institute co-founder Peter Gleick. At Starlight Cinemas, April 27, 6 p.m.; April 30, 5:45 p.m.

LITTLE DANCER
Amanda Salazar, the festival's associate director of programming, uses the words "amazing" and "bizarre" to describe George Jecel's Serbian feature about beautiful young dancer Tatjiana, who falls in love with a local gypsy boy and gets accepted to a prestigious dance academy—just as her father considers selling her to a gangster so he can open a restaurant. At Starlight Cinemas, April 30, 5:45 p.m.; at Island Cinemas, May 3, 3:15 pm.

LOVE FREE OR DIE
America's debate on gays in the clergy is played out through road trips Pastor Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historic traditions of Christendom, makes to small towns, London's Lambeth Palace and even Orange County. At Island Cinemas, April 27, 4:30 p.m.; at Starlight Cinemas, May 1, 4 p.m.

Sexy Baby
Sexy Baby

MAGIC CAMP
Obsessed kids congregate where they can be themselves, Tannen's Magic Camp, in Judd Ehrlich's doc, making its world premiere. The kids discover winning the camp's prestigious competition requires more than just sleight of hand. At Starlight Cinemas, April 28, 3 p.m.; at Island Cinemas, May 3, 3:30 p.m.

MOSQUITA Y MARI
Max Naylor, the festival's senior programmer, steered me into Trollhunter, one of my favorite films at Newport last year, so when he says of Aurora Guerrero's feature drama making its world premiere, "This is my favorite film in the festival," my ears perk up. It follows two Latina teens in Highland Park who are on two different tracks: one to college, the other possibly to prison. They forge a friendship that turns into something deeper. At Starlight Cinemas, April 27, 5 p.m.; at Island Cinemas, May 2, 4 p.m.

MY WAY
This year's Korean Spotlight film is said to be gory, graphic and that country's answer to Saving Private Ryan. Director Kang Je-gyu presents two childhood friends who have been rivals because both want to be successful athletes and one is Korean and the other is Japanese. The two later find themselves on opposite sides of a World War II battlefield. Will the bonds of brotherhood save them? At Big Newport, April 30, 7:15 p.m.

ROBOT AND FRANK
Jake Schreier's feature was a favorite at Sundance, where veteran actor Frank Langella's performance was especially lauded. The story, set in the near future, involves the grown kids of a retired cat burglar getting him a humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. The old man has other plans for the box of bolts, however. At Island Cinemas, April 29, 8:30 p.m.; at Big Newport, May 3, 8 p.m.

SEXY BABY *
This startling documentary follows a 12-year-old girl in Manhattan, a former porn star in Florida and a Georgia peach undergoing vaginal reconstruction. Sex, body issues and the allure of the va-jay-jay are handled graphically but tastefully by co-directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus. You'll want to leave the kids at home for this West Coast premiere, but afterward, you'll be wondering what the hell they were up to while you were gone. At Island Cinemas, April 28, 6:15 p.m.

SHANGHAI CALLING
Writer/director Daniel Hsia's feature debut makes its world premiere as the festival's closing-night film and its Pacific Rim Spotlight feature. A New York attorney (Daniel Henney) engulfed in a business misadventure in Shanghai relies on a beautiful relocation specialist and her eclectic contacts to help him save his career, find love and become enamored with his foreign surroundings. At Lido, May 3, 7:30 p.m.

THE WAR AROUND US *
Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, an American who now works for NBC News, and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only Western reporters on the ground in the Gaza Strip when Isreal dropped bombs on Palestinians in 2008. A great look at war reporting, the documentary also shows firsthand what riled up the so-called "Irvine 11" at UC Irvine in February 2010. At Island Cinemas, April 29, 6 p.m.; May 3, 4 p.m.


This article appeared in print as "The Social Network: A curated sample of socially relevant offerings at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival."

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