Anaheim International Film Festival Previews With Temecula Wines, Short Films on a Loop and Super Sexy Manny Medrano

A “historic moment” happened last night on the third level of the GardenWalk outdoor shopping mall (just follow the Disney Tower of Terror shadow)–historic not just for Anaheim but California and the whole world as we know it, according to Sinan Kanatsiz.

The Chapman University graduate is the co-founder and chairman of the inaugural Anaheim International Film Festival (AIFF), which christened itself into being with a preview party at GardenWalk, whose cineplex will screen about 100 feature films, documentaries, shorts and really short shorts Oct. 13-17.

(Yes, I know; I did not know GardenWalk had a theater either. Apparently, the mall extends beyond Fire+Ice! Who knew? There are more stores, restaurants and one of those fancy movie theaters with leather recliners and beer and wine service back there.)

Kanatsiz explained his “historic moment” hyperbole thusly: There were around 300 film festivals in 1995. Now, there are 4,000. “So, this is a huge opportunity for us,” he said, as the AIFF “will put Anaheim on the film festival circuit,” which will now extend “from Cannes to Anaheim.”

I didn't follow the historicalness of that distinction but, then again, I'd already had
two glasses of Temecula reds.

Kanatsiz could not take credit for thinking up the festival. That honor went to the tuxedoed co-founder, 24-year-old actor Joshua Bednarsky, who was “Josh” in Ben Coccio's Zero Day of 2003, “Man at Roulette Table” in Coccio's The Beginner from this year, and he's been announced to be the Scratch voice in Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker's King of the Elves, an animated fantasy based on a Philip K. Dick story and scheduled to be released in 2012.

The legend goes that New Yorker Bednarsky arrived in California in a jalopy with $1 in his pocket and his grandma at his side. He wound up at GardenWalk–his first-ever outdoor mall experience–thought the place was the bee's knees and told anyone who would listen that someone should host a film festival there.

Kanatsiz, who'd be the business mind of the partnership, listened. So did Jo Moulton, who ran the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival (so that explains the wine), worked on the Palm Springs International Film Festival and is now the executive director of AIFF. And so did Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle. And Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau president Charles Ahlers. And Disneyland Resort president George Kalogridis. And, after you snag the Big D, do you really need anyone else?

A bundle of energy–Bednarsky apologized that he would have to leave early to go play piano for Fountain Valley High School's production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (and he wasn't joking)–he warned the assembled to “be careful where you are standing, and what you say, because it might happen.”

Ahlers said Bednarsky's enthusiasm, coupled with Moulton's experience, sold his executive staff on the festival. While Anaheim has worldwide attractions, Ahlers noted, the AIFF will be the city's first recurring attraction–meaning he, too, isn't convinced the Angels will make the playoff this season.

Anaheim City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway (you know, the not-crazy one) is obviously sold as well: “Anaheim is the perfect place for an international film festival, don't you think? When I first heard about this, I wondered why on earth we have not had an international film festival. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this is the perfect place for dreams.”

She predicted “it will be successful . . . it will enlighten us . . . and it will make us all better.”

Man, is this a film festival or a new season of Daisy of Love?

Speaking of spreading the love, the evening's confirmed celebrity and FOS (Friend of Sinan), lawyer and KTLA reporter Manny Medrano, felt the need to counter his pal, saying he should have said the festival circuit will now extend from Anaheim to Cannes. See what he did there? He reversed it! He also said Founding Father John Adams would have approved of the AIFF–after someone clued him in to what film is, presumably. 

Speaking of clued in to what film is, among the able staff the AIFF has put together is director of programming Robert Koehler, a Variety film critic and American Film Institute programming vet who told me before the formal speechifying that he plans to bring a solid lineup of independent films to Anaheim that, frankly, will be in desperate need of finding distribution by October. He also confided those plans are just now gellin'–and he wasn't looking as his Dr. Scholl's when he said that.

Translation: no titles to speak of yet. But soon, very soon.

Like the just-concluded Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF), the AIFF will put a special emphasis on local filmmakers and the work produced by Chapman University's film school, Cal State Fullerton and other local colleges and universities, Koehler vowed.

During her formal speechifying, Moulton had also mentioned the “One Minute Film Challenge,” a first-ever countywide short film competition that will draw entries for all 73 million Orange County middle schools and high schools, thanks to the cooperation of the county Department of Education.

There's also to be a “Viral Video Pavilion” on the actual fest grounds that will show the creations of YouTubers set to become the next generation of filmmakers, said Moulton, who is also listed as yet-another AIFF co-founder, as is Emmy-winning producer Wally Schlotter.

Filmmakers in attendance (and whose short flicks played on endless loops in the festival's temporary GardenWalk office and the nearby Put a Cork In It
wine bar) included: Kyle Bell, the writer-director of the animated short The Mouse That Soared (which just played at NBFF and has won awards at Portland and the USA film festivals); The Butterfly Circus Great Depression short's director Joshua Weigel and his wife and co-writer Rebekah Weigel; actor Camden Toy, who played a hitman in the USC rom-com The Godmother; and Rick Curnutt, the director of the Chapman U comedy short Free Lunch.

Free poo poos were provided by the White House restaurant's owner, Bruno Serato, whose Italian accent was in demand from charmed party guests. He also sits on the AIFF board with Medrano, Churm Media publisher Steve Churm, William Lyon Homes' Bill H. Lyons and a bunch of other folks who always have change jingling in their pockets.

The schedule of events follows:

Opening Night Premiere & Festivities
When: Wednesday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m.
Venue: Anaheim GardenWalk
Red carpet welcome, film premiere and a post screening party

General Screenings
When: Thursday, Oct. 14-Sunday, Oct. 17, 11 a.m.-11p.m.
Venue: Anaheim GardenWalk
Four days of screening contemporary feature length films, short films, student films, documentaries and animation.

Master Classes, Workshops and Panels
When: Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 16-17, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Venue: TBA
Film Industry professionals share their knowledge and expertise with festival attendees on various subjects such as writing, directing, producing, marketing and distribution.

The Black Tie Awards Gala
When: Saturday, Oct. 16
Venue: TBA
Lifetime Achievement and Career Achievement Awards for Excellence in various categories.

Closing Night Premiere and Wrap Party
When: Sunday. Oct. 17
Venue: Anaheim GardenWalk
Closing night film premiere, wrap party, jury and audience choice awards presentation.

Check for ticket and other info.

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