Films at Laguna Beach’s New Festival and Museum Celebrate Art and Nature

Winterland. Photo by Nic Alegre/Teton Gravity Research

A new film festival joins the Orange County cinephile hopper this week, and though promoters want ticket buyers to sit inside darkened venues in Laguna Beach, they also want them to go outside and explore the great outdoors.

The three-day Coast Film Festival (CFF), which kicks off Thursday, Nov. 7, includes art, music, photography and, of course, movies at venues throughout Laguna Beach’s village and canyon, including Forum Theater, Hobie Surf Shop, Marine Room Tavern, and the beautiful Seven 7 Seven restaurant and wedding venue.

The CFF was founded and is co-produced by Ben Warner, who is a principal at Skeleton Key Agency and has an extensive background in the outdoor industry. Co-founders are Warner’s Skeleton Key Agency partner Ben Classen and sports marketer Enich Harris, who produced the recent documentary Andy Irons: Kissed By God. The trio expects the fest to become an annual event.

“The mission of CFF is to create a showcase for creatives who are telling compelling stories through inspirational film, photography or art,” says Warner. “It is also designed to broaden the conversation around preservation of our natural environment and to motivate audiences to get outside more while also protecting these resources for a more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Up first is Angel Marin and Patricio Mekis’ Patagonia-sponsored documentary Los Plástico, which follows three surfers to a small island off the Chilean coast where residents successfully protect their wild waters and fisheries as they call outsiders “plásticos.” That’s followed by a live conversation between legendary South County waterman and environmentalist Greg Long and action-sports commentator Pat Parnell, and then comes the opening-night party.

The following morning, on Nov. 8, film producers make presentations to Laguna Beach students. The evening program includes food, live music, a cash bar, and a curated exhibit of art for sale by known and emerging artists and photographers.

Friday’s Filmmaker Showcase presents the Teton Gravity Research features Winterland (co-directors Todd Jones, Steve Jones and Jon Klaczkiewicz’s celebration of ski and snowboard culture) and Steve Jones and Klaczkiewicz’s Roadless (in which three snowboarders embark on a 10-day, human-powered exploration of untamed parts of Wyoming), plus the West Coast premiere of Fire On the Mountain, which is also the Saturday-night film. Narrated by basketball legend Bill Walton, the surf/ski/snowboard film from directors Chris Benchetler and Tyler Hamlet is the first action-sports movie to be merged with music by the Grateful Dead. Afterward, Parnell leads a discussion with the filmmakers and featured athletes, whom you can later meet in person in the High West Whiski VIP lounge at Seven 7 Seven if you have an all-access pass or you paid an additional $45 for entry. (Besides the main festival website, Friday event tickets can be purchased through

It’s the morning of the final day that includes the outdoor events: a beach cleanup with the Surfrider Foundation at Aliso Beach and a canyon nature hike with Laguna Canyon Foundation. Short-film programs fill the day, starting at 10 a.m. with “Healed by Nature,” a collection of inspirational shorts on people whose lives changed through outdoor activities. Afterward, Parnell interviews North Face ambassador Stacy Bare, a former military serviceman and substance abuser who got clean thanks to climbing.

National Parks Adventure. Photo courtesy MacGillivray Freeman Films

“Our Public Lands” is a program of short films that celebrate parks, other public lands and monuments, including Greg MacGillivray’s National Parks Adventure. The award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of the Laguna Beach large-format nature-movie production company MacGillivray Freeman Films is then interviewed by Parnell.

“Our Oceans” has shorts that showcase the wonder and power of the seas while also raising awareness of increased plastic pollution and the impact by climate change, which Surfrider CEO Chad Nelsen addresses afterward with Parnell.

The afternoon also includes a collection of surf, nature, running and mountain biking shorts titled “Get Outside!” Professional athletes who have built careers in the outdoors are then interviewed by Parnell.

The Saturday closing-night VIP lounge entry fee is $75. A limited number of $250 all-access passes to every Coast Film Festival ticketed event are now on sale. Included are access to all VIP lounges; first-come, first-served reserved seating at events; and a gift bag.

A Boy’s Dream. Photo courtesy International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

The intersection of art and nature is also celebrated with, appropriately enough, “Art & Nature,” Laguna Art Museum’s seventh-annual multidisciplinary exploration of art’s many and various engagements with the natural world.

“Art & Nature” includes a panel discussion, a free family festival and a commissioned art exhibit that will be on view from Thursday, Nov. 7 through Jan. 5, 2020. There is also a Nov. 9 screening of A Boy’s Dream, Walther Grotenhuis and Cinta Forger’s 2015 documentary on Theo Jansen, a Dutch artist who creates large-scale “beach animals” that move independently, powered by the wind.

Jansen’s almost-mythical beings, which are made from manipulated plastic tubes, tie wraps and sails, can lumber across the sand. “I am creating a new piece of nature, adding a new species,” the master says of the creations he calls strandbeesten. To his dismay, especially as he grows older, they can’t live without him. Just like we can’t without nature.

Coast Film Festival at Hobie Surf Shop, 294 Forest Ave.; Marine Room Tavern, 214 Ocean Ave.; Forum Theater, 650 Laguna Canyon Rd.; and Seven 7 Seven, 777 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach; Nov. 7-9. Free to $20 per event; single-day passes, $55-$75; all-access passes, $250.

A Boy’s Dream at Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8971. Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m. Free with museum admission ($5-$7; museum members and kids aged 17 and younger, free).

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