UPDATE: Huntington Beach Film Festival Rolls With Another Venue Change

Circles. Photo courtesy Stories Matter Media

UPDATE, SEPT. 27, 9:10 A.M.: The Huntington Beach Film Festival has made a last-minute change to another venue, according to an email blast that went out last night:


With only 2 days to go before our festival, the Huntington Beach Union High School District, canceled our rental agreement with the Huntington Beach High School Theater.

The high school (which has been wonderful to work with) had generously given us a reduced rental rate, but that decision was overruled by Jeff Star, Assistant Superintendent. We simply can’t afford this new, substantially-higher rate.

But the show must go on! Thanks to the kindness of the amazing staff (we’re looking at you, Karen and Corey!) at The Waterfront Beach Resort, we have a new venue:

The Waterfront Beach Resort, located at 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92648 USA
Phone: (800) 822-7873

We’ll be in the Whitewater Ballroom this Saturday and Sunday, the 28th and 29th. Our schedule will remain the same and can be found on our website at:


Parking at the resort is valet only, but we have a reduced rate of $10/day. There is additional parking available off-site.

We can’t apologize enough for this inconvenience! We’re frankly shocked at the amazingly unprofessional behavior of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, but we’re eternally grateful to The Waterfront Beach Resort (we’re still looking at you, Karen and Corey!) for providing us an amazing discount at last-minute notice and keeping us from having to cancel. They’re our heroes!

Hope to see you all there!

ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 26, 7 A.M.: Change is in the air yet again for the 14th-annual Huntington Beach Film Festival, which was known as the SoCal Independent Film Festival until 2016.

The previous 13 festivals had been held at Huntington Beach Central Library, but the directors were informed last year “they didn’t want us back,” according to a message on hbfilmfest.com. Searching for a new venue took so long that what had been anticipated as a May event was pushed back to this weekend, Sept. 28-29.

Don’t worry: The 49 short and feature-length films from a dozen countries—including 12 made by Orange Countians—will not be shown on a stained sheet duct-taped to a wall in an abandoned lot. This year’s fest will be held in the best digs yet: Huntington Beach High School’s historic theater. (SEE UPDATE!)

One thing the later festival date did was give filmmakers and writers entering a concurrent screenplay competition more time to get their projects completed. One such entry is Cassidy Friedman’s feature-length documentary Circles, which the San Jose Mercury News described as “superb,” “exceptional” and a “must-see.”

Like the festival hosting it, Saturday’s opening-day picture has change at its core. In Circles, Hurricane Katrina survivor and restorative-justice-movement pioneer Eric Butler relocates and finds work at an Oakland high school, where he enforces his no-nonsense approach to counseling vulnerable black and Latino students. That alone has the makings of a compelling film, as Butler fights to keep teens in school and avoid racial discrimination by replacing snap suspensions and expulsions with blunt, hands-on mentoring.

Friedman shot the film over two years, which was just enough time to allow for a real-life plot twist: the arrest of Butler’s own teenage son, who gets beaten in jail. That experience forces Butler to question his methods and abilities as a teacher and a father.

Who’s With Me? Photo courtesy Huntington Beach Film Festival

The audience will have been sobered before the first frame of Circles flickers thanks to the documentary short that rolls before it. Darryl Dillard’s Who’s With Me? is described as a multimedia spoken-word poem in response to the police shootings of unarmed African Americans.

Levity will be in order after that pairing, so it’s fortunate programmers have scheduled a block of six short comedies, followed by six student-made shorties. Local filmmakers take over next, with Russell Robertson’s Life On Set, a mockumentary that is set behind the scenes of a TV show; Levi Lindsey’s Huggles With You, in which an actor on a Sesame Street knockoff must break through his comfort zone to talk with his crush; and Nora Hawari’s Yallah Habibi, which follows an unconventional Middle Eastern family running a restaurant.

Other shorts include: Hidde de Vries’ Like, about a fellow who suddenly finds himself metaphysically locked up in the cover photo of his Facebook page and must acquire a million likes to escape; Danielle Guthrie’s Booster Mom, which concerns the cut-throat world of volunteering for high-school programs; and Jonathan Graham’s Feeding a Cause, which follows Bill Bracken, the founder of Bracken’s Kitchen, an Orange County nonprofit that fights food insecurity.

You’ll have time to fight dinner insecurity elsewhere on Main Street before heading back to the festival Saturday night for Haroula Rose’s new feature-length drama, Once Upon a River, which is based on Bonnie Jo Campbell’s novel of the same name. The story is set in 1978 and centers on a 15-year-old part-native girl who embarks on a Huck Finn-like river odyssey.

 Sunday opens with Dylan K. Narang’s sci-fi flick Soundwave, in which a teenage inventor’s life spirals into chaos after a nefarious group discovers he created a device that can hear into the past.

That’s followed by a block of four Iranian short films, which are followed by 10 animated shorts. Since this is Surf City, it makes sense that the block after that features short surfing films, bruh. Among them are Michael Durban’s Paddling for Happiness, which follows a soldier back from Afghanistan pursuing the perfect wave to cleanse his soul. Another can’t-miss from the collection is Jordyn Romero’s Of the Sea, which is about an entrepreneurial, surfing mom’s efforts to raise awareness of the world’s plastic consumption.

Next comes seven short films from more local filmmakers, including: Dark Classics, for which Renah Wolzinger, Craig Railsback, Keith Wolzinger and Sean Glumace each filmed Dawna Lee Heising delivering a monologue from Shakespeare’s Macbeth; Ethan Lindner’s NoEnd House, in which a thrill-seeker enters a local haunted house that wields supernatural powers; Danny Miguel’s horror-mystery The Entry, which has a young woman driven to return something vital; and Russ Emanuel’s The Assassin’s Apprentice, which is a coming-of-age story about an apprentice assassin and her relationship with her trainer and their handler.

Paddling for Happiness. Photo courtesy Huntington Beach Film Festival

Sunday’s local grab bag also features: Mike Kobzeff’s The Rotting, which finds an elderly man reflecting on the warning his grandfather gave him as a boy; Christopher Bonis’ Missed Exit, in which things get worse for a down-on-her-luck woman after her car breaks down in the desert; and Ligia Maria Storrs Rojas’ love story Our Rose Garden, which focuses on one couple struggling against infidelity and another fighting mental illness.

After all of that, it’s time to change things up by dishing out awards.


Circles with Who’s With Me, 11 a.m.
Comedy Short Films, 1:30 p.m.
Student Short Films, 3 p.m.
Local Filmmakers, 4:30 p.m.
Once Upon a River, 7 p.m.

Soundwave, 11 a.m.
Iranian Short Films, 1 p.m.
Animated Short Films, 2:15 p.m.
Surfing Short Films, 3:30 p.m.
Local Filmmakers 2, 5 p.m.
Awards Ceremony, 7 p.m.

Huntington Beach Film Festival at Huntington Beach High School theater, 1905 Main St., Huntington Beach; (SEE UPDATE!) hbfilmfest.com. Sat.-Sun., starting at 11 a.m. Visit the website for specific screening times. $2.50-$20. 

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