This past weekend our lovely hometown Palo Alto hosted its second annual international film festival and we had the awesome opportunity to sponsor the event. If you weren’t able to make it out to the South Bay’s version of Sundance, don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to know! Here’s your roundup of the Palo Alto International Film Festival.
Day 1: Loopin’ It Up
PAIFF kicked off this stellar weekend of film, food and fun Thursday evening with an advanced screening of the action-packed sci-fi thriller Looper starring a heavily made-up Joseph Gordon-Levitt and normal looking Bruce Willis. Set in the future where time travel is not only possible but a commodity in the black market, Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hitman contracted by the mafia who kills the people his employers send back in time. Everything is going great for Joe as he lives a life of luxury until one day his future self (Willis) is sent back in time to be killed.
Across the street from our headquarters at Festival Village, audiences were invited to watch an exclusive screening of Disney’s newest animated short, Paperman, an innovative film that blended both 2-D and CG animation to tell a love story in old New York and its subway system.
After the screening, festival goers were invited back to our humble office abode for the opening night party, where we served delicious goodies from Asian Box, craft beer from Anchor Brewing Co. and bubbly from Moreno BHLV.
Day 2: Chasing E.T., Hackers and Male Beauty
Friday was the first full day of PAIFF and it was filled with a plethora of different films, food and entertainment. We started the day by hosting the creators of Paperman in our offices, where they held a talk concerning the innovation and design behind the unique techniques behind the short. Using a new technology created by senior software engineer of the project Brian Whitehead called Meander, the talk focused around the creative process and design behind the “inherently Disney” short.
After the talk, it seemed as if the curtain rolled and the event was in full swing with films being screened all across downtown Palo Alto in Palo Alto Square Theaters 1 and 2 at the Palo Alto Institute, Aquarius Theater on Emerson street and Festival Village right outside our office windows. At Palo Alto Square Theater 1, the documentary by Stanford alum Jeff Orlowski, Chasing Ice, was screened. Based and focusing on National Geographic photographer James Balog and his quest to shed light and bring awareness to the very real evidence of a changing planet, Chasing Ice has global warming and climate change a face.
Over at the Aquarius Theater, the documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists premiered. Detailing the inner workings of the collective online activist (hacktivist) group Anonymous, the film expands on the group’s history, explores other groups such as the Cult of the Dead Cow and its move to free-for-all forum website 4Chan.
In Festival Village, the smallest and probably youngest Nirvana and Kurt Cobain fans rocket out at the V.I.P. reception for passholders that preceded the 30th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg’s infamous sci-fi children’s fantasy E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
The night closed with some laughs in Palo Alto Square Theater 1, where humorous documentary Mansome screened. Directed by Oscar-nominee Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame, the movie illustrated the extremes that men go to in order to achieve beauty. The film stars comedians Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett and Paul Rudd as learn and endure what it takes to be more than handsome, but mansome.
Day 3: Hacking Love in the Time of Kashmir
Saturday was the highlight of PAIFF, with movies, workshops and talks occurring throughout the entire day. Beginning with the short movie program in Aquarius Theater, films screened included Jenni Nelson’s 25-minute documentary Love Hacking, a story of a robot inventor in the Silicon Valley as he virtually courts a woman in Nepal, hops on a plane to meet her for the first time and marries her the next in a traditional Hindu wedding.
Throughout the day, children from ages 6 to 18 were invited to participate in PAIFF’s Introduction to Filmmaking workshops taking place in Festival Village. Students were taught the basics behind filmmaking such as storyboarding, the process of direction like camerawork and the power of post-production such as editing.
Along the same vein of children-oriented film, PAIFF screened a variety of animated films throughout the day, including the critically acclaimed Chinese animated film The Monkey King and Makoto Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. Shinkai’s fantasy film follows young Asuna Watase finds herself in a nightmarish world following a simple walk to her clubhouse. With two new friends, Asuna tries to unravel the mystery behind her visit and how to escape.
Meanwhile at our offices, we also hosted a handful of different talks, such as The Future of Cinema, a talk focused on — you guess it — the future of moviemaking. Planned as a round table discussing topics such as Enduring Hypnotic Power of Wide Screen Passive Cinema to Social, Interactive and Connected “Theater” Platforms and to Silicon Hollywood, the talk explored the divergent paths of contemporary cinema and what it could mean for future moviegoers.
The day ended with the screening of the romantic drama Valley of Saints, called the first film to address the issue of endangered lakes in India. Taking place in the war-torn and impoverished Kashmir, the movie focuses on Gulzar and his best friend after they discover a biological researcher breaking curfew in order to study the region’s dying lake. Gulzar begins to fall for the scientist, which brings about jealousy and rivalry between the two friends.
Day 4: Our Closing Ceremony Includes Beauty Pageants and Free Samples
The last day of PAIFF acted more as an awards ceremony, with awards for best animated feature and tech documentary being given away. Although that didn’t stop movies being shown!
At Palo Alto Square Theater 2, indie-comedy Free Samples debuted. Directed USC alum Jay Gammill, the movie follows a day in the life of Stanford law school dropout Jillian (played by Jess Weixler) as she is forced into helping her best friend out by managing and selling ice cream out of a truck. Also starring Jesse Eisenberg as lovably awkward Tex, the film shows Jillian encountering eccentric customers and deals with the foreboding thought of her future.
In the adjacent Palo Alto Square Theater 1, the documentary The World Before Her screened. Depicting the struggles pageant girls face in India with the country’s strict Hindu values, the film reveals the stories of the women determined to win the crown and the forces fighting against them through following both pageant girls in beauty boot camp and women participating in the annual camp run by the women’s wing of the militant fundamentalist movement.
The festival ended with a bang at our offices for the Closing Night Awards Gala, where we served up good eats from Hobee’s and Coupa Cafe as we celebrated the artists and innovators behind the films of PAIFF and presented the Sallie Gardner Awards. We were also able to award our PAIFF CI winner, Chris Lam, for his short “Couch & Potatos,” which actually screened at the festival. We couldn’t have been more proud and excited to feature such a talented individual as the closer to an awesome weekend packed with stellar films, workshops and talks.