Passionate About Film

Annual festival returning with summer lineup
By Connor Dziawura
Pasadena International Film Festival/submitted

Pasadena International Film Festival’s Jessica Hardin doesn’t like to use the word “curate” when it comes to building a slate of films each year.

“We never curate. That’s a promise that we make to our filmmakers,” explains Hardin, the festival’s director. “Because a lot of film festivals, they take submissions and they give the illusion that a submitter’s shot is fair, when in reality, they’re out there curating and they’re trying to find the hottest film, the best, whatever.

“And we’ve just been so fortunate and blessed. We get so much amazing content, there really isn’t a need for us to curate. And what we really love is when people submit to us, we know they’re passionate about our film festival. We know that they’re passionate about attending, about helping us market and bring people to the festival, and they’re excited to attend the party.”

Cinephiles can show that passion at this year’s Pasadena International Film Festival from Thursday, June 23, to Thursday, June 30. Screenings will once again take place at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, as will Q&As and panel discussions.

“It’ll be similar to what we’ve had in the past where we have over 100 films from a lot of different countries and we have people flying in from all over the world,” Hardin hints, as submissions had not been finalized at press time. Accepted forms include features, shorts, documentaries, music videos, animation and web series.

“We have our horror block and our sci-fi block, our thriller block, our comedy block, we have a lot of fantastic shorts, and we’ve opened up to stage plays this year as well,” she continues.

Hardin says the process to get to that point aims to be free of biases. The selection process involves more than 50 people, whom she says have different tastes and are asked to rate submissions with no prior information or preconceptions, before films are whittled down and fit into the program.

“So what we really like is to create a nonbiased programming committee,” Hardin says. “It’s all different ages and races and genders and sexual orientations and a wide, wide berth of different types of people who rate the films.”

But even beyond just the screenings, Hardin says Q&As are “super important” to the festival. Each film programming block will end with a moderator-hosted Q&A.

“It’s one of my favorite parts about the film festival experience, actually, because anyone can watch anything at home with a million different streaming services, but what makes it really special is you can actually talk to the actors, you can talk to the filmmakers, you can talk to the screenwriters and you can ask them, ‘What inspired you to make this? What’s it like actually making a film?’ Because most people find it fascinating,” she says.

As busy as she is organizing, Hardin says she still tries to make time to check out Q&As, “because there’s so much heart and you just see every filmmaker puts their blood and their heart and their soul into these projects, and they’re just so thrilled and so excited to be able to share this with people.”

Panel discussions will involve industry pros and Hollywood heavy-hitters.

“We also work with the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory in West LA, and I think we’re going to have one of their professors come and give lectures on that. And then possibly … we became friends with a Hollywood agent who’s kindly going to meet with all of our Best Actor and Best Actress winners, which we think is really cool. And if I was new to town, that’s the thing I would be really excited about,” Hardin says with a laugh.

Outside of the Laemmle Playhouse 7, the Pasadena International Film Festival continues to maintain its presence in the community. Lyd & Mo Photography Studio will host the Passholder’s Lounge, an opportunity for networking beside an open bar. And on the final night, The Speakeasy will host the Great Gatsby Gala & Award Ceremony, a 1920s-themed, black-tie-optional affair that Hardin calls “a wild, fun time.” Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required at the door for the gala, which only allows patrons 21 or older.

Coming off the heels of a pandemic-stricken 2020 and work to rebound last year, Hardin says organizers are taking things one day at a time.

“I think the festival’s going to be fantastic,” she says with a hint of trepidation. “We’re thrilled that we still have the Laemmle Playhouse 7 movie theater, because who knows how long we’ll have that. I have no idea what the plans are in terms of how long it’ll still be functioning, but the community’s rallied around and then supported the theater because we lost the ArcLight theater as well.

“So, I’m just hoping that we aren’t getting to a point where movie theaters become obsolete and everybody just stays at home all the time. So, I’m thrilled that we can actually do it.”

Pasadena International Film Festival

WHEN: Various times Thursday, June 23, to Thursday, June 30

WHERE: Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Boulevard;
Lyd & Mo Photography Studio, 27 N. Mentor Avenue;
The Speakeasy, 25 N. Raymond Avenue

COST: $35 for the day pass; $50 for the Great Gatsby Gala & Award Ceremony; $120 for the screenings, panels and parties pass;
and $180 for the all-access pass

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