"LOWRIDERS" to open the 22nd annual Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival (June 1-9, 2016); CREED Director Ryan Coogler to be honored as 2016 Festival Guest Director; Ava DuVernay and her distributor company Array Releasing to receive the Spirit of Independence Award

by Oliver Carnay

For 22 years now, the Los Angeles Film Festival has championed the best and most unique independent filmmaking voices from both America and abroad.

Just announced to open the festival is Ricardo de Montreuil’s touching new drama LOWRIDERS, on June 1 at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinerama Dome.

‘Lowriders’ Photo credit: Justin Lubin

Produced by Brian Grazer and Film Independent Forum alum Jason Blum, Lowriders stars Eva Longoria, Demián Bichir, Melissa Benoist, and Gabriel Chavarria in a gritty coming-of-age tale set amid East LA’s vibrant and immersive car culture. Chavarria stars as Danny, a talented young street artist caught between the lowrider world embodied by his old-school father (Bichir) and the adrenaline-fueled outlet that gives his creativity a much-needed avenue for self-expression.

“We’re thrilled to open [our Festival] with Lowriders,” said LA Film Festival Director Stephanie Allain. “Made by filmmakers of color, Lowriders embodies our mission.”

Film Independent Spirit Award winner and LA Film Festival alum Ryan Coogler (Creed) will be honored as the 2016 Festival’s Guest Director. Coogler’s Fruitvale Station appeared at the festival in 2013 and later won Best First Feature at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Coogler will attend Film Independent’s Filmmaker Retreat—an annual event which brings each year’s feature category directors together with high-profile mentors and selected Film Independent Board Members for a community-building event prior to the official start of the 2016 Festival.

But Coogler isn’t the only big-name auteur being honored—Selma director Ava DuVernay, along with her innovative distribution shingle Array Releasing, will receive the festival’s annual Spirit of Independence Award, which recognizes members of the independent film community who “advance the cause of independent film and champion creative freedom.”

Ava DuVernay

“We can’t imagine a more fitting recipient of the Spirit of Independent Award than Ava and Array Releasing,” said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. “In addition to being a brilliant filmmaker, Ava is a passionate, forward-thinking distributor.”

In fact, Array bought last year’s LA Film Festival US Fiction award-winner Out of My Hand for distribution, as well as Festival favorite Ayanda. Additional Array titles include Middle of Nowhere, Ashes and Embers, Mississippi Damned, Kinyarwanda, Restless City and many more.

“We look forward to being part of this year’s unique line-up,” said Lowriders co-producer Jason Blum. “The LA Film Festival is a wonderful event”—words to live by.

This year’s full line-up will be announced on April 26. For tickets, schedule, and other information, please go to www.lafilmfest.com