Indie film returns with Los Angeles Festival of Movies

The festival takes a personal, multimedia approach to new independent cinema.

“I Saw the TV Glow” was presented at the Los Angeles Festival of Movies. The horror film stars Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine. (A24)

Over the weekend, a brand new film festival took over Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Festival of Movies is the first showcase for independent film to take place in L.A. since the 2018 closure of the L.A. Independent Film Festival. The event’s inaugural year featured some of the most anticipated narrative and documentary film releases of 2024.

The four-day festival, spanning from April 4 to April 7, opened Thursday night with Jane Schoenbrun’s upcoming A24 film “I Saw the TV Glow,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” (2021). “I Saw the TV Glow” has emerged as an audience favorite since the film’s premiere at Sundance Film Festival. The film’s West Coast premiere was arguably the biggest event of the festival, with tickets selling out within mere hours.

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The film has received praise for its star-studded soundtrack, featuring Caroline Polachek, yeule and Alex G, among others. Additionally, the film includes Phoebe Bridgers, Lindsey Jordan (Snail Mail) and Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) in acting roles.

Throughout the festival, a clear emphasis was placed on the value of discussion in independent cinema. Each one of the 14 feature film, TV and short film screenings included a post-screening panel discussion, in addition to two talks. An audience member who attended both “Good One” and “I Saw the TV Glow” put particular emphasis on the post-film Q&A’s, saying the presence of Schoenbrun to discuss the latter movie “really added to the experience.”

Another Sundance alum also made its West Coast premiere at the festival, as India Donaldson’s feature-length debut, “Good One,” drew praise for its calm and meditative pace. Lily Collias stars as Sam, a 17-year-old girl on a hiking trip through the Catskill Mountains with her father (James Le Gros) and his friend (Danny McCarthy).

Although the theater for “Good One” was fairly small, the festival increased the scale via extra rows of folding chairs and a larger screen. However, the intimacy of the space remained, making for a very personal experience with both the film and the panel afterward, which featured Donaldson and Collias in conversation with the film’s music supervisor Taylor Rowley and composer Celia Hollander.

The score’s role in guiding the film emerged as a major topic of discussion. Donaldson talked at length about the movement her two musical collaborators brought to the project.

“The music in the film is a combination of Celia’s score and three instrumental queues that Taylor sourced,” Donaldson said. “The music that [Rowley and Hollander] brought to the film opens the film and brings some momentum to it.”

Another topic was Collias’ performance. She began journaling in preparation for her extremely internal and restrained performance as Sam.

“There’s a lot to sit with in that movie,” Collias said. “It was also very helpful knowing how little she speaks because I thought I could sit with nature in a way … To get to know her, it would have to be something on paper, something intimate and something personal.”

One of the talks, hosted at 2220 Arts + Archives, featured founding member of Sonic Youth Kim Gordon in conversation with novelist Rachel Kushner as the pair discussed some of their favorite films set in L.A. During the talk, a clear emphasis was placed on the variety of the city, with both agreeing on the importance of portraying L.A. beyond the classic Hollywood image most people are familiar with.

“People think L.A. is Hollywood … In fact, we are the manufacturing capital of the United States, we bring in almost half the goods that come into the U.S. through our ports,” Kushner said. “Where are the films that are showing what’s really happening in L.A.?”

The talk also went beyond just the world of movies, reflecting both participants’ backgrounds in other art mediums. Architecture was a major vehicle of discussion, particularly the role of film in portraying the many architectural styles of L.A., as well as how those styles in turn reflect the city’s history outside of Hollywood.

“You can see remnants of where people come from looking at the variation of architecture. You have a ranch house with wagon wheels, and then it could be a colonial house, to a McMansion. It’s kind of interesting,” Gordon said. “The myth of L.A. and California has all been exported … It lives a life outside of California.”

The talk served as a perfect distillation of the festival’s interdisciplinary approach to charting an alternative L.A. for film. As Festival Director Micah Gottlieb said, “We wanted to hear from people who are not necessarily involved with movies, but who are luminaries in other artistic practices … We felt that would bring in a different kind of audience.”

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