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Film festivals all around the West; Santa Barbara to Missoula, black tie to barbed wire.

Film festivals all around the West When the house lights dim and the opening credits roll, a plush velvet seat can be the best place on earth. Nowhere is that truer than at the West's film festivals.

In an era when the mini-series and the VCR conspire to make the big screen smaller than it used to be, the klieg lights and hoopla of film festivals restore it to its proper size. Here are movies from the 1920s and for the 1990s; movies from the back lots of Culver City and movies from the badlands of the Soviet Union; movies best accompanied by biscotti and cappuccino, and movies that demand Raisinets and a jumbo Orange Crush.

The first film festival in North America was in the West--San Francisco's screened its opening reel back in 1956. Today, smaller fetes such as the Northwest Film and Video Festival in Portland salute regional film-makers, while a firstever festival in Colorado Springs turns the camera's eye on the environment. Larger festivals--in Park City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles--hold their own, in artistic seriousness and star power, against any in the world.

For 10 days this month in Park City, the United States Film Festival turns a Utah ski resort into a major film center. Coming attractions include more than two dozen festivals occurring through 1990.

Movies from around the world

and around the country

One of the great pleasures of festivalgoing is the chance to see movies not likely to play in your local multiplex. This year, the San Francisco International Film Festival will screen nearly 60 films from around the world.

Park City's United States Film Festival concentrates on American independent productions. Says its director of programming, Tony Safford, "You've heard of Off-Broadway. We're Off-Hollywood. The films we concentrate on are by definition produced without traditional studio financing--often by relatively young film-makers. And often they explore themes mainstream films ignore."

Not that these independent productions don't on occasion find mainstream success: this year's hottest topic of cocktail party conversation--Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape--had its premiere in Park City in 1989.

Other festival standouts are classics resuscitated after decades of neglect. You can also sample underappreciated genres such as documentaries, which receive particular attention in Park City, Seattle, and San Francisco (where Errol Morris's Thin Blue Line premiered at the 1988 San Francisco Film Festival).

Choosing among many unknown movies is a gamble. Scan festival programs and film reviews in local newspapers; films screened for review at the start of a festival often resurface toward the end.

Off-screen, festivals offer film-makers' lectures, guest appearances, reminiscences, and, yes, gossip. And opening or closing night galas usually include a party or reception where you can hobnob with the rich and famous.

Now playing in Palm Springs,

Park City, Portland ...

Telephone numbers are for festival information. Note that schedules can change with very little notice.

In general, tickets for individual movies run $5 to $6, $25 for opening or closing ceremonies. For the largest festivals, series tickets (including all events) or package deals can cost from $50 to several hundred dollars.


Palm Springs, California, January 10 through 14. Palm Springs International Film Festival; (800) 366-3456. New festival focuses on Canadian films and comedy, also holds American Film Institute seminars.

Park City, Utah, January 19 through 28. United States Film Festival; (801) 322-1700. Sponsored by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, it will screen 50 new films and salute director Richard Lester. Tickets go on sale January 4.


Portland, February 15 through March 5. Portland International Film Festival; (503) 221-1156. Forty films from 24 countries focus on the Pacific Rim. Retrospectives salute Ingrid Bergman's pre-Hollywood Swedish films, and best films of the festival's first 12 years. Tickets go on sale February 13.


Sacramento, March 8, 9, and 10. Sacramento Film Festival; (916) 447-5247. New festival screens everything from commercials to feature films.

San Francisco, March 22 through April 5, San Francisco International Film Festival; (415) 567-4641. Scheduled: tribute to producer Anatole Dauman (Hiroshima, Mon Amour). Order tickets early.

Santa Barbara, March 2 through 11. Santa Barbara International Film Festival; (805) 963-4408. Focus is French cinema, with appearances by French directors. Also, salute to Bugs Bunny creator Chuck Jones.

Santa Fe, throughout March. Santa Fe Film Expo; (505) 982-1338. Held at Center for Contemporary Arts, it features more than 30 new, independently made films from a dozen-plus countries.


Arcata, California, April 2 through 7. Humboldt Film and Video Festival; (707) 826-4113. Humboldt State University sponsors the country's oldest festival of student films.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 27 through 29. United States Environmental Film Festival; (719) 520-1952. This new festival will screen 50 environment-related documentaries and features, and offer lectures and an environmental fair.

Los Angeles, April 12 through 26, American Film Institute Los Angeles International Film Festival; (213) 856-7707. Shows 200 films from around the world--all of them U.S. or Los Angeles premieres; this year salutes film composers.

Missoula, Montana, April 3 through 8. International Wildlife Film Festival; (406) 243-2477. Program includes talks by film-makers and biologists, field trips to nearby National Bison Range. Series tickets: $50.

Santa Fe, April 25 through 29. Film Festival de Santa Fe; (505) 989-7430. Premieres and revivals of American comedies.

Sun Valley, Idaho, April 2 through 6. Sun Valley Film Festival; (206) 726-9491. Recent films from around the world.


Portland, May 4 through 13. Northwest Film and Video Festival; (503) 221-1156. Films from five Northwest states and British Columbia.

Seattle, May 17 through June 3. Seattle International Film Festival; (206) 324-9996. Longest festival in North America will screen 140 films. Many are shown in the historic Egyptian Theater.

Telluride, Colorado, May 25 through 28. Mountainfilm '90; (303) 728-4123. America's only festival devoted to mountaineering films.


Los Angeles, June 22 through 28. American Film Institute European Community Film Festival; (213) 856-7707. Premiere films from 12 European countries.


Berkeley and San Francisco, dates not set at our press time. Jewish Film Festival; (415) 548-0556. Features, documentary films on Jewish life; largest such festival in the world.

Healdsburg and Petaluma, California, July 13 through 23. Wine Country Film Festival; (707) 996-2536. Five series of films, including The Arts in Film.


Telluride, Colorado, August 30 through September 3. Telluride Film Festival; (603) 643-1255. Ambitious program; many films go on to New York City Film Festival. Buy tickets early.


Aspen, Colorado, dates not set at press time. Aspen Filmfest; (303) 925-6882. Focus is on independently made films.

Breckenridge, Colorado, September 13 through 16. Breckenridge Festival of Film; (303) 453-6200.

Las Vegas, September 7 through 12. Cinetex; (213) 856-7707. This year's focus is on comedy.


Denver, October 12 through 19. Denver International Film Festival; (303) 298-8223. More than a hundred films, including new ones from 12 countries.

Durango, Colorado, October 5, 6, and 7. Western Arts and Film Festival; (303) 259-6580, ext. 552. Films on American West.

Mill Valley, California, October 4 through 11. Mill Valley Film Festival; (415) 383-5856. Well-regarded festival screens premieres, revivals, foreign and independently produced films.


Honolulu, November 27 through December 3. Hawaii International Film Festival; (808) 944-7666. Cosponsored by East-West Center, this free festival screens films from Asia, the Pacific, and the U.S.

San Francisco, November 1 through 4. Film Arts Festival; (415) 552-8760. Experimental films by Northern California film-makers.
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