by Nicole Muj

Hollywood is synonymous with moviemaking, but the celebration of the art of film is alive and well up and down the West Coast. Two recent festivals of note feted the very best from the European Union at the first annual EUphoria Film Festival held at USC, while the world of sports entertainment was spotlighted at the La Costa Film Festival (LCFF) in Carlsbad.

Member States from the European Union, in conjunction with ELMA (European Languages and Movies in America) and USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), held the first annual EUphoria Film Festival, celebrating films from EU countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Poland. The opening night ceremony and presentation of Pantelis Voulgaris’ “Little England” from Greece and the country’s official entry for Best Foreign Film for the 87th Annual Academy Awards, demonstrated the organizers’ commitment to bringing quality films to Los Angeles audiences.


“The EUphoria Film Festival is an exciting opportunity to indulge in our passions for European cinema, which have rich and unique heritages, much like the countries they represent,” said Alessandro Ago, SCA Director of Programming “My goal is to inspire our students to explore other cultures through the cinematic lens, hopefully igniting a curiosity for discovery that will inform them throughout their academic careers and beyond.”

ELMA Founder Pascal Ladreyt and The Honorable Consul General of Austria Ulrike Ritzinger
ELMA Founder Pascal Ladreyt and The Honorable Consul General of Austria Ulrike Ritzinger

Next stop, the stunning coastal town of Carlsbad. Over four days, LCFF screened 43 films from 13 countries, hosted nightly red carpet galas, panels and receptions, and honored a number of prominent filmmakers, including Golden Globe winner Ed Harris (Radio, Apollo 13, The Truman Show, The Abyss, The Hours, Pollock) with a special “Legacy Award” and Oscar-nominated writer and director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup and White Men Can’t Jump) with the “Ambassador of Sports Award.”

Legacy Award Winner Ed Harris
Legacy Award Winner Ed Harris

Only in its second year, LCFF has partnered with Mandalay Sports Media to curate the festival’s sports-themed narrative, documentary and shorts programs. LCFF placed the spotlight on films from the sports genre and assembled a high profile jury, including producer Cash Warren, Boys & Girls Clubs of Carlsbad CEO Brad Holland, seven time Emmy winner Ira Opper, KUSI-TV Sports Director Paul Rudy and former NFL Chargers kicker John Carney.

Sports Competition Jury Members Paul Rudy, John Carney, Ira Hopper, Cash Warren
Sports Competition Jury Members Paul Rudy, John Carney, Ira Hopper, Cash Warren

The 2014 sports genre award winners were the feature “Brothers in Exile,” that premieres on November 4, 2014 on ESPN, and the short “Tommy and Frank,” currently available online, both produced by ESPN Films.

Additional highlights of the festival included the audience picks for narrative feature “Una Vida” by Richie Adams and starring Joaquim de Almeida, the story of a disheartened neuroscientist who finds redemption and reward in the peace he brings to a beautiful New Orleans jazz singer named Una Vida (portrayed exquisitely by Aunjanue Ellis), whose life is in turmoil because of recurring memory loss; and foreign narrative “White Lies” by Dana Rotberg. Additional audience awards included documentary feature “Brothers in Exile” by Mario Diaz, foreign documentary “Bella Vita” by Jason Baffa, short “Bis Gleich” by Benjamin Wolff, and an honorable mention for “H2Mexico” by Brent Deal. The high school short film competition winner was awarded to Jason Phillips and Brandon Chase of Canyon Crest High School for their work “Sofia.”


The mockumentary “Teacher of the Year” by Jason Strouse, and starring Matt Letscher, Keegan-Michael Key closed the festival on a comedic high note!

LCFF encourages guests to explore the uniqueness of La Costa, known for its gorgeous beaches and gourmet cuisine. I personally had a chance to experience the magic of the quaint coastal town as a guest of the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa. In between screenings and festivities, I witnessed a breathtaking sunset while at the hotel pool, and was treated to wonderful food and cocktails at the property’s restaurant, Chandlers. (added note: the world’s best spicy Bloody Mary!)

Photos Courtesy of LCFF and EUphoria Film Festival.

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