Opening Night for the 18th Annual South East European Film Festival, took place on Thursday, April 26th, at the Writer’s Guild Theater. The competition festival will run through May 3rd and showcases movies from this culturally rich area in East and Southeast Europe with a selection of features, documentaries, and short films.
Festival Director Vera Mijojlic officially opened the festival, including the presentation of the 2023 SEEfest Legacy Award to Otto Constantin Nemenz, the legendary founder of the camera rental company, Otto Nemenz International (ONI). Born in Austria to a Greek mother and Austrian father with roots in Romania, Nemenz grew up in Turkey and received a degree in optical engineering from the Vienna Technical Institute. After a stint at Panavision, he took a chance and caught a tremendous break when he was hired as a camera technician on the famed film classic Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer. He devoted his life to building a world-class camera rental facility and in 1992 received SciTech Oscar for Canon/Nemenz zoom lens.
The evening included the Los Angeles premiere of SONNE (The Sun), winner of the Berlinale Best First Feature Award last year. Directed by newcomer Kurdwin Ayub, a Kurdish filmmaker born and raised in Austria, the film bursts with the youthful energy of three teenage girls from Vienna who twerk in hijab and sing a pop song, filming and posting online. A YouTube video makes them famous overnight, especially in the Kurdish community. A reception sponsored by Festival Honorary Chairwoman Irina Maleeva (star of Peacock’s Paul T Goldman, Six Feet Under, and The Gilmore Girls) followed the film.
Other attending celebrities, industry leaders and guests included: Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent, Guardians of the Galaxy), Dawn Marie (About Us), Ron Yerxa (Oscar Winning producer Little Miss Sunshine), Larry Namer (E! Entertainment founder), Arnold Schwarzman (Oscar-winning director, Genocide;Echoes That Remain), Pascal Ladreyt (Executive Director, ELMA, Foundation for European Movies in America), Stefania Magidson (President, Blue Heron Foundation. Recipient of the SEEfest Humanitarian Legacy Award 2022 for relief work helping Ukraine’s refugees), Ms. Barbara Gasser, Board of Directors, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Peter Gross (Managing Partner, PMG Associates), Petra Haffter (award-winning writer/director/producer, California Dreaming, A Demon In My View), Jeff Consiglio (Oscar-winning documentary director, producer, editor, Inocente, Wardance, Twinsters),E’Ian West (award-winning producer, writer, director, Shaded, Triggered; owner, Montage Media USA, and Brella Streaming Network), Philip Malamuth (EMMY-winning editor, Animaniacs, Life Inside Out), Katerina Tana (writer/director/actor, The Tip; The Duchess), Chesley Heymsfield (Founder, Executive Director of the Louisiana International Film Festival), Ty Whittington-Scott (writer/director/producer, Parker & Angel, Counterblow; founder and CEO of Oshun Entertainment), Max Wang (Cinematographer, Looking Up, Animal World, The Devotion of Suspect X), Kevin Morris (Principal, Mt. Olive Innovation and Technology HS), The Hon. Claudia Plakolm (Austrian State Secretary for Youth in the Federal Chancellery; Vienna, Austria), The Hon. Dr Petra Schneebauer (Ambassador of Austria to the U.S., Washington D.C), . The Hon. Michael Pletl (Consul General of Austria, Los Angeles), The Hon. Cosmin Dumitrescu (Consul General of Romania, and Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps), The Hon. Renee Pea (Consul General of Croatia, Los Angeles), The Hon. Ioannis Stamatekos (Consul General of Greece, Los Angeles), The Hon. Boyko Hristov (Consul General of Bulgaria, Los Angeles), and The Hon. Dr. Imola Szabó (Deputy Head of Mission, Consulate General of Hungary.
“We are proud of the industry and community support for international cinema from the 20-country region SEEfest covers in East and Southeast Europe,” says Vera Mijojlic, festival director. “It is a privilege to present new voices and emerging filmmakers to an audience of distinguished guests as well as students from Duarte HS for Technology and Innovation who are getting hands-on training at our festival for careers in the entertainment sector,” said Festival Director Mijojlic.