The second annual Catalina Film Festival, held on Catalina Island just off the coast of Long Beach, kicked off its weekend long celebration of cinema with a special screening of The Avengers and an appearance by one of the great icons of pop culture Stan Lee.
“I’m amazed it’s taken me so long to come out to Catalina but now that I’m finally here, all I want to do is get out of this suit and into some jeans and go play on the island,” joked Lee on the red carpet.
Lee’s presence at the event coincided with the nationwide opening day of The Avengers film, a comic he helped to create. As Chairman Emeritus of Marvel Comics, Lee played a hand in creating some of the today’s most well known superheroes. With longtime creative partner Jack Kirby, Lee helped to develop the idea of heroes with flawed humanities. The result was superhero teams like the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Using comics as a means of social commentary for the real world, his characters revolutionized the industry.
“Each of the characters are my favorite, it’s so hard for me to choose just one. I’m very excited for what’s coming up next. There’s going to be Amazing Spider-Man, in which I make a very good cameo, and then we’re going to do the sequels for all the other major players along with Black Panther, Doctor Strange and a few others,” explained Lee, making fanboys around the world giddy with excitement.
As the festival’s guest of honor, Lee was awarded the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator award for his lifetime of promoting children’s literacy through comic books and other mediums.
This year the festival focused its lens on the world of independent cinema. With a healthy balance of both documentaries and feature films there was plenty for everyone on the island to see. Unlike most festivals, the roster for the Catalina Film Fest included a series of films geared toward saving the environment. The ISLA Earth Film Series, which included such groundbreaking films as Confessions Of An Eco-Terrorist and Plastic Tide, bring controversial issues like garbage in the oceans and waste in the fashion industry to light.
Environmentalism played a prominent role throughout the festival and with good reason. Catalina Island, while a tourist destination, is also a large nature preserve that has been largely untouched.
Beyond documentaries, the festival also serves as a hub for independent filmmakers and screenwriters. Highlighting both shorts and full-length features, the festival saw the world premiere of the comedic short First Kiss, a fan favorite throughout the weekend. Although only four minutes long the film tells the trials and tribulations of a couple that just can’t seem to get to the first kiss, the results are unexpected and hilarious. On the other end of the spectrum was the Trotteur, a French Canadian film about a young man who decides to race a train on foot in the dead of winter. While beautifully shot, the film itself seemed to lack impact and end without any real conclusion.
While still relatively small, the festival itself is helped by the natural beauty of the island. The Avalon Theatre, where most of the events took place, is located at the far end of the island allowing festivalgoers to experience much of the town’s flavor on the way to each of the screenings. This may only be the second year for the festival but it seems to be growing fast. Catalina Island may be off the beaten path for most Angelenos but is well worth the trip for a weekend of great independent cinema.