It’s no secret that the last few years have been, well, rather challengins.
So if you’re in need of a break, this week will offer a little escape and laughter via the hilarious make-believe world of “Young Frankenstein” and the romantic fun of a bygone era featured in “White Christmas.”
Those classic flicks will be among the offerings in the 20th annual Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival, set to run from Thursday to Sunday, March 2-5, at the historic Warner Grand Theatre in downtown San Pedro.
“Everything around us has been so serious and maudlin,” said festival founder and Director Stephanie Mardesich. “My dream is, at the end of ‘White Christmas,’ everybody will be singing along. People need something to brighten their spirits.”
Also featured again this year will be the popular “Read the Book, See the Movie” outing for hundreds of area school children who will arrive at the theater, 478 W. Sixth St., Thursday morning escorted by horse-mounted Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies and a bagpiper.
The school outreach this year features the classic novel “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling, paired with the Academy Award-nominated animated Disney film of the same name from 1967.
The festival’s official opening night kicks off at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30) Friday, with a showing of the popular 1970s Mel Brooks film “Young Frankenstein.”
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, the festival will showcase four short films from NewFilmmakers LA, as well as a question-and-answer panel discussion with the filmmakers after each screening. Mardesich makes it a point to distribute special invitations to schools, youth groups and other organizations as a way to encourage young people to attend and to be inspired to explore the field of filmmaking.
Later that day, at 4 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 3:30 p.m.), the festival’s Hollywood Nostalgia Tribute will be presented, opening with a short video on the book “The Golden Age of Hollywood (Through the Lens of Joe Ackerman)” by publisher Julie Anderson, daughter of the photographer, who will sign and sell copies of the book in the Warner Grand lobby.
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That will be followed by the showing of the classic 1954 Irving Berlin film “White Christmas,” with the audience invited to sing along.
The program benefits Harbor Interfaith Services and the YWCA of the Harbor Area. Attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or new clothing for admission; tickets ($5) also will be sold at the box office. The movie seemed a fitting send-off, Mardesich said, as the historic theater prepares to close later in the year — for an expected 18 months — for significant renovations.
Sunday’s offerings include “DocSuday” at 1 p.m., with a showing of “Nailed It: Vietnamese & The Nail Industry,” a 2018 documentary by director Adele Pham. At 3 p.m. that day, there will be a showing of “Port Town” and “Stories of Los Angeles Harbor Area: For Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” featuring seven stories of men and women who make up San Pedro’s multicultural story, produced by Jack Baric (director) and Mardesich, with a Q&A afterward.
For Mardesich, who studied film in college, the goal of the festival has always been about sharing the magic of good filmmaking and its impact on people and society.
Since she launched the festival, nearly 200 movies have been presented under its banner at the Warner Grand Theatre. She’s dedicating this year’s festival to the 1940s actress Marsha Hunt, who made several appearances at the festival through the years but died in October at the age of 104.
With the theater’s upcoming closure, Mardesich said she is already looking to line up alternative venues for the 2024 festival. Because, of course, the show must go on.
Tickets are available at the Warner Grand box office an hour before each day’s programing begins. Tickets cost $10 for general admission, and $8 for students and seniors. More details can be found at laharborfilmfest.com