Another film festival rises like Phoenix

by Robb Fulcher

KiKi Melendez, host of an upcoming nationally syndicated TV talk show, has agreed to host the planned "sandance' film festival this summer in Hermosa.


About a month after Hermosans officially said goodbye to the ambitious SilverSand Film Festival, an independent filmmaker has announced plans for a smaller, free-of-charge "sandance" film festival Saturday, Aug 5.

Tony Ballejos, 40, of Redondo Beach, whose own movie "Met-Rx at Tiffany's" was well received by critics at the first Hermosa film festival four years ago, plans to screen three films, including his own new one, at the 500-seat Hermosa playhouse.

City officials as of Monday had received no formal rental request for the playhouse. But Ballejos said he has secured assurances from a number of sponsors, and that KiKi Melendez, star of an upcoming, nationally syndicated talk show, confirmed that she has signed on as a host for the festival.

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said on Tuesday.

Melendez starred in "Kiki desde Hollywood" on the Spanish-language Galavision TV network for about a month before being signed by an NBC-TV subsidiary for a variety-driven talk show, which will make her, she said, the only Latina hosting such a national show.

Ballejos said that he signed Melendez as a sandance host the day before the powerful talent agency CAA negotiated her deal with the NBC subsidiary, Peter Engel Productions.

"I'm lucky I got her because a day later I would have had to go through CAA, and I never would have gotten her," Ballejos said. "Having her on board is an amazing, amazing bonus for the festival."

sandance will see the premier of Ballejos' "Gatekeeper," and will screen Albert Caballero's film "Miabuela," which also was shown at the recent Cannes Film Festival, and "We All Fall Down" by Gregory D. Huerta.

"All three are by Hispanic directors," Ballejos said. "I was not openly embraced in my own community here, so I went to the Latin community."

Ballejos described his new film as "a soapy, splashy, dialogue driven piece about relationships, and how women control everything on a Darwinian basis."

SilverSands of time

Just a month ago organizers of the SilverSand Film Festival announced that lack of funding from large sponsors forced them to cancel what would have been the event's fourth season this fall.

"We were just not able to get major sponsors," Community Center Foundation President Christine Hollander said. "I've got to tell you, this is a very sad decision we had to make."

One corporate sponsor, Hawthorne Savings, had committed a large sum to the festival again this year, but other commitments were not forthcoming, Hollander said.

"It takes $60,000 hard dollars to put this together," in addition to participation by businesses such as restaurants that donate food and services, she said.

The festival last year screened more than 30 films from the South Bay and across the country. Shorts, features and documentaries were screened at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Valley School and the Clark Building.

A special screening on the beach near the Hermosa pier featured the classic "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. The beach screening, normally a popular feature of the festival, was visited by unseasonably cold weather, and was sparsely attended. ER