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The Ojai Film Festival

The Ojai Film Festival is dedicated to supporting the art of the motion picture through the presentation of an annual multi-day festival in which films submitted by filmmakers throughout the world are publicly exhibited at several venues in and around the City of Ojai, California.

The Ojai Film Festival fulfills its goal of serving the art of film:

  • by providing filmmakers, many of them beginning their careers, with a supportive and enthusiastic audience for their creative efforts and giving them access to film industry professionals who offer guidance and other forms of career assistance.
  • by bringing to its audience of both local residents and visitors from all over southern California, a wide array of distinguished motion pictures otherwise inaccessible to them.

Learn more about the festival at:


21st Annual Ojai Film Festival Goes Virtual

Ojai film festival posterThe theme “Enriching the Human Spirit through Film” continues to guide the Ojai Film Festival. At a time when people’s spirits need uplifting more than ever before the global pandemic makes it unsafe to invite filmmakers and film lovers to come together in a physical space. To give their audience a necessary boost the Ojai Film Festival (OFF) plans to go virtual this year, November 6 through 15.

With a rich history spanning twenty-one years OFF bears the distinction of the only continuously operating, nonprofit film festival in Ventura County. Although this year’s event happens entirely online, many OFF features remain the same. In our current stay home, stay safe situation two factors remain. Audiences want to view groundbreaking work otherwise inaccessible, and independent filmmakers desire an enthusiastic audience.

“In indie films we see passion still brimming over, we see those who want to create art, those who want to tell stories that add to the human experience,” Ojai Film Festival President Jonathan Lambert said. “These films often produce moments of honest and unflinching emotion within the context of sometimes uncomfortable reality.”

This year’s OFF consists of 77 films, selected from 302 entries from 42 countries. The lineup includes animations, short and feature-length documentaries and narratives, plus environmental Focus Earth films integrated throughout the festival. A series of 12 Gold Coast films celebrates southern California filmmakers. Sticking to tradition the films are grouped into blocks running approximately two hours, with live Zoom discussions with filmmakers after each block.

The way OFF Founder and Artistic Director Steve Grumette groups films into blocks gives the Festival a special feel. Instead of putting films together with those that obviously share something in common, he carefully selects stories that harmonize with each other. “I've opted to create a mix of films of varying genres, a sort of ‘something for everyone’ philosophy,” Grumette said. “Someone might choose a particular screening block because of an interest in one film, then feel pleasantly surprised to find they also unexpectedly enjoy one or more of the others.”

Blocks will screen for the first six days of the Festival, November 6 through 11. Viewers may purchase individual blocks for $10, or an all access pass for the six days for $50. The other four days, November 12-15, viewers may purchase any festival film on demand for $5 for a feature or $3 for a short, or $10 for a block.

Going virtual won’t stop OFF from offering filmmakers learning opportunities with industry veterans. International film director and acting coach Michelle Danner will present “Inside Indie Filmmaking,” and award-winning cinematographer Steven Poster (ASC) will teach a masterclass. Plus an Animation seminar is in the works.

A special program, “The Feeling Through Experience,” created by Doug Roland in partnership with the Helen Keller National Center, brings a sense of diversity to this year’s OFF. The three-part presentation consists of a fully accessible screening event including the first film starring a DeafBlind actor, followed by a supporting documentary and panel discussion with the DeafBlind community. Tickets for virtual seminars and special programs cost $10.

More diversity appears in the form of the Screenplay Competition winner. “Immigrants,” written by the team of David Diamond and David Weissman, resonates today as our nation grapples with issues of immigration and the way we view “the other.” A Zoom-style table read of the script by professional actors directed by Valerie Alexander, broadcasts on Sunday, November 8.

OFF plans to announce the winners of other awards at a ceremony shown online on Thursday, November 12. The honors include two bestowed for the first time last year, the Bill Paxton Award to Best Gold Coast Film, and the Sergio Aragones Award, named for the Ojai artist and legendary Mad Magazine illustrator, for Best Animation. Following a longstanding practice the Best Student Film receives a Panavision $60,00 rental package.

For twenty-one years OFF invited folks to enjoy Ojai’s picturesque mountain community, as well as enriching films. With the launch of a virtual event OFF continues its tradition of presenting the finest examples of independent cinema found anywhere. All available from the comfort of your own home, on your own devices.


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