Las Vegas Sun

November 12, 2019

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Our kind of culture

Homegrown CineVegas made for the movie enthusiasts of the Las Vegas Valley


Tiffany Brown

Trevor Groth, artistic director of CineVegas, emphasizes that the film festival is for Las Vegas residents. “It’s not for tourists, it’s not just exclusive to (film) industry,” he says.

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If You Go

  • What: CineVegas
  • When: Today through Monday
  • Where: Palms and Brenden Theatres
  • Admission: $10 individual film tickets, $40 day pass (three films plus at least one party entry), $150 locals pass (16 films plus parties), other passes and packages $100-$500; 888-883-4278,

CineVegas Lineup

Richard Vallejos as Richard in Etienne, which will have its world premiere at the 2009 CineVegas in the Palms. Launch slideshow »

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Beyond the Sun

This is a diatribe. A jeremiad, a manifesto, a proclamation.

For all of those — and I include myself — who have rolled their eyes and sighed and whined that “there’s no culture in Las Vegas,” please get over yourselves and do something about it.

The CineVegas film festival begins its 11th edition today, and it is the single best current example of a homegrown cultural event that’s really vital and growing and evolving.

Many arts events — concert tours, awards shows — fly into Vegas and take advantage of its unsurpassed options for accommodations and entertainment. But most of them are just carpetbaggers.

CineVegas Quick Picks

CineVegas Managing Director gives some quick picks for locals wanting to get the most out of CineVegas 2009.

CineVegas is not a tourist attraction. It is created here, it’s about here, it’s for people who live here. The festival’s organizers have taken pains to reach out to our communities, chosen films that reflect who we are and how we are seen by the rest of the country and the world, and made it easy and affordable to experience the films.

CineVegas is the real deal. Over the past decade it has built itself into one of the city’s landmark cultural events and one of the more prestigious film festivals in the country.

It’s all about you

Movies may not be a primary focus of entertainment creators or consumers in Las Vegas. But moviemakers and moviegoers are fascinated by our town. Each season sees its share of hit movies — right now it’s “The Hangover” — set in or starring Las Vegas.

“One of these days a movie is going to get it right about Las Vegas,” says CineVegas Artistic Director Trevor Groth. “Not just capturing the surface elements, but getting the essence of what’s going on here.”

The CineVegas selections that Groth thinks come closest to getting Vegas right include “All In: The Poker Movie” (7:30 p.m. Thursday, 12:30 p.m. Friday), a fairly comprehensive documentary about poker, and “Vegas: Based on a True Story” (3 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Sunday), which Groth calls “a broken dreams story that gets into the real underbelly of what a part of what this city is built on.”

The festival also provides a platform for a venue for Nevada filmmakers to screen shorts and feature films, and it strives to make it affordable at $10 for an individual film ticket and a locals ticket package that includes 16 films and seven events for $150.

But it’s not all about you

It’s about the films that are painstakingly selected throughout the year by Groth, who lives and breathes movies to the point that he feels guilty when he’s doing anything else. He jokes that he’s thinking of investing in a pair of those video eyeglasses so he can screen movies while walking around and driving.

Groth is also senior director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, but for CineVegas, which he calls a “discovery” festival, he says he looks for “films made by adventurous, uninhibited storytellers. Those films can be challenging and provocative, but they can also be accessible and universal. They all have to have that spark of originality.”

Packing pretty much the same number of films (more than 50), events and parties into six days (down from 10 days last year), CineVegas is headquartered at the Palms Casino Resort, which includes built-in screening rooms (Brenden Theatres) and party venues (Ghostbar, Rain and the Playboy Club).

It’s not just about celebrities

But there will be celebrities, of course.

The festival’s honorees include Jon Voight, singled out for the Marquee Award for the challenging roles he has undertaken. A rare, newly mastered director’s cut of Voight’s “Lookin’ to Get Out” (1982), which was filmed in Las Vegas, will be shown at noon Sunday.

Willem Dafoe will receive the festival’s Vanguard Actor Award, and his 1982 film “The Loveless” will be screened at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Conversations with the actors will be held after the screenings. And as always, you’re likely to glimpse or even chat with actor/director Dennis Hopper, chairman of the advisory board and the festival’s devilish guardian angel and star magnet.

It’s about seeing something new

Many of these films will never see a Vegas screen outside of CineVegas. Groth says the tone will be set by the opening-night film, “Saint John of Las Vegas” with Steve Buscemi and Sarah Silverman, which “has all of the elements we look for in a CineVegas film. It’s smart and funny with a dark edge to it, it was made by a forward-thinking company by a first-time writer-director who shows a lot of talent and promise, and the story has a Vegas connection” (7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 5:30 p.m. Friday).

And seeing something old

Among the many offbeat and even outré events this year: The Beatles’ 40-year-old animated “Yellow Submarine” will be shown at a “dive-in” theater at Mandalay Bay Beach (9:30 p.m. Saturday), followed by a party at Moorea Beach Club. And CineVegas will again create an outdoor drive-in at Fremont and Third streets for a screening of the cult flick “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” (9 p.m. Monday), which turned 50 last year. Added bonus: You may get to watch from inside a classic car.

It’s about seeing movies the way they were meant to be seen

Which means on a big screen. With other people. Sure we can all stay cocooned with Netflix and on-demand movies. But we have the rest of the year to do that. CineVegas is the best chance — and reason — to get out of the house and sit in the companionable darkness and share a dream.

“It’s been a challenge over the years to spread the word to the people who live in Las Vegas that this festival is for them. It’s not for tourists, it’s not just exclusive to (film) industry. We need the support of the film lovers in Las Vegas, and we do everything we can to make it easy and user-friendly for people who live here. “The more successful festivals embrace the energy and identity of the city they’re in,” Groth says. “And I think we definitely do that.”

So be part of it

Buy a ticket. Go to a screening. Rub elbows with fellow movie lovers at a party.

If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame next time you complain about the lack of indigenous culture.

One final incentive, which may be unique to our Las Vegas-based film festival: Free parking!

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