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A reel festival

Native son takes the reins to bring an international film festival to media city.

March 25, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

A group of film enthusiasts are sitting back and letting the reel unwind on the first Burbank International Film Festival running through Sunday at Woodbury University.

“Everything is done and now we can enjoy it,” festival Executive Director Sharon Wissel said.

The festival is the baby of Burbank resident Val Tonione, festival president and founder. He produced the San Fernando Valley International Film festival from 2003 to 2007 at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood, he said.

“We had a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a great production. We had some great celebrities.”

Tonione thought it was time to bring a film festival to Burbank, he said. There is a rich history of entertainment here as well as the many studios and entertainment production companies in town, he said.

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He is funding most of the event — about $30,000 — himself along with donations from Anheuser-Busch and Entertainment Partners, a production management services provider.

Woodbury University is providing two auditoriums to show the films. Interns have been provided from the School of Media Culture and Design to create two programs, one for the screenings and one for the closing gala, and students are also assisting in video production and photography coverage of all the events, Wissel said.

The festival opened Sunday night with an inauguration ceremony and screening of “The Brothers Warner,” a documentary by Cass Warner, granddaughter of Warner Bros. founder Harry Warner.

The rest of the week will include workshops for filmmakers, special events and screenings of 92 films that range in topic from socially conscious films, one of the festival’s largest categories, to documentaries and music videos, Tonione said. Admission ranges from $5 to $25 and the closing gala is $75.

There are several documentaries on India and Tibet, he added.

“They are heart wrenching,” he said. “They explore the people’s survival of difficulties they are having to endure in their life as it is right now.”

There were 1,190 film submissions from around the world that were screened from July until February by members of the festival, including actress Loretta Swit and comedian Joanne Worley.

Students were able to submit their films to be judged for no entry fee.

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