Three-day event spotlights local talent and celebrates cinema

Town park and recreation staff get their moment on the red carpet after helping organize the Yucca Valley Film Festival.

Local talent shined with rave reviews at the town’s first film festival Friday through Sunday. The Yucca Valley Film Festival was a three-day event showcasing short films, documentaries, music videos and animated films for the whole family.

The festival crowds also loved the “no dress code” red carpet and posed for professional photos and a few selfies too.

“I’m really happy to see this crowd,” said festival organizer Matt Beurois, a director, producer and scriptwriter, on opening night. “We are grateful they trusted us to make this happen — It’s a labor of love.”

The organizers received 282 submissions originating from more than 30 countries. About 30 films were screened during the festival. The award-winning animated short “Master Moley” made its U.S. debut at the Yucca Valley Film Festival and won best animated short.

The film festival was spearheaded by Beurois and his business partner and wife, Auregan, a French producer, performer, singer and songwriter. The couple, who moved to Yucca Valley last year from Los Angeles, said they created the festival to give back to the community.

“Hopefully we will see you again next year if you want it,” Beurois said Sunday night.

Auregon and Beurois chose the winning film for their Festival Pick: an animated film titled “Winter’s Blight.”

“It is one of the most beautiful animated films we’ve ever seen,” Beurois said.

People of all ages delighted in the atmosphere that transformed the Yucca community center into a bright entertainment venue with lights lining the walkways and sparkling overhead in the trees.

Sofia Gonzalez and her friend Anna Jackson, both 12, attended the festival with Sofia’s father. The two girls said their favorite was the surf film “White Wolves.”

“I loved the movie,” Sofia said. “The beach is my favorite place.”

Cinematographer John Stanier (“Midnight Express,” “Pink Floyd: The Wall”) held a master class Saturday. The master class was free of charge and Stanier signed autographs afterward.

“He’s never done this before,” Beurois said. “It is exclusive for Yucca Valley.”

The dance film “Siren’s Tango” won the viewers’ hearts Friday night, although not the big awards.

“That was a beautiful film to end the night,” Beurois said on Friday.

Many in the audience loved the film, which doesn’t have words, only music and dance. After the screening they talked about the details.

“It was my absolute favorite film,” said Yucca Valley resident Kathy French, who came to the festival with friend Cain Motter.

On Sunday night, Sy Richardson accepted the award for Best Script for his film “Little Victories” from Yucca Valley Town Manager Curtis Yakimow. Richardson’s film also won the People’s Choice Award.

“I feel very honored to get this award,” Richardson said. “It’s really been a great time at this festival.”

The town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Commission and Town Council members rejoiced with the success of their new event.

Sue Earnest, community services manager, said she was thrilled, especially with the teamwork between the staff who put the event together. The team included staffer Derek Cooper Jr., whose meticulous work helped keep the show running without many technical difficulties.

“It’s been amazing watching Matt and Auregan work,” Earnest said. “We got exactly what we wanted. You sure delivered!”

Awards went out to local talent from the Morongo Basin with singer Jesika Von Rabbit’s music video “Joshua Tree,” also starring Jason Nutter, winning Best Music Video in a tie vote. The music video “Are You Serious” won the Keep Mojave Free award and featured funky local singer Popstar Nima.

The short film “Desert Prayer” won the Yucca Valley Award. “Desert Prayer” was filmed at Raven Bookstore in Twentynine Palms and featured local women Valerie Eagle Heart and Carrie Laughing Heart.

The comedy short “Very Nick and Zach,” filmed at Kitchen in the Desert in Twentynine Palms and featuring Yucca Valley High School grad Nick Fairless, took third place for the People’s Choice award.

The film “Feelings,” with scenes filmed in Pioneertown, Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, tied for best visual arts film with “Staying in the Game,” written, directed and filmed by Gordon Clark, of Joshua Tree.

Yucca Valley Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Drozd, who attended all three days, said he was impressed with the films and the work by Beurois and Auregan.

“I hope we have another film festival next year,” Drozd said.

One of his favorite films was “Little Victories,” which hit home for him with the joys and challenges of getting older.

“Little Victories touched me because of my mother,” said Drozd, whose mother had Alzheimer’s.

The town agreed to pay up to $25,000 for the film festival this year. Town officials said they hope revenue will offset some of the costs in future years.

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