Having survived criticism for agreeing to showcase Michael Bay's Transformers and, on the other end of the artistic spectrum, losing the US premiere of a Romanian prize-winner, reportedly due to an anxious distributor, the Los Angeles Film Festival prepares to open on Thursday with the world premiere of Talk to Me. The latest film by Kasi Lemmons, Talk to Me stars Don Cheadle as Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene Jr., an "underappreciated hero of the civil rights movement." Lemmons is a member of the Board of Directors of Film Independent, the organization behind the festival, but she's also an acclaimed filmmaker in her own right, having made the excellent Eve's Bayou and The Caveman's Valentine, and the trailer for Talk to Me looks great. A rich variety of entertainment -- including live music, filmmaker talks and free outdoor screenings -- has been arranged throughout the festival, which runs from June 21 through July 1.

Still, the heart of any festival is the film programming, and the line-up is stellar. The Narrative Competition includes August Evening, which has the potential to be exceptional; it features lyrical photography and a hypnotic sense of place as an older man faces the dissolution of his family. Owl and the Sparrow also looks promising; from the trailer it appears to be a lively tale of a young girl who runs away to Saigon and gets involved with a flight attendant and a zookeeper. Summer Previews include Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris and Steve Buscemi's Interview, while the International Showcase will screen Ad Lib Night from South Korea ("amazingly powerful," according to one knowledgeable reviewer) and Guilty Pleasures will give audiences the chance to see Flight of the Living Dead; all you need to know is "zombies on a plane." About 40 trailers are available for viewing on the festival's web site; in all, more than 230 features, shorts and music videos will screen before the Closing Night presentation of Danny Boyle's Sunshine.