The Ojai Film Festival chose the phrase “Enriching The Human Spirit Through Film” as its guiding principle, and each year, the Festival focuses on specific topics within that theme.
For over thirty years, the Ojai Valley has been home to the Ojai Film Society, a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to enhancing the cultural life of Ventura County through a variety of motion picture related events presented throughout the year.
In 1998, the Film Society’s Program Director, Steve Grumette, was invited to serve as a juror at the Canyonlands Film Festival in Moab, Utah. With a comparable population and boasting both a vibrant arts community and a spectacular natural environment, Moab is similar to Ojai in many ways. So on his return from Utah, it occurred to Steve that if Moab could support a thriving film festival, why not Ojai? From that germ of an idea, the Ojai Film Festival was born.
On November 15, 2000, nearly two years of intensive effort by more than a hundred volunteers culminated in the opening of the first Ojai Film Festival to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from filmmakers and film-goers alike. The Ojai Film Festival was launched in 2000 with two goals in mind:
- To provide audiences with opportunities to see groundbreaking work that would otherwise be inaccessible.
- To provide filmmakers with an enthusiastic audience including film industry professionals.
After two very successful years of operation, the Ojai Film Festival became too large an event to remain a project of the Ojai Film Society, so in early 2002, the festival established itself as an independent nonprofit foundation, dedicated to continuing and expanding the traditions created during the first two years of operation.
Now in its eighteen year, the festival maintains its artistic direction to show films that “enrich the human spirit by seeking out important films that in some way uplift people or help audiences feel good about being members of the human race or encourage them to live meaningful lives inspired by the examples of others.”
Over the past few years, the Ojai Film Festival has expanded its creative platform with Focus Earth, a mini-festival of films and festival panels that focus on environmental issues as presented by local filmmakers and community experts.
The Ojai Film Festival also serves as a showcase to reflect the special character and spirit of Ojai, which is rich in history from the Chumash Indians to famous gurus. Spiritual teachers and Hollywood celebrities have been drawn to the beauty of Ojai, so the Ojai Film Festival is a perfect setting to bring filmmakers together to celebrate their talents and inspire creativity.