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The Royal Road, by Jenni Olson

The Royal Road, by Jenni Olson

The Royal Road, by Jenni Olson

Filmmaker Jenni Olson and Historical Advisor Steven Hackel in person!

“A breathtaking cinematic essay…a masterpiece.”Sam Fragoso, Roger

“A beguiling meditation….serenely accomplished.” — Dennis Harvey, Variety

From acclaimed filmmaker Jenni Olson, THE ROYAL ROAD is a stunning feature-length cinematic essay that offers up a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity, the quest for unattainable women, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voiceover cameo by Tony Kushner.

Call 323-377-7238 with questions.         

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.  Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

Jenni Olson is one of the world's leading experts on LGBT cinema history and is currently VP of e-commerce at Her debut feature film, The Joy of Life, world premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and went on to play a pivotal role in renewing debate about the need for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as earning the 2005 Outfest Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and the 2005 NewFest Award for Best U.S. Screenplay. Jenni’s most recent short film, 575 Castro St. premiered at Sundance and the Berlin Panorama in 2009. Commissioned for the release of Gus Van Sant’s Milk, the film can still be seen online at the Milk website, on the Sundance YouTube Screening Room page, and in a permanent installation at 575 Castro Street (home of the Human Rights Campaign Action Center & Store).

In 1995 Olson was one of the founders of where she established the massive queer film industry resource, PopcornQ and pioneered the first online showcase for LGBT short films (the PlanetOut Online Cinema). More recently she co-founded the first global LGBT streaming movie platform, She is on many advisory boards including the Outfest/UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, and Canyon Cinema. She is also on the board of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and is very proud to be the co-founder of the legendary Queer Brunch at Sundance. She frequently serves as an advisor to filmmakers and is currently a consultant on Deb Shoval’s new lesbian feature, AWOL (now in pre-production).

As a film collector and archivist Jenni’s historical movie trailer programs (including the ever-popular: Homo Promo, which is now available on DVD) have been shown at film festivals around the world, as have her many short films and videos. In addition to her vast curatorial experience (including stints at the Minneapolis/St. Paul and San Francisco LGBT Film Festivals) Jenni has written extensively about LGBT film since 1985 for publications too numerous to mention.

Born and raised in California, Steven Hackel earned his B.A. at Stanford University and his Ph.D. in American History from Cornell University with specializations in early America and the American West. He taught at Oregon State University from 1996 to 2007, and is now Professor of History at UC Riverside.  Within the larger field of early American history, Hackel's research specializes on the Spanish Borderlands, colonial California, and California Indians. He is especially interested in Indian responses to colonialism, the effects of disease on colonial encounters, and new ways of visualizing these processes through digital history. His most recent book, Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father (Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), was name a top ten book for 2013 by Zocalo Public Square, and a finalist for best book of the year by the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ Association.  He co-curated the Huntington Library’s international exhibition, “Junípero Serra and the Legacy of the California Missions.”


This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; Bloomberg Philanthropies; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.


The Royal Road

The Royal Road

(2015, USA, 16mm/HD, color, 65 minutes)

Jenni Olson, Writer-Director-Voiceover; Sophie Constantinou, Cinematographer; Dawn Logsdon, Editor; Jim Lively, Sound; Julie Dorf, Producer

A cinematic essay in defense of remembering, The Royal Road offers up a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California  landscapes, and featuring a voiceover cameo by Tony Kushner.

I strive in my films to achieve a combination of essayistic personal reflection,  romanticized fictional narrative, the sharing of lesser-known histories — all  against a backdrop of carefully composed urban landscape images. Deceptively simple California urban landscapes serve as the framework for the film's lyrically-written voiceover which combines rigorous historical research with a stream-of-consciousness personal monologue and relates these seemingly disparate stories from an intimate, colloquial perspective to tell a one-of-a-kind California tale. Shot on 16mm film and contemplatively crafted of long takes, The Royal Road is a film about landscapes and desire, memory and history - and the stories we tell.