In something of a minor surprise, the 2011 Los Angeles FIlm Festival has landed the world premiere of Richard Linklater's new film "Bernie" as its opening night feature.

The story finds Black as Bernie, a "beloved" mortician in a small Texas town.  MacLaine plays her now familiar role of the town’s richest, meanest widow, but - surprise - even she adores him.  The film appears to hinge on the fact that Bernie is so well liked no one will say anything bad about him even after he commits a horrible crime - killing MacLaine's character.  How McConaughey figures into the picture is unclear.

The independently produced black comedy reunites Black and McConaughey with  Linklater after both worked with the filmmaker on "School of Rock" and "Dazed and Confused" respectively.  Even with Black and McConaughey's involvement, "Bernie" is still searching for distribution.  While you have to be happy LA Film Fest is getting such a high profile picture it's somewhat bizarre the film didn't debut at SXSW in March (Linklater is based in Austin, TX) or that the producer's wouldn't wait to show it at Toronto this September (where competing films and bidders could have driven up the price).  Strange to say the least. Most of the other big films at LAFF have screened at other festivals to significant acclaim ("Drive," "Another Earth," "The Future," The Guard" ) or are commercial Hollywood films looking for a fun send off ("Green Lantern," "Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark").  It's difficult to recall the last time LA Film Fest found a potential acquisition piece in it's coffers. 



"Bernie" will kick off the 2011 LA Film Fest on June 16.