****** FOR RELEASE MARCH 16, 2016 ******
Candace Turtle, firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-697-7884
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ASHLAND, Ore. – The Ashland Independent Film Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary this April by paying tribute to the roots of independent film and looking forward to exciting new mashups between film, art, and live performance.
“It’s going to be an exciting and stimulating five days and nights,’ said Cathy Dombi, the festival’s executive director. “More than 50 visiting filmmakers and artists will attend the festival to engage in dialogues after screenings, with several artists accompanying their films with live music, art exhibits, and even virtual reality headgear for audiences to sample.”
The festival’s lineup of 100-plus films — selected from more than 1,300 films submitted to the festival or specially invited — was announced March 15 to the public at a well-attended Preview Night held at Southern Oregon’s Music Recital Hall, and its program is now available on its website at ashlandfilm.org.
In his Ashland debut, Richard Herskowitz, the new director of programming, will honor two key indie film institutions by paying tribute to Kartemquin Films and Women Make Movies, organizations that have built an infrastructure for indie filmmakers working outside the mainstream. Kartemquin co-founder and artistic director Gordon Quinn will be joined by filmmakers Joanna Rudnick and Maria Finitzo for three screenings honoring Karteqmquin on its 50th anniversary. Accomplished documentarians Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar of New Day Films will screen three of their latest short films and join Quinn for a TalkBack panel on Activist Film Collectives.
“Independent film’s social and cultural importance has been reaffirmed lately as Hollywood’s neglect of women’s and other minority voices has become painfully apparent,” said Herskowitz.
This year, 24 of the 39 independent feature films are directed or co-directed by women, and the subject of one of the festival’s three “TalkBack” panel discussions will be Women Make Indie Movies, moderated by Women Make Movies’ executive director Debra Zimmerman. Zimmerman will also introduce her company’s acclaimed new release Sonita, winner of the Grand Jury and Audience Prize for international documentaries at Sundance. Sonita is about an Iranian teenager who creates an underground rap song to protest her family’s plan to sell her as a bride.
This year’s Rogue Award will go to the esteemed directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Detropia, Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka), who will screen their latest documentary, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, an homage to the 93-year-old American social activist and creator of the TV shows All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude. Barbara Hammer, the pioneering director of queer cinema, will receive the festival’s Pride Award, supported by the Equity Foundation, and will present her latest film, Welcome to this House, on the life and poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.
Herskowitz is introducing a new section titled Beyond, devoted to films that challenge and reinvent storytelling conventions. A highlight of this section will be MA, the debut feature by dance world sensation Celia Rowlson-Hall, a transfixing, artfully wordless narrative in which Rowlson-Hall stars as a reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. Rowlson-Hall was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine in 2014 and named one of 25 “new faces of independent film” in 2015 by Filmmaker Magazine. She is the winner of the festival’s first-ever Juice Award, given to an emerging female film director, with support from Tangerine Entertainment and the Faerie Godmother Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation. Other Beyond titles include The Fits, collective:unconscious, and He Hated Pigeons.
EXPANDED CINEMA: LIVE PERFORMANCES, INSTALLATIONS, AND VIRTUAL REALITY
AIFF will give special emphasis to the intersection of live performance and film, beginning with the opening night screening, and Pacific Northwest premiere of Honey Buddies. Filmed in Oregon, the Slamdance award-winning comedy stars Flula Borg as the relentlessly upbeat best man who convinces David Giuntoli (Grimm), after his fiancée dumps him at the altar, to take him on his Columbia River Gorge honeymoon, instead. Borg, an online musical sensation thanks to his YouTube music videos and his striking performance in the recent Pitch Perfect 2, will perform a live DJ set in the Ashland Armory following the screening.
Musician Rozalind McPhail will improvise and perform a live score for Ingrid Veninger’s feature road film He Hated Pigeons. The Newfoundland-based and classically trained flutist fuses electronica, classical, and jazz music to create a unique performance to accompany the film, a slow-burning odyssey about love and loss set in Chile.
At ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, Portland-based artist Laura Heit will screen animated films and perform one of her tiny puppet Matchbox Shows, which enters the realm of cinema when she projects it live onto the big screen. She also will install two media exhibits that use light, mirrors, animations, and cutouts to create ever-changing, rotating light projections. Two Ways Down will be on view at the Schneider Museum of Art from April 6 – June 11, and Hypothetical Stars can be seen at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum from April 7 -10.
Jeremy Rourke, a San Francisco animator and musician, will also perform at ScienceWorks. Rourke’s Stopping the Motion, an Expanded Cinema Performance, will feature, according to the artist, “stop motion animation, time lapse video, sound samples, audio loops, quotes, songs, singing bowls, and experimental interactions between myself and my media.” He has two performances in the festival, including a matinee for families.
Finally, at the TalkBack panel titled Transmedia & Virtual Reality Platforms for New Documentaries, filmmaker Helen de Michiel will present her latest transmedia projects, Lunch Love Community and Berkeley vs. Big Soda. Brad Lichtenstein will demo his virtual reality project, Across the Line, on the effect of anti-abortion protests on health centers and patients. Google VR headsets will be available for sampling after the panel. Vicki Callahan, a USC professor and an authority on digital culture and media strategies for social change, will moderate the discussion.
There will be several offerings for youth – long an area of interest to the Ashland Independent Film Festival, which holds an annual LAUNCH competition for filmmakers from kindergarten through college. This year, the festival will screen Kid Pix: The Best of the 2015 New York International Children’s Film Festival for kids 3 years and older, and another program for tweens and teens. In addition, younger (and older) film-goers should be intrigued by CineSpace, a collection of short animated, documentary, and fiction films that inventively rework space footage from the NASA archive. Leading independent filmmaker Richard Linklater selected CineSpace’s top award-winning films.
Of course, the mainstay of the festival continues to be a rich assortment of documentary and narrative feature films and shorts, including many regional and several national premieres. Magali Pettier’s Addicted to Sheep, Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden’s Traveler (which will be accompanied to the festival by its subject, photographer Nicholas Syracuse) and AIFF 2015 Audience Choice award winner Alexandria Bombach’s short film How We Choose are U.S. premieres. Ten feature films that opened at Sundance in January are receiving their regional premieres at AIFF, including Werner Herzog’s essay film on the Internet’s effect on society, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World; Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, Uncle Howard, Cameraperson, NUTS!, Hooligan Sparrow, Trapped, and The Fits, along with Sonita and Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.
There are a number of films with regional connections, including two by rising Portland filmmaker Christopher LaMarca, whose films Boone and The Pearl (co-directed by Jessica Dimmock) just premiered at the South by Southwest (SXSW)and True/False Film Festivals. Boone is a sensory and unsentimental meditation on the lives of three young goat farmers living off the land in the Little Applegate Valley near Jacksonville, Ore. The Pearl delves into the experiences of older transgender women in the Pacific Northwest. The film will be accompanied by the filmmakers and two of their most striking subjects from Oregon, Krystal and Jodi, two sisters who were formerly brothers, and unaware of each other’s gender fluidity. Bastards y Diablos, about two half-brothers who go on a journey of self-discovery to Colombia, involved a crew based mostly out of Medford, Ore., including producer and co-star Dillon Porter.
For lovers of the “other” Ashland festival, there are two films that highlight Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death. Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, a theater performance inventively filmed by Rodrigo Prieto, is being touted as a visually spectacular adaptation, and will be accompanied by a Skype conversation with Taymor. Bill is a Monty Pythonesque tale of William Shakespeare’s “lost years”. In addition, a program of short films will feature current and former Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors, including Anthony Heald in The Stairs; and David DeSantos and Stephanie Beatriz in Closure.
For a complete list of films, discussion panels, evening gatherings, parties, performances and more, check ashlandfilm.org. Film tickets are $13 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $6 for students. Some events are free, but may still require a ticket. Members may purchase tickets starting March 21. Tickets are available for the general public on March 27. Details on how to buy tickets online, or through the Box Office located in the information kiosk at Ashland’s Plaza check out ashlandfilm.org. Memberships start at $75.
2016 AIFF FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS
|Addicted to Sheep||Magali Pettier|
|Bastards y Diablos||A.D. Freese|
|Birth of Saké, The||Erik Shirai|
|Chicago Maternity Center Story, The||Jerry Blumenthal, Suzanne Davenport, Sharon Karp, Gordon Quinn, Jennifer Rohrer|
|collective:unconscious||Lily Baldwin, Frances Bodomo, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Josephine Decker, Lauren Wolkstein|
|Fits, The||Anna Rose Holmer|
|Five Nights in Maine||Maris Curran|
|Gesture and a Word||Dave Davidson|
|He Hated Pigeons||Ingrid Veninger|
|Honey Buddies||Alex Simmons|
|Hooligan Sparrow||Nanfu Wang|
|Hunky Dory||Michael Curtis Johnson|
|In Pursuit of Silence||Patrick Shen|
|In the Game||Maria Finitzo|
|In Transit||Albert Maysles, Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Ben Wu, David Usui|
|Light Beneath Their Feet||Valerie Weiss|
|Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World||Werner Herzog|
|Louder than Bombs||Joachim Trier|
|MA||Celia Rowlson Hall|
|Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise||Bob Hercules & Rita Coburn Whack|
|Midsummer Night’s Dream||Julie Taymor|
|Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You||Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady|
|Pearl, The||Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca|
|Secret Screening from Kartemquin Films||TBA|
|Seventh Fire, The||Jack Pettibone Riccobono|
|Sonita||Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami|
|Three Hikers, The||Natalie Avital|
|Traveler||Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden|
|Uncle Howard||Aaron Brookner|
|Voyagers Without Trace||Ian McCluskey|
|Welcome to This House||Barbara Hammer|
|Women He’s Undressed||Gillian Armstrong|
Short Film Programs
After Hours Shorts
Animated Worlds with Mark Shapiro
Ashland Actors On Screen
Family Shorts: Kid Pix
Family Shorts: TweenScreen
Locals Only 1: Family Friendly
Locals Only 2: Woman to Man
TalkBack Panel Discussions
Activist Film Collectives: Kartemquin and New Day Films
Women Make Indie Movies
Transmedia and Virtual Reality Platforms for New Documentaries