Every year when the Ashland Independent Film Festival comes around, there are many in the Ashland community who will go and see a film or two. Those who are more passionate about cinematic culture will get memberships, seeing five to 14 or more films. Then there are the champions -- individuals in our community, whom we affectionately call “marathoners,” who see films in all 24 slots!
To explain this further, each day of the festival is broken down into five segments of time during which films are presented: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, and Night. AIFF is five days long and the first day of the festival begins at the Noon time segment. This means that there are in total 24 different opportunities to see films during the festival.
For our marathoners, watching so many films is a passion developed over the years. Marathoner Dot Fisher-Smith has attended AIFF since its inception in 2001. She eventually became a screener for the festival, a volunteer who views films and writes reviews to help determine what should get in. This enabled her to see plenty of films in advance of the festival and earn a Fan Pass to see 24 more for free this April.
What does it take to see so many films in a day? The marathoners I interviewed noted that eating and getting plenty of exercise is essential. Bruce Bayard elaborated that he will “do yoga stretches in line, have quick meals in between films, [and] have engaging conversations about all the films I’ve seen.”
Why do they do it? All of the marathoners I talked with emphasized the educational opportunities that the films at AIFF provide. Ann DiSalvo compared the films of AIFF to “a mountain of experiences waiting to be enjoyed. It’s a very different experience than mainstream films or movies. They’re more intimate at AIFF.” Likewise, marathoner Dot Fisher-Smith referred to the festival as “my Five Days Around the World at the Varsity Theatre—my annual educational intensive watching documentaries,” highlighting both the informative aspects as well as the cross-cultural experiences AIFF provides.
Marathoning may be a daunting task for those just beginning. Many marathoners advised newcomers to work their way up to four or five films a day. Eleanor Lippman noted that it “depends how your brain is wired,” but a marathoner’s brain can be trained not to mix up the plot details!
Marathoning is an extreme sport for movie-lovers with a lot of patience and a love of learning. Through the advice of the experts above, AIFF can be a transformative experience for any cinephile out there. Let us know if you’re a marathoner and have tips for newbies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by AIFF student intern Cameron Riggs.