This year, Varsity World Film Weeks, the annual fall festival of new international films normally held in Ashland’s Varsity Theatre, runs from Oct. 2 through Oct. 15 online at www.ashlandfilm.org. Among the countries represented through the 15 selected films are Chile, China, France, Israel, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Iran, Hong Kong, Argentina, and more. “Since the pandemic has thrown a wrench in many people’s travel plans, we’re happy to provide these illuminating cinematic voyages to many foreign lands,” states Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz.
All of the films can be accessed by cinephiles nationwide, except for Kuessiepan and The End of Love, which are geo-restricted to Oregon viewers only.
Several of the films are well-known on the festival circuit, having swept up awards ranging from the Golden Bear at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival (Mohamad Rasoulof’s There Is No Evil) to the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award (The Reason I Jump) and World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize (Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness) at Sundance.
Well-known directors like Iran’s Rasoulof and Chile’s Pablo Larrain (whose Ema stars Gael Garcia Bernal) are included, but according to Herskowitz, “the program is filled with adventurous gems from emerging talents such as Great Britain’s Mark Jenkin and Israel’s Keren Ben Rafael, whose films Bait and The End of Love play with storytelling conventions in exciting ways.” Herskowitz said he is also pleased to have films from countries making their World Film Week debuts, including Saudi Arabia (sending the feminist drama The Perfect Candidate), Honduras (the Tarantino-esque 90 Minutes), and, from Canada’s first nations, Kuessipan, whose screenplay is by Innu novelist Naomi Fontaine.
Tickets for World Film Weeks may be purchased at ashlandfilm.org. Each film will be available on the festival’s Eventive film channel for 48 consecutive hours, and several will be accompanied by filmmaker Q&As. Individual tickets are $10 each, and are discounted for members, seniors, students, and people experiencing economic hardship to $8 per film. A seven-film VWFW Passport is available for $60, discounted to $49 for eligible viewers. All proceeds from these events benefit the non-profit Ashland Independent Film Festival and Coming Attractions Theatres.
Erica Thompson, Executive Director of AIFF, commented: “We have questioned just how relevant a film festival is in a difficult time for our community that has endured such significant loss. We kept coming back to our core belief that art nourishes the individual spirit, creates common ground among people, and helps illuminate a way forward in dark times. AIFF is committed to celebrating the diversity of human experience through the art of independent film. It is with that spirit we invite you to participate in the upcoming Varsity World Film Weeks – an opportunity to explore foreign lands, perspectives, and experiences. We also ask our supporters to consider how they may be able to lend a helping hand to those in need at this time, and have suggested some possibilities on our website."
Synopses of the Varsity World Film Weeks films, along with trailers and the film schedule can be found at ashlandfilm.org. Varsity World Film Weeks sponsors and community partners include Coming Attractions Theatres, Ashland Home Net, Rogue Creamery, The Earth and Humanity Foundation, and Project A.
Visit the Varsity World Film Weeks site for tickets, trailers, and more information
Complete Varsity World Film Weeks 2020 Roster
Oct. 9-10: 90 MINUTES (Aeden O’Connor, Honduras, 92 min)
90 Minutes explores four stories of violence, romance, and suspense united by the world’s greatest passion: soccer. Narrative
Oct. 14-15: BAIT (Mark Jenkin, United Kingdom, 89 min)
With his childhood home in Cornwall now a get-away for wealthy Londoners, fisherman Martin’s struggle to restore his family to their traditional place creates increasing friction with tourists and locals alike. Narrative
Oct. 2-3: EMA (Pablo Larrain, Chile, 102 min)
After a shocking incident upends her family life and marriage to a tempestuous choreographer, Ema, a reggaeton dancer, sets out on an odyssey of personal liberation, in this incendiary drama from director Pablo Larraín. Narrative
Oct. 10-11: THE END OF LOVE (Keren Ben Rafael, France/Israel, 90 min)
Julie and Yuval live in Paris, are in love and have just had a baby. When Yuval needs to return to Israel to renew his visa, they start sharing their family routine via video call, watching each other obsessively through a screen. Narrative
Oct. 7-8: KUESSIPAN (Myriam Verreault, Canada, 117 min)
Two girls grow up as best friends in an Innu (First Nations) community. As they’re about to turn 17, their friendship is shaken when Mikuan falls for a white boy and starts dreaming of leaving the reserve that’s now too small for her dreams. Narrative
Oct. 5-6: MOTHER (Kristof Bilsen, Belgium/Thailand, 82 min)
In a small village in Thailand, Pomm works in a care center for Europeans with Alzheimer’s. Separated from her children, she helps Elisabeth during the final stages of her life. Documentary
Oct. 12-13: MY REMBRANDT (Oeke Hoogendijk, Netherlands, 95 min)
Rembrandt rocks the art world; 350 years after his death, many people, even entire nations are obsessed with his paintings. The epic documentary dives deep into the art world of Old Masters, exploring the motives of its elite. Documentary
Oct. 7, 14: DUTCH ANIMATION CELEBRATION (Various, Netherlands, 74 min)
The New York Children’s International Film Festival crossed the Atlantic to join forces with Cinekid, The Netherland’s premiere film festival for children, to share a program of the very best of Dutch animation. Animated Shorts. Recommended Ages 8+ and adults who love whimsical and beautiful animation, too!
Oct. 11-12: ONCE YOU KNOW (Emmanuel Cappelin, France, 104 min)
This is the intimate journey of director Emmanuel Cappellin across the abyss of a world at the edge of climate-induced collapse. His voyage is that of a whole generation turning to climate scientists, grassroots initiatives, and mass rebellion in a desperate search for an exit. Documentary
Oct. 4-5: PERFECT CANDIDATE, THE (Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia, 105 min)
When Maryam is prevented from flying to Dubai for a medical conference without a male guardian’s approval, she seeks help from a politically connected cousin but inadvertently registers as a candidate for the municipal council. Narrative
Oct. 8-9: REASON I JUMP, THE (Jerry Rothwell, US/United Kingdom, 82 min)
An immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, drawing from Naoki Higashida's revelatory insights into autism. Documentary
Oct. 13-14: THERE IS NO EVIL (Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany/Iran, 152 min)
Every country that enforces the death penalty needs people to kill other people. Four men are put in front of an unthinkable but simple choice. Whatever they decide, it will directly or indirectly corrode themselves, their relationships, and their entire lives. Narrative
Oct. 3-4: TWILIGHT’S KISS (SUK SUK) (Ray Yeung, Hong Kong, 92 min)
Pak is a 70-year-old taxi driver who lives with his wife. Hoi lives with his devout Christian son and family. The two men, who have lived all their lives never revealing their sexual identities, meet by chance in the streets of Hong Kong and fall in love. Narrative
Oct. 6-7: WEASELS’ TALE, THE (Juan José Campanella, Argentina/Spain, 129 min)
A beautiful actress from cinema’s golden age, an actor in the twilight of his life, a frustrated scriptwriter and an old director will do the impossible to try and preserve the world they have created in an old mansion. Narrative
Oct. 2, 15: YALDA, A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS (Massoud Bakhshi, Iran, 89 min)
The reality TV show goes live. Tonight’s guest is Maryam, a young woman condemned to death. In front of millions of viewers, Maryam is supposed to beg for forgiveness and her life. Narrative