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Ornery film festival, Tucson a perfect match

Citizen Staff Writer
Cover story



Nothing says ornery independence louder than Tucson and nothing says ornery independent film louder than the Arizona International Film Festival.

This is the 18th annual showcase for those filmmakers who follow a different drummer, with spots for 74 cinema entries (31 from the U.S.). Leading the American contingent is Tucson’s own Kathryn Ferguson, who poured several years of her life into the feature-length documentary “Rita of the Sky.” This is the incredible story of a Tarahumara woman who left her native home in Mexico’s untamed Copper Canyon and started walking north.

In Kansas, some 1,500 miles later, she was detained in a mental hospital because no one in Kansas could speak Tarahumara and she spoke no English. Health officials thought she was babbling gibberish and was mentally disturbed. For 10 years she was confined there, until a visiting social worker from Mexico who spoke Tarahumara recognized what she was saying. Her story was also adapted to the stage by Mexican playwright Victor Hugo Rascon Banda. It has been produced here at Borderlands Theater, in other American cities and a number of countries.

The festival program also includes a two-part showcase of 10 animated short films that offer, according to the program, a “plethora of animation styles.”

Giulio Scalinger, the festival’s founding director, calls this year’s animation collection his best ever.

“And it also includes one from Bill Plympton,” Scalinger adds. The infamous Plympton has been an AIFF friend for many years.

Other countries represented in the festival are Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Selections include 12 films that played earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, 10 at the accompanying Slamdance festival and three from the Berlin International Film Festival.

For the complete lineup of 17 feature-length films and 57 shorts, visit www.filmfestivalarizona.com or call 882-0204.


It will take three special ceremonies to get the Arizona International Film Festival officially up and running. The first is Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. Kick-Off Celebration at the downtown Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Enjoy a reception in the hotel lobby, rub shoulders with visiting filmmakers and do a little networking, enjoy the obligatory introductory remarks and then stroll over to La Placita Village, 110 S. Church Ave., for a free outdoor screening of “Veer” at 7:30 p.m.

This documentary narrated by Matthew Modine details all the spontaneous craziness of the bicycle culture in Portland, Ore. Whether you want nude bike races, the reckless Zoobombers ignoring all traffic laws or the thrill of bicycle jousting matches, they’ve got it. These free spirits also hold afternoon bike safety programs and free cycling clinics. The short film “BICAS Works” also screens, proving bicycle rims, spokes and wheels can become recycled art.

Friday brings two opening night feature films. Dealing with border culture is “Emilio” at 8 p.m. at the Crossroads Festival theater, 4811 E. Grant Road. For the art film crowd comes “Distanz” from Germany, playing at 9 p.m. in the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.

“Emilio” is the story of a 19-year-old lad from Chiapas determined to track down and save his 14-year-old sister, believed to be held captive by a despicable restaurateur in Los Angeles. “Distanz” dramatizes the unknown life of a quiet young man who works in a botanical garden by day, then turns violent after dark. These conflicting lifestyles complicate his relationship with Jana, his sweetly innocent coworker. Regular admission for both films.


• The Reel Frontier Film and Video Competition is a juried program that celebrates and rewards excellence and innovation in narrative features, dramatic and comedy shorts, animation, documentaries and experimental pieces.

• Cine Español showcases new works by established and Spanish filmmakers.

• Festival-in-the-Schools introduces the film world to young students.

• Indie Youth features the first works of young filmmakers from around the world.

• The Music Café is a revolving series of late night concerts in local venues by indie musicians who are kindred spirits.


What: 18th annual Arizona International Film Festival

When: April 16-26

Where: various venues; most events at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., or the Crossroads Festival theater, 4811 E. Grant Road

Price: $5 late night screenings; $6 matinees; $8 prime time screenings – single tickets go on sale an hour before each screening; $25 Saver Pass for five festival screenings; $50 student producer pass (with current school ID); $100 producer pass.

Info: 882-0204, www.filmfestivalarizona.com

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