By Bonnie Glidewell

All photo credits given to Cornelius Matteo at C Matteo Photography in Ashland

April 22, 2013

Why do you love independent film? Personally, I can be brought up and down on an emotional roller coaster with thoughts and feelings of my own and others all mixed in together and even during the same part of the day. I am privileged to say that the Ahland Independent Film Festival gave me this opportunity once again and even for days in a row.

Once again, Ashland knocked our socks off as they hosted another great five-day event to highlight and congratulate independent film makers from all around. A total of 91 films were screened April 4-8, 2013. They even have Q & A after some shows for the audience to engage with the actual film makers themselves. If you miss your opportunity there, you could have a conversation with the film makers and staff at the “AfterLounge” events Thursday-Sunday. This year, these took place at Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, Thai Pepper Satay Bar, and The Playwright Public House. The films themselves were presented at Varsity Theatre, Ashland Street Cinema, and the Historic Ashland Armory.

Every year, the festival somehow gets better and better. Showing a variety of films for all shapes and sizes, AIFF presents Oscar nominees, documentaries, features, family programs, shorts, animations, and even free films for locals only. These films range from stories on the history of the Burning Man festival to an examination of a well-known (and quite disliked) political icon, a story about a group of women who come together after the heartbreaking genocide in Rwanda to open an ice cream shop and form a healing drum circle, a documentary about a handful of individuals as they go through their personal spiritual pilgrimage as they walk an entire country on the Camino de Santiago, and more. Of course, I would be letting many people down if I did not mention the world premiere of Redwood Highway, starring the amazing Shirley Knight and Tom Skerritt, a feature filmed in Southern Oregon about an elderly woman who walks from her retirement community in Grants Pass to see the ocean for the first time in forty-five years. To me, this film was about dedication, freedom, and love. Something fun I learned from this Q & A session was that the film only took 9 months to complete after the idea was approached. Can you believe it?

Anne Ashbey, Executive Director of AIFF, has done such a wonderful job of pulling it all together each year to give our community this amazing opportunity to host these films and the brains behind them, which we all know brings support to our local economy. What better way to showcase Ashland then this? As I was waiting in line for the “guards” (AKA hardworking volunteers) to let us in before they started selling the extra tickets to RUSH, I was eavesdropping in a not-so-subtle manner, to those near me. I loved hearing people say they come back every year from Southern California to Northern Washington and spend their vacation days tinkering around this town. Leisurely walking to Lithia Park after leaving their B & B, hitting up our favorite coffee shops, spending their hard earned dollars on our delicious local cuisines and shopping in our rare boutiques, and even fitting in an Oregon Shakespeare Festival play in between their scheduled AIFF films. This is something to be extremely proud of and we have not only the staff and volunteers to be thankful to, but also the sponsors. Special thanks go out to over 100 contributing businesses including presenting sponsors, sustaining sponsors, supporting sponsors, contributing sponsors, community sponsors, housing sponsors, and grantors which can all be found on the AIFF home site . Denis Debey, Ashland’s blacksmith for 30 years, designed and handcrafted the forged steel film reel replica mounted on a black walnut wood base for the awards. Big thanks to Denis. Personally, I would like to thank the Co-Op and The Jewel Box for their tear off coupons which I used all 5 days for food and jewelry discounts. Thank you! Ok let’s get to business…

What was new this year to AIFF? I have a whole list for you!

During the opening night bash, Rogue Creamery’s Savor the Rogue Tasting, held at the Ashland Springs Hotel, AIFF had a free “foto” zone by Cornelius Matteo. Individuals, couples, and groups could all pose for a professional shot before filling their bellies with delicacies, beer, and wine. Although new to Ashland, this fabulous photographer has already made a name for himself at community events such as this. Once again, the opening night bash was an abundance of hand-crafted delights and provided a great opportunity for the public to come meet the film makers of 2013! Savor the Rogue presented the Rogue Creamery’s international award-winning cheeses paired with artisan chocolate, meat, fruit, beer and wine from Southern Oregon. I would like to note that if you normally skip this, make sure to do the exact opposite next year!

Also new this year, the festival collaborated with the Emerging Media and Digital Arts (EMDA) department at Southern Oregon University to showcase a number of our Rogue Valley artisan wineries and eateries. Named “eMerge”, this element brought awareness to not only the people living in our area but those who come to visit. See the overview of the program at What drives people to visit Ashland? Well, there might be a long list but at the top of the list lives local artisan food! I am sure you have now noticed my highlights of FOOD. As we all know, sustainability is becoming a hot topic and has become more popular every year. The importance of organic and locally grown food and products are emphasized and embraced all over Ashland. 

View the “Follow the Food” map and see what it was all about. Although I am an avid Southern Oregon “pusher” and know a lot about the “happening”, even I learned a thing or two about local businesses here in our region. I urge you to take a little time and watch these interesting shorts on where these places began and where they are today. I promise you will not be let down!

In addition to the “Follow the Food” program, iNation, a live gallery show of community-sourced stories about “Immigration Nation” was at Houston’s Custom Framing on Main St. Here, people shared their immigration stories in a 140-character “Tweet-sized” form and participated in the live e-community storytelling event with filmmaker Theo Rigby and illustrator Anthony Weeks. This year, the festival offered three separate Talk-Back sections Friday through Sunday morning. “Transmedia 101: The Future of Storytelling” was a free filmmaker Talk-Back panel exploring the intersection of digital technologies and storytelling. The “Close-Up and Personal” Talk-Back, was moderated by the very own Rogue Award winner herself, Lucy Walker. This panel focused on complex characters, distinctive voices, larger-than-life narratives, and private and public personalities made visible. These documentary filmmakers disclosed how their intimate encounters reveal the nuances and subtleties of the human experience. Last but not least, “No Borders” was a panel on how we are becoming increasingly connected to a global community; filmmakers are exploring international topics in both short- and long-form narratives and documentaries. Their work fills the gaps in our understanding and expands our cultural world-view beyond our borders.

Lastly, there is a new fundraising initiative this year which is exciting to not only the film lovers but also the wine lovers out there. There is now a Special Reserve Vintner’s Select Sauvignon Blanc, the first vintage produced entirely in Southern Oregon. This wine is made from grapes donated by South Stage Cellars and blended by winemaker Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Co. in Medford. The wine is available for purchase at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville. Proceeds will be used to support the AIFF’s general operating expenses, allowing the organization to further its mission and position as a leading cultural and economic force in the region. Now it is time to give you what you have been waiting for, the winners!

The juried and audience award winning films of the 2013 were announced by the lively emcee, Warren Etheredge, at the annual Gala Awards Celebration Sunday evening at the Historic Ashland Armory. Fifteen of the finest restaurants in Ashland catered the buffet style dinner and desserts lining both walls of the armory for people to explore and appreciate. Eight local wines and brews were served, along with my favorite coffee roaster in the valley. Noble Coffee that is. It would be an understatement if I said I left that night full of the best food in town. 

Twelve awards were presented to attending filmmakers, honoring their work screened at the 12th annual festival. Awards received were:

• Juried Best Feature -The Retrieval*
• Juried Best Acting Ensemble: Feature – Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes*
• Best Cinematography/The Gerald Hirschfeld A.S.C. Award: Feature – (same as above)*
• John C. Schweiger Audience Award: Best Feature – The Forgotten Kingdom
• Juried Best Documentary: Feature Length – God Loves Uganda
• Rogue Creamery Audience Award: Best Documentary – Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings*
• Rogue Award – Lucy Walker (AIFF alum and two-time Oscar®-nominated director)
• Juried Best Short Film – The River
• Juried Best Short Documentary – FLO
• Juried Best Animated Short – Bite of the Tail
• Audience Award Best Short Film: Narrative – The Other Side*
• Sypko Andreae Volunteer Spirit Audience Award: Best Short Documentary – Slomo
• Family Choice Award – Floyd the Android
• Special Jury Mention: Short Film – Karaoke!*

*Indicates the awarded films I was able to attend.

This year, I attended 10 films (more or less). Next year, you can quote me as I say I am taking Thursday-Monday off and buying a very plush cushion for my seat. I plan on doubling those numbers. Make sure to go to our album on Facebook to view the rest of the photos dedicated to this awesome event, and look at their website to schedule it in for next year!