By Judy Plapinger
April 7-11, 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the Ashland Independent Film Festival, which has grown from 73 films in four days at the beautiful art deco Varsity Theatre to more than 90 films and dozens of special events across Ashland in five art-packed days. This year the festival expands across town and across genres not only with its films, but also with live performances and art installations at two local museums.
As the festival embarks on its next chapter, organizers are reaching out to new groups—not simply appealing to traditional demographics defined by age, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, but across arbitrary boundaries to a shared artistic ideal. When media fills every screen, and screens are everywhere, it’s fair to ask: Why come to a film festival at all? The answer is simple: For the shared experience of seeing a film together; to expand and expound on that experience with filmmakers, performers, animators, artists, and of course, fellow film-goers.
The festival’s new director of programming, Richard Herskowitz, is forging connections from film to art and the performing arts community. While early festivals featured gallery exhibits, a live opera singer, arts cars and hula dancers, this year the festival will link art, science, animation, cinema, music and dance to create new forms of image making and storytelling that delves into the “beyond.”
In addition, this year, women in indie film will be a singular focus, with films and special appearances by Women Make Movies executive director Debra Zimmermann, filmmaker and choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall, visionary lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer, and more. If that weren’t enough, live performances that bridge cinema, art and music will include noted animators and performance artists Laura Heit and Jeremy Rourke, as well as flutist Rozalind MacPhail, who will perform a live score to accompany the feature film He Hated Pigeons.
Independent film is nothing less than a movement to transform mainstream culture, to promote voices and perspectives neglected by commercial media. To honor its 15th anniversary, AIFF is reaffirming its mission to promote independent filmmaking by honoring the groundbreaking people and cinema that set the standards, including
Women Make Movies and the venerable Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams). As Herskowitz says, “At AIFF16 we will pay tribute to indie institutions—production, distribution and exhibition companies—that have built the infrastructure of the independent film movement, and challenge Hollywood’s dominance.” This very infrastructure provides the springboard for this exciting 15th anniversary festival and for festivals beyond.
A full schedule of films and other events, including Q&As with directors, free panel discussions, workshops, art installations, awards and nightly entertainment, is available at www.ashlandfilm.org.
Tickets are also available at www.ashlandfilm.org.