Four Academy Award-nominated documentaries, as well as films spotlighting the Beatles and Garrison Keillor, are among the highlights of the slate of 90 movies to be shown this April at the eighth annual Ashland Independent Film Festival.

Four Academy Award-nominated documentaries, as well as films spotlighting the Beatles and Garrison Keillor, are among the highlights of the slate of 90 movies to be shown this April at the eighth annual Ashland Independent Film Festival.

The five-day festival, running April 2-6 this year, sold about 17,000 tickets a year ago and is noted for its fun events and social gatherings, including question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers after many showings. The full slate of films was to be made available today at the festival Web site, www.ashlandfilm.org. Executive Director Tom Olbrich notes that the AIFF has a dedicated following that fills all shows and stays for the chat sessions with producers, to hear what goes on behind the scenes.

"Given the present economy, I'm hoping to do at least as well as last year," said Olbrich, adding that movies have a history of doing well in difficult economic times.

The Oscar-winning film to be presented is "Smile Pinki," which last month won the award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

It tells the story of Pinki, a girl in rural India, whose cleft lip has made her a social outcast. She discovers a chance for a new life when she meets a dedicated social worker.

The other Academy Award-nominated documentary short subject is "The Final Inch," which follows volunteers who travel throughout India, urging parents to vaccinate their children against polio.

The two films nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar are "The Garden," which follows the development of a parcel of land in South Central Los Angeles into one of the country's largest community gardens; and "The Betrayal," which looks at the far-reaching repercussions that are still felt from America's involvement in the Vietnam War, through the life of a Laotian immigrant.

A film that might be of particular interest to Southern Oregon residents is "Upstream Battle." It tells how a coalition of Karuk, Yurok and Hoopa Indians join to force the removal of dams that have devastated the salmon population on the Klamath River. The film features tribal members, utility managers, coastal fisherman and farmers in the basin — with varying opinions about the water.

The film featuring the music and legacy of the Beatles is "All Together Now," which follows the remixing of classic tunes by the group into "Love," a soundtrack that was used for a show by the famed Cirque du Soleil.

Before screenings of that film at the armory, Ashland's Le Cirque Centre's TILT Dance Theatre will perform acts on ropes, silks, and aerial hoops.

Keillor, famed radio host of "Prairie Home Companion," is profiled in "Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes," a look at his personal life and behind the scenes of the show.

AIFF organizers also have announced several special guests and award recipients.

Filmmaker Harrod Blank brings his documentary, "Automorphosis," to the festival. The film looks at people who own and maintain "art cars." Blank has invited art car creators from the region and will show off his own "camera car," a van covered with cameras.

The vehicle will be on display at the film's showing at the Ashland History Armory and on First Friday art walk in front of Houston's frame shop (near Bloomsbury Books).

Animator and Academy Award nominee Bill Plympton, a Portland native, will receive AIFF's Artistic Achievement Award. His film, "Idiots and Angels" will be shown at the festival and he will present a live retrospective of his life, including early clips.

AIFF's Rogue Award will be presented to Elvis Mitchell, former film critic for the New York Times who was featured on NPR for 24 years. He will present a live, one-man show, "Elvis Mitchell on Cinema: Past, Present and Future" and will show his film "Black List" — interviews with prominent African-Americans.

Other highlights of the festival include "afterLOUNGE" sessions at the Black Sheep, "TALKback," a panel of filmmakers on three mornings and the April 2 Opening Night Bash at the Ashland Springs Hotel, featuring regional wines, ales and food.

Family films will be screened on Saturday and Sunday and "Locals Only" on Sunday morning will show the work of filmmakers from this region. More than half the films will be short subjects.

"I fell in love with it last year. It's a very special community event," says festival volunteer Ron Mogel. "It brings everyone together. It brings incredible art to the community. It's a very fun weekend. I invited my family to fly here from L.A. and experience it."

Other notable films to be shown include:

"Sugar," about recruiting for baseball in the Dominican Republic. "Circles of Confusion," about going back to New Orleans after Katrina. "Were the World Mine," about being gay in high school.