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Festival opens smoothly, gets Funky

Ashland movie buffs lined up outside the Varsity Theatre on Thursday to kick off their favorite time of year in the Rogue Valley: Ashland Independent Film Festival season.

From Thursday until Monday the Varsity will put on hold the normal Hollywood blockbusters to dedicate its screen to some of the best, most interesting and most pertinent independent films around.



s a certain amount of excitement out here today,&

Dennis Funk, who helps ensure that the line runs smoothly. His job title for the film festival is &

street god.&


There were 50 people in line this morning,&

he said, noting that AIFF has got the line down to enough of a science that they can keep the people moving in an orderly fashion. &

It never gets overloaded.&

Tonight the film festival will expand to the Historic Ashland Armory, where there will be a different kind of screening. While most movies at the film festival are viewed in the traditional capacity, i.e., from a theater seat, attendees at a special showing of &

Make It Funky,&

a musical tribute film to the music of New Orleans, will be able to get up and dance as well.

Though the front portion of the make-shift theater at the Armory on Oak Street will remain the same, seats and all, the back third will be cleared so that movie buffs can get up and dance if they feel the need.


Because it&

s Ashland and because the music is so infectious we pulled out some of the seats in back so people who want to can get up and dance,&

Tom Olbrich, organizer of the Ashland Independent Film Festival said.

Olbrich said &

Make it Funky&

is a &

look at the musical culture of New Orleans, pre-Katrina.&

Directed by Michael Murphy, a native of the Big Easy himself, the movie combines interviews, archival footage and live performances to show its viewers what the sounds and the groove are all about that have been coming out of the Crescent City for the past fifty years.


There have been good films made on the music of New Orleans &

but I felt that I wanted to make a film that showed the music in context of the people and the city,&

said Murphy. &

I wanted to show how people with diverse cultural backgrounds, and musical traditions, had passed their combined knowledge down from generation to generation, and in doing so, created an immense treasure trove of music and culture.&

Showcased are some New Orleans favorites, such as the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas &

as well as other musicians known more for their careers outside of Louisiana, such as Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt.

Olbrich said the movie is especially timely because the Bayou&

s biggest city is in danger of losing its musical heritage if it doesn&

t find a way to draw back the musicians after the devastating damage from Hurricane Katrina.


That culture is being lost,&

he said. &

We need to find a way to ensure that all those musicians come back.&

Coming to see &

Make it Funky&

on Friday evening is the perfect way to help this cause and others like it, as the movie is a benefit for Katrina victims through FilmAid, an international organization assisting people living in refugee camps.


Make it Funky&

also plays Saturday at 3:30 and Monday at 10 a.m., both additional showings are at the more-traditional venue of the Varsity Theatre. The Saturday showing is already sold out, but tickets remain for Friday night.