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Hunt to make cameo at AIFF

Oscar winner Helen Hunt will appear at this year's Ashland Independent Film Festival in conjunction with the showing of "Then She Found Me," her directorial debut.

Hunt, who also stars in the film and helped write the screenplay, will receive the festival's Rogue Award, given to directors whose independence shines through their projects.

Also appearing at this year's festival, which will showcase 87 films April 3-7 in Ashland, will be Albert Maysles, dubbed the "dean of documentary filmmakers."

Hunt is best known for her roles on the Emmy-winning TV series "Mad About You" and blockbuster hits "Twister," "As Good As It Gets" and "What Women Want."

"Having such a well-known actress will boost our festival's exposure," said Tom Olbrich, AIFF executive director.

"She has put her heart and soul into this film, and we are thrilled to be able to present it to our moviegoers."

Maysles will receive the festival's Lifetime Achievement Award. Maysles has created more than 30 independent films over the past 50 years, many of them collaborations with his late brother, David.

"As one of the first innovators in the birth of documentary films, Maysles built a standard for many directors today," Olbrich said.

A recognition of the festival's success came last year when it received one of 20 grants from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The $20,000 grant will assist in travel expenses for directors and actors of the films.

The selection process for the festival starts back in August, when the nonprofit organization starts receiving hundreds of entries.

More than 100 volunteers watch the movies, rating them on a scale for further review. The results are presented to AIFF's four programmers, who then narrow the field into the selections to be shown.

The films are presented at the Varsity Theatre and Ashland Armory. The schedule will be available in early March.

The opening night bash with be April 3 at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Eleven awards will be presented to the winners April 6. The festival will conclude on April 7.

Tickets, ranging from $5.50 to $9, will be available in the box office, at the information kiosk in the Ashland Plaza and online at ashlandfilm.org starting March 12.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Jake Williky at 776-8791 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.

Helen Hunt acts with Colin Firth in “Then She Found Me,” which she directed.