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Oscar nods give festival preview

An Academy Award winning film will be shown at the 7th Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival in April.

Nine 2008 AIFF selections were nominated for Academy Awards this week, including every film in one category, ensuring an Oscar winner at this year's festival.

The full slate of more than 80 documentary, feature and short films to be shown at the April 3-7 festival is still being finalized and will not be announced until late February. Festival organizers released information earlier this week to highlight the Academy Award nominees.

"We are thrilled to have so many films selected by our programming team nominated for Oscars, with one a sure winner," AIFF Executive Director Tom Olbrich said. "Having our films go on to win Academy Awards each of the last three years has made our Oscar Night Gala exciting and having nine nominated works at the festival gives our audience a rare chance to see the films named among the best."

This year's winners will be celebrated at the AIFF's annual Oscar Night Gala and Silent Auction at the Historic Ashland Armory Feb. 24. The festival will roll out the red carpet and the Academy Awards broadcast will be projected on two 30-foot screens with concert quality sound. Tickets for the event are on sale now, for more information visit or call 488-3823.

In the Best Documentary Short Subject category, all four films nominated for 2008 Oscars are set to be programmed at April's AIFF. The winner of the beauty contest in "La Corona" (The Crown) will be a murderer, guerrilla or thief. She will be crowned Queen, and then escorted back to her cell. La Corona follows four inmates competing for the crown in the annual beauty pageant of the Bogota, Colombia Women's Prison.

In "Salim Baba," a projectionist and cinephile Mohammad Al-Salim has made a living screening discarded film scraps for the kids in the surrounding neighborhoods of North Kolkata, India using a hand-cranked projector that he inherited from his father. Salim is considered a living link between the birth of cinema at the dawn of the 20th century and the digital age of today. Sari's Mother follows a resilient Iraqi mother struggling under U.S. occupation to care for her ten year old son as he dies of AIDS in a small clay hut in the Mahmudiyah region of central Iraq.

"Freeheld" is the chronicle of a New Jersey woman's struggle, after learning she has six months left to live, to transfer her earned pension to her female domestic partner.

This year in the Best Documentary Feature category, three of the five films nominated for Academy Awards are selections for the Ashland Festival. "No End in Sight" and "Taxi to the Dark Side" are schedule for the 2008 Festival, while "War/Dance" was a popular film at the 2007 AIFF last April.

The filmmakers of "No End in Sight" portray their film as an insider's tale of incompetence, recklessness and venality. It provides a candid retelling by high ranking officials, Iraqi civilians, and American soldiers, of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

"Taxi to the Dark Side" features the case of an Afghan taxi driver who died in suspicious circumstances in U.S. custody during the war on terror. Can terrorism destroy democracy? This film is an exploration of the "torture as an interrogation technique" in U.S. facilities, and the role played by key figures of the Bush Administration in the process.

Last year's Ashland Independent Film Festival film "War/Dance" was nominated for a 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. This film chronicles the lives of Ugandan students, most of whom are escaped child soldiers from the Lord's Resistance Army. At a refugee camp they prepare to compete at the annual Kampala Music Festival. The children are driven by heart, talent, and the need to rebuild their lives.

Festival selections "I Met the Walrus" and "Madame Tutli-Putli" were both nominated for Best Animated Short Film. In 1969 &

a 14 year old Beatles fanatic convinced John Lennon to record an interview about peace. Using the original interview as the soundtrack, this narrative romances Lennon's every word in a cascading flood of multi-pronged animation and the result is "I Met the Walrus." In "Madame Tutli-Putli," the title character boards a night train and finds herself caught up in a desperate metaphysical adventure adrift between real and imagined worlds.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences &

presenters of the Oscars &

honored the AIFF last fall with a grant of $20,000. The funds are earmarked to assist the festival to bring additional filmmakers, actors and subjects of documentaries to the April festival. The Academy Foundation selected Ashland's event as the only festival in the Northwest, and one of only 20 in the U.S., to receive grant funding.

The last three years Ashland Independent Film Festival films have won Oscars. The 2007 Academy Awards highlighted two AIFF films: The Danish Poet for Best Animated Short and "West Bank Story," Best Live Action Short Film. In "Born Into Brothels" in 2005 for Best Documentary Feature; and "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin" in 2006 for Best Documentary Short.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival continues to gain national attention as a successful regional festival. The AIFF was mentioned in a New York Times article about film festivals last fall and Ernest Hardy of the LA Weekly said the festival is "Well on its way to being on of my favorite American film festivals, period. It's the almost-perfect blend of programming, audience and location."

AIFF's reputation continues to spread rapidly in the film industry, as films showcased here frequently go on to receive national attention including "Beyond the Call," "What The

$*! Do We Know?" and "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." The winner of the festival's 2006 Rogue Creamery Audience Award for Best Documentary, "The Hand of God," was broadcast on PBS's Frontline program last week.

Membership passes for the 2008 Ashland Independent Film Festival are available now. Tickets go on sale in March to members and one week later to the general public. For more information, visit .