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Aiff on with the shows, this is it

The fourth Ashland Independent Film Festival will be held — at the Varsity Theatre in downtown Ashland, starting today.

A festival record 85 films will be shown on the intimate — theatre's five screens in five days. The complete aiff schedule can be — found at www.ashlandfilm.org. Films began showing at noon today with the — last screening at 9:40 p.m., Monday.

Oregon's own Will Winton, the creator of the modern day — Claymation - the stop action animation style made famous in the California — Raisin commercials, is one of the festival's guests this year. His short — film "The Morning After" is an inventive combination of live action and — animation.

This is his first independent release since losing control — of his namesake production company, to former Nike Chairman, Phil Knight. — Some of Vinton's past works will be featured. His short film "The Dinosaur" — is included in the family program and his full-length Claymation feature — "The Adventures of Mark Twain" will also be screened. Vinton will show — clips of his work and talk about his innovation with Claymation in a free — presentation.

Engaging documentaries have always been a major element — of the Ashland festival and this year is no exception. Among the 25 documentaries — included is the Oscar winning "Born into Brothels." In Brothels, Briski — and co-director Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of — the children of prostitutes they come to know in Calcutta's red light — district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them cameras and — ignites sparks of creativity in a seemingly hopeless world. "Born into — Brothels" won the prestigious Best Documentary Award from the L.A. Film — Critics and The National Board of Review and the Film won the Human Rights — Watch 2004 Nestor Almendros Prize for Courage in Filmmaking. Art-sized — reprints of the children's photos will be available for sale during the — festival at Houston's Custom Framing and Fine Art in Ashland.

Two other official selections of the 2005 AIFF made the — final list to qualify for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award. — While they did not receive a nomination, they were considered by the Academy — to be two of the 12 best documentaries made in the last year. "Home of — the Brave" focuses on Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman murdered in the — civil rights movement in America. Her story is told through the eyes of — her children. Her daughter Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe lives in Grants Pass and — will attend screenings and take questions after. The film explores the — lingering mystery that surrounds Viola's killing, implicating FBI involvement. — The Ashland screening corresponds with the 40th anniversary of the march — on Selma in which Liuzzo participated.

"The Ritchie Boys," also an Academy Awards finalist, is — the untold story of a group of young Jewish men who fled Nazi Germany — in the 1930s and returned a few years later as soldiers in US uniforms. — They knew the psychology and the language of Germany and shared a personal — motivation to help bring down Hitler's Reich. In Camp Ritchie, Maryland, — they were trained in intelligence and psychological warfare. Not always — courageous, but determined, bright and inventive they fought their own — kind of war against their native country.

In 1978, Oakley Hall III was a promising playwright on — the verge of national recognition when his life was interrupted and violently — transformed by a mysterious fall from a bridge. "The Loss of Nameless — Things" is the haunting story of Hall's fall from grace and what happens — when 25 years later a Grass Valley, Calif. theater company discovers the — very play he was writing the night he fell. Interviews with friends, family — and colleagues, including OSF actor and aiff juror Michael J. Hume, paint — a picture of a gifted playwright and stage actor. Oakley is the epitome — of a driven, artistic genius cut down in his prime. Hume, the director — of the film and a special guest will all take part in the post-film Q/A.

Another feature length documentary at the festival that — is gathering praise is "Monumental: David Brower's Fight for Wild America." — David Brower's life was tied to the fight to preserve the American wilds — for future generations and he is considered by many to be one of the greatest — environmentalists in our history. Not since John Muir had an American — fought so hard, or been more successful, in protecting our natural heritage. — He led the Sierra Club to its place as a major force in environmental — politics. He is credited with helping to save Yosemite and the Grand Canyon — from human destruction. In his later years he founded the Earth Island — Institute and Friends of The Earth.

"DIG!" is a feature-length documentary shot over seven — years about musicians Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, — and Courtney Taylor, head of the Dandy Warhols, star crossed friends and — bitter rivals.

Other aiff offerings include:

o "Laundry and Tosca," which follows Marcia Whitehead, — a rare and gifted lirico-spinto soprano who lives in a little garage apartment — in Southern California and works a modest-wage job. Marcia Whitehead will — travel to Ashland to sing at the Opening Night "Meet The Filmmaker" reception.

o "Scared Sacred" is about the search for meaning in times — of turmoil. The film is based on the five-year odyssey of award-winning — filmmaker Velcrow Ripper.

o "In Twins," the extraordinary bond between twins is — revealed. The short documentary is inspired by the book Twins by world — famous photographer Mary Ellen Mark, known for her work in The New Yorker — magazine.

Dramatic Films at aiff

o "The Miracle of Bern," about a pivotal event in post-war — German history. The "miracle" occurs when the German national soccer team — conquered a seemingly unbeatable Hungarian team to win the World Cup in — Switzerland on July 4, 1954. This honor has been credited with restoring — German self-confidence and initiating the so-called economic miracle of — the 1950s.

o "The Land Has Eyes" is about culture, class divisions — and history of Rotuma, a Fijian Island. The story interweaves the challenges — of an impoverished young woman with the courageous example of one the — island's first inhabitants.

o "In Tennis, Anyone...?" Danny Macklin, a B-list Hollywood — actor is the subject. His career is imploding and he's married to a woman — who hates him. Playing doubles in celebrity tennis tournaments with Gary, — also a struggling actor, becomes his only respite. In each match, the — pair attempts to find redemption, revenge, and meaning in their lives. — Writer/director Donal Logue and writer Kirk Fox also play the leads. Logue — has a home near Shady Cove and, schedule allowing, he will visit the AIFF.

o "Yoshino's Barbershop" is a Japanese film highlighting — the affect of tradition on a modern culture. A peaceful small town, where — everyone knows everyone else, is typical and ordinary in every way but — one. Every boy in the whole town wears the same hairstyle. The practice — supposedly dates back to an ancient tale of a mountain spirit who would — kidnap little boys. The ritual and tradition of old Japan provide a backdrop — to this tale of changing ways.

Short films

The Ashland Independent Film Festival provides a rare — chance to see short dramatic films that struggle to find an audience in — mainstream American media. This year the festival will follow it's tradition — of showing at least one short film before most of the features, and will — have two programs consisting completely of shorts. Short Cuts and Short — Takes, will each feature several of the festival's best films in one program — block - several films for the price of one. These include:

o "Lift" Otis is an elevator operator and he is in love. — The object of his affection is a junior stenographer named K. She too — is quiet and lacks Otis' self-confidence. K is even afraid to take the — elevator. Will love overcome?

o "The Lost Cause" The writer, director and producer of — the film is Jim Taylor, the Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominated — co-writer of the hit movie "Sideways." Taylor has co-written with Alexander — Payne other popular films including "About Schmidt" and "Election." In — his short film, "The Lost Cause," a re-enactment Confederate soldier's — commitment to his "hobby" takes a heavy toll on his family life.

o "Joe Blow" is a product of Phil Knight's company, Will — Vinton Productions. This is the story of one man's quest for companionship. — It's a cautionary tale of passion, loss and pneumatics. Joe, who lives — by himself in a trailer, finds that love can be a breathtaking experience.

Local flare

This year there are many local productions among the aiff — official selections and several of these will be featured in a free locally — produced program. An SOU student, Shakespeare actors and other local filmmakers — will have works in the annual free program.

Eric Danson, producer of the drama "Repetition," recently — moved to Ashland from Chicago. In his dramatic feature film, a method — acting class demands its students to connect, immediately and truthfully, — to each other. Two featured characters fail miserably and we see how this — pattern of failure is repeated in their personal lives. Danson will be — joined at post- Q/A by the director, creator of the soundtrack and the — two lead actors.

The film "Wow and Flutter" was made in the Rogue Valley — and stars Ashland resident, 14-year-old Ethan Moskowitz. It is a tender — portrait of adolescent love and heartbreak that follows David as he makes — a mix tape for his first crush, Amber. Underscored by a wonderful soundtrack, — this film is a testament to the fragility and exhilaration of growing — up and falling in love. All the locations will be familiar to locals.

Tim Blough, an actor at OSF wrote and directed the short — film "The Other Side of Heaven." The only cast members are Shakespeare — Festival company members David Kelly and Charisse Loriaux, and local actor — Jim L. Garcia. The cemetery it is filmed in is local too.

This year the AIFF presents a new event during the festival: — Stop, Motion! - Photographs from the 2005 AIFF Films. Each year the souvenir — program includes a synopsis and still picture from every film. Many of — these single frames are works of art in their own right and this year — audiences will have the opportunity to view them as such - on the gallery — wall! Approximately 35 still photographs from the festival films will — be on display at the Nuwandart Gallery from April 1-10. An opening reception — will be held at the gallery, 258 'A' Street in Ashland, from 5-8 pm during — Artwalk on Friday, April 1. The short film Pillow Girl, an official festival — selection will be screened throughout the evening.

Seminars

AIFF will present many other free opportunities to interact — with filmmakers and attend seminars.

Following each film screening the filmmaker(s) will answer — questions from the audience with a facilitator moderating. Any one Q & — A session may have the director, the starring actor, the editor, or the — writer-or maybe all of those rolled into one as the quintessential independent — filmmaker who does it all. The ashland independent film festival believes — the interaction between the filmmaker and the audience is an essential — part of the creative process.

For those left wanting more after the film and the Q & — A is over, bring those thoughts to the free Filmmaker Forum panel discussions. — With three separate sessions on Features, Documentaries, Shorts & Students, — each day will offer a wide ranging, lightly moderated forum. Attendees — have a chance to ask a question or just listen as filmmakers discuss the — vision and creative process of their projects as well as the challenges — and opportunities of financing, directing, finding locations, editing, — utilizing new technologies, and overall producing independent film and — all that entails.

Master Steadicam operator and instructor Peter Abraham — will provide a free seminar and demonstrate professional-level Steadicam — use, with his demonstration Flyer rigged to a remote video feed so participants — can see what his camera sees. After a Q & A discussion, Abraham will also — screen and dissect various steadicam sequences he has shot, showing how — a steadicam operator designs the choreography of moving camera shots. — He will include production stories to clarify how they got the shots and — how difficulties were surmounted.

Peter Abraham has 18 years of Steadicam work on features — and television including Sex & the City and The Sopranos as well as live — events including the 1996 Olympic Summer Games. His work has been nominated — for four Emmy Awards. Peter also contributed to the design of the Steadicam — Flyer with Steadycam's CEO/head inventor, Garrett Brown, and continues — to work closely with The Tiffen/Steadicam Company on the development of — the newest generation of lightweight Steadicams.

The winners

The Awards Ceremony and Party at Historic Ashland Armory — is at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Nine juried and audience awards will be presented — with film clips of the top five in each category, including Best Feature. — At every screening through Sunday afternoon, audience members will be — handed a ballot to rate the films. The ballots will decide the John C — Schweiger Audience Award for Best Feature film as well as the Audience — Award for Best Documentary. John C. Schweiger is the owner Coming Attractions — Theatres, including the Varsity, and has sponsored and advised the festival — since its inception.

Deciding the juried awards are many local judges with — national credentials. Others are joining the jury from other locations — and will attend the festival. In the Best Dramatic Feature category, Ernest — Hardy lives in LA and writes about film and music, appearing in the LA — Weekly, the LA Times, the New York Times and Rolling Stone, among others. — A Sundance Fellow, he's been a juror for the Sundance Film Festival, the — San Francisco International Film Festival and Los Angeles Outfest. Also — in the Best Dramatic feature category, Carla Meyer is a film critic for — the San Francisco Chronicle. She specializes in independent and foreign — film, with the occasional gross-out Hollywood teen film thrown in for — good measure.

Jan Krawitz has been making documentary films for 30 years — and will serve on the Feature Documentary jury. Krawitz's work has been — screened at many film festivals such as Sundance, the New York Film Festival, — Full Frame, and Edinburgh. Her films include Big Enough, In Harm's Way, — Mirror Mirror, Drive-In Blues, and Little People. Four of her films have — been broadcast on national PBS. She is a Professor in the Graduate Program — in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University.

Relatively new locals are also joining the judging panels. — Mark Vincente was born in Johannesburg, South Africa where he was a news — cameraman and shot music videos and commercials. Mark Vincente was Director — of Photography on 14 feature films including the musical Sarafina starring — Whoopi Goldberg. His film, "What the

$*! Do we Know?" was winner of the — Best Documentary award, the category he will judge this year, at the 2004 — AIFF and recently was rated "One of the 10 biggest surprises of the year" — by Entertainment Weekly. Rogue Valley resident Shane Bishop is an award — winning producer and an 11-year veteran of NBC News and will also be one — of the judges for Best Documentary. Bishop won an Emmy in 2003 for NBC's — "Dateline" coverage of the Elizabeth Smart case, and a Sigma Delta Chi — Gold Medallion for his work covering the 9/11 attacks.

Michael J. Hume is in his 14th season with the Oregon — Shakespeare Festival, and is currently appearing in "Room Service." He — will help judge the Best Acting Category. Hume co-authored "They Came — From Way Out Here!" which was performed last season at the Oregon Cabaret — Theatre. Bob McCracken has worked as a professional actor and director — for the past 30 years and is a Best Acting judge. McCracken was a frequent — guest star on television shows including ER, Jag, The Practice, and many — more. He had recurring roles in the dramas Players, Nothing Sacred and — Dangerous Minds, and has directed episodes of Any Day Now and Judging — Amy.

There are several other local judges, some who have served — for the last two years on the AIFF juries.