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Three AIFF selections win Academy Awards

It was a clean sweep of the Academy Awards for the Ashland Independent Film Festival and the announcements came during a record fundraising night for their annual Oscar Night Gala. Six of the festival's official selections were nominated in three categories and a festival record three films were honored with Oscars.

The winners were celebrated at the AIFF's annual gala and silent auction at the Historic Ashland Armory Sunday evening. The festival rolled out the red carpet for a sold out house of 240 people to watch the broadcast on two 30 foot screens. A record $20,000 was raised during the evening. The silent auction included items from over 100 area businesses, including three 6-month, unlimited passes for two to the Varsity Theatre and Ashland Street Cinema from the festivals.

Of the over 90 documentary, feature and short films to be included in the Sixth Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival, four were nominated for Academy Awards and two won the Oscar. Two films featured in the 2006 AIFF were also nominated and one of those also was a winner. The full slate of films for the April 12-16 festival be announced to festival members in mid-March and the general public a week later.

In the Best Documentary Short Subject category, two of the four films nominated for Oscars are programmed at the 2007 AIFF films - The Blood of Yingzhou District and Recycled Life. The Blood of Yingzhou District won the Oscar.

In the Best Animated Short Subject category, the festival's The Danish Poet and The Little Match Girl were nominated, with The Danish Poet taking home the statuette.

For the first time, films from previous Ashland Independent Film Festival have also been nominated for Academy Awards. Binta and the Great Idea and West Bank Story were featured in the festival's line up last April and were both nominated for 2007 Best Live Action Short Films. West Bank Story was honored as the AIFF's Best Student Film and also won Oscar last night.

"We are again thrilled to have three films selected by our programming team win Academy Awards," said AIFF Executive Director Tom Olbrich. "It makes our Oscar Night Gala that much more exciting and gives our festival audience a chance to see the films honored as the best. The fundraising end of the evening helps us continue to present the festival."

The Ashland Independent Film Festival has evolved from humble to a nationally respected showcase. Ernest Hardy of the LA Weekly said the festival "is well on its way to being one of my favorite American film festivals, period. It's the almost perfect blend of programming, audience and location."

Membership passes for the 2007 Ashland Independent Film Festival are available now. Tickets go on sale in March to members and to the general public in early April. For more information, visit .

The Blood of Yingzhou District is a sensitive portrait of a hidden AIDS epidemic in China, a country not commonly associated with the disease. The film focuses on a young AIDS orphan, Gao Jin, who reveals his resolve to live while his extended family weighs whether or not to keep him.

The documentary tells the story of traditional Chinese obligations of family and village colliding with terror of infection, and how these forces play out in the lives of children in the country's remote areas. The Blood of Yingzhou District won Documentary RX Global Health Documentary Grand Jury Prize and was an official selection at the United Nations Association Film Festival, SILVERDOCS: The AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival.

Can we trace the chain of events that leads to our own birth? Do little things matter? Best animated nominee The Danish Poet traces life's peculiar coincidences. In this Canada/Norway production, Kasper, a young poet in search of inspiration, travels to Norway to meet the celebrated writer, Sigrid Undset. Animator Torill Kove's quirky love story is narrated by Liv Ullmann and drawn on paper with computer rendering in the same signature style Kove displayed in her My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, nominated for an Academy Award in 2000. The Danish Poet will be featured in the AIFF's annual Family Shorts Program. It won the Audience Favorite Award at the Aspen Shortsfest and the C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures Award for Best Animated Short at the Worldwide Short Film Festival and Best Animated Short at the New York City Short Film Festival. The film has been featured at 30 film festivals around the world.

Recycled Life illuminates the lives of the thousands of families who live and work in the Guatemala City Garbage Dump. For over sixty years, children have been born and raised there. Thousands of people have thrived in the largest and most toxic and dangerous area in Central America. The dump, and its inhabitants who recycle the city's trash, have been shunned by society and ignored by the government. Then a disastrous methane explosion forever changed this landfill and the people who call it home. Recycled Life won the Best Short Documentary at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival and was an official selection at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin Texas; the Human Rights Festival in Bologna, Italy; and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

The Little Match Girl is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story of an orphan living on the streets who makes money selling matches. On one very cold evening she lights all she has just keep warm.

The Little Match Girl, Recycled Life and The Blood of Yingzhou District will be featured together at the 2007 AIFF in a program called Oscar Shorts.

West Bank Story is a musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands in the West Bank. David, an Israeli soldier, falls in love with a Palestinian cashier, Fatima, despite the animosity between their families' dueling restaurants. The couple professes their love for each other, triggering a chain of events that forces all to find common ground in an effort to rebuild, planting a seed of hope.

Binta and the Great Idea, (Binta y la Gran Idea), features a 7 year old girl who lives in a small village on the Casamance River in southern Senegal. Binta admires her father, a humble fisherman who is concerned about the development of mankind.