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Virtual AIFF Varsity World Film Week(s) begins

The 10-year old Varsity World Film Week of the Ashland Independent Film Festival will double to two weeks this fall starting this weekend, all presented virtually in the comfort of your home for your health and safety because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival presents 15 novel and engaging films of world culture, running Friday, Oct. 2, through Thursday, Oct. 15 ,via the AIFF website, ashlandfilm.org. Most of the movies can be viewed anywhere in the U.S., but two of them will only be seen in Oregon.

The two films shown only in Oregon are “The End of Love” and “Kuessipan.”

The World Film platform will be easier to navigate than the virtual AIFF this past spring, says Festival Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz. It can be done on Apple TV or Roku TV. These platforms have become more familiar during the many months people have been staying home, he adds.

The films were curated from 65 possible films by AIFF judges and, he says, “Every one of them is really good and was highly recommended to us.

“Each year, the team tries to bring in countries that haven’t been presented before, so people who can’t travel can get a glimpse of how others perceive the world. For instance, we tend to think all Saudi people think alike, but films override that stereotype with an international perspective.”

The great thing about foreign films, says Herskowitz, is they “take you inside a perspective and show you a terrain that’s unfamiliar, but it helps you experience it from the point of view of those who live there. In this time, there’s no question it’s needed. One eye-opening French film, ‘Once You Know,’ takes you into the heart of darkness about climate change. It’s not escapist, though we do have some quality escapist films for fun and relief.”

Several of the films have won awards — the Golden Bear at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival (Mohamad Rasoulof’s “There Is No Evil”) and the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award (“The Reason I Jump”) and World Cinema Dramatic Jury Prize (“Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness”) at Sundance.

Each film is $10, but $8 for students and people with hardship from COVID-19 or the Almeda fire. A seven-film passport is $60. Most films run for two days in a row, but some are staggered, and some have filmmaker Q-and-A. Trailers and synopses of all films can be viewed at ashlandfilm.org. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit AIFF and Coming Attractions Theaters, whose Varsity Theater usually shows the films.

Complete Varsity World Film Week 2020 roster

Oct. 2-3: EMA (Pablo Larrain, Chile, 102 min). After a shocking incident upends her family life and marriage to a tempestuous choreographer, Ema, a reggaeton dancer, sets out on an odyssey of personal liberation in this incendiary drama from director Pablo Larraín. Narrative

Oct. 3-4: TWILIGHT’S KISS (SUK SUK) (Ray Yeung, Hong Kong, 92 min). Pak is a 70-year-old taxi driver who lives with his wife. Hoi lives with his devout Christian son and family. The two men, who have lived all their lives never revealing their sexual identities, meet by chance in the streets of Hong Kong and fall in love. Narrative

Oct. 4-5: THE PERFECT CANDIDATE (Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia,

105 min). When Maryam is prevented from flying to Dubai for a medical conference without a male guardian’s approval, she seeks help from a politically connected cousin but inadvertently registers as a candidate for the municipal council. Narrative

Oct. 5-6: MOTHER (Kristof Bilsen, Belgium/Thailand, 82 min). In a small village in Thailand, Pomm works in a care center for Europeans with Alzheimer’s. Separated from her children, she helps Elisabeth during the final stages of her life. Documentary

Oct. 6-7: THE WEASELS’ TALE (Juan José Campanella, Argentina/Spain, 129 min). A beautiful actress from cinema’s golden age, an actor in the twilight of his life, a frustrated scriptwriter and an old director will do the impossible to try and preserve the world they have created in an old mansion. Narrative

Oct. 7-8: KUESSIPAN (Myriam Verreault, Canada, 117 min; available only in Oregon). Two girls grow up as best friends in an Innu (First Nations) community. As they’re about to turn 17, their friendship is shaken when Mikuan falls for a white boy and starts dreaming of leaving the reserve that’s now too small for her dreams. Narrative.

Oct. 8-9: THE THE REASON I JUMP (Jerry Rothwell, U.S./UK, 82 min). An exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, drawing from Naoki Higashida’s revelatory insights into autism. Documentary

Oct. 9-10: 90 MINUTES (Aeden O’Connor, Honduras, 92 min). The film explores four stories of violence, romance and suspense united by the world’s greatest passion: soccer. Narrative

Oct. 10-11: THE END OF LOVE (Keren Ben Rafael, France/Israel, 90 min; available only in Oregon). Julie and Yuval live in Paris, are in love and have just had a baby. When Yuval needs to return to Israel to renew his visa, they start sharing their family routine on video, watching each other obsessively through a screen. Narrative

Oct. 11-12: ONCE YOU KNOW (Emmanuel Cappelin, France, 104 min). This is the intimate journey of director Cappellin across the abyss of a world at the edge of climate-induced collapse. His voyage is that of a whole generation turning to climate scientists, grassroots initiatives and mass rebellion in a desperate search for an exit. Documentary

Oct. 12-13: MY REMBRANDT (Oeke Hoogendijk, Netherlands, 95 min). Rembrandt rocks the art world — 350 years after his death, many people, even entire nations, are obsessed with his paintings. The epic documentary dives deep into the art world of Old Masters, exploring the motives of its elite. Documentary

Oct. 13-14: THERE IS NO EVIL (Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany/Iran, 152 min). Every country that enforces the death penalty needs people to kill other people. Four men are put in front of an unthinkable but simple choice. Whatever they decide, it will directly or indirectly corrode them, their relationships, and their entire lives. Narrative

Oct. 14-15: BAIT (Mark Jenkin, UK, 89 min). With his childhood home in Cornwall now a get-away for wealthy Londoners, fisherman Martin’s struggle to restore his family to their traditional place creates increasing friction with tourists and locals alike. Narrative

Staggered showings

Oct. 2, 15: YALDA, A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS (Massoud Bakhshi, Iran, 89 min). The reality TV show goes live. Tonight’s guest is Maryam, a young woman condemned to death. In front of millions of viewers, Maryam is supposed to beg for forgiveness and her life. Narrative

Oct. 7, 14: DUTCH ANIMATION CELEBRATION (Various, Netherlands,

74 min).The New York Children’s International Film Festival crossed the Atlantic to join forces with Cinekid, The Netherland’s premiere film festival for children, to share a program of the best of Dutch animation. Animated Shorts. Recommended Ages 8+ and adults who love whimsical and beautiful animation.

A still from "Yalda: A Night of Forgiveness." Photo courtesy of AIFF