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Ashland Independent Film Festival announces this year's lineup

Four-time Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis will be a guest at this year's Ashland Independent Film Festival, whose 98-film schedule was announced today.

The 14th annual festival will be April 9-13 at the Varsity Theatre, the Historic Ashland Armory, the Ashland Street Cinemas and the Ashland Springs Hotel.

The festival’s full schedule, film descriptions and program are available now at www.ashlandfilm.org. Tickets go on sale to members beginning March 16 and to the general public on March 22.

Louganis will receive the Rogue Award for his documentary about his life as an openly gay athlete who revealed his HIV-positive status at great risk to his career. In 1988, Louganis became the first man to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic games, sparking a worldwide fascination with diving.

Louganis shares his story in the documentary "Back on Board: Greg Louganis," directed by Cheryl Furjanic, which will screen at AIFF15.

Award-winning Director Ondi Timoner will receive the inaugural AIFF “No Limits” Award in recognition of her fearless and unique storytelling style, and passion to push her subjects and audiences beyond their comfort zone. "BRAND: A Second Coming," her latest film, will screen at AIFF15. The film follows comedian, author and activist Russell Brand’s evolution from a superficial Hollywood star and addict to a political disrupter and unexpected hero to the underserved. Timoner once again demonstrates her bold approach to filmmaking and a commitment to transform and inspire.

Three new documentaries come to this year's film festival from AIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honorees. Two-time Academy Award-winner and AIFF14 Lifetime Achievement recipient Barbara Kopple returns with "Hot Type: 150 Years of the Nation." This film captures the day-to-day workings of the legendary progressive magazine as it evolves into the future guided by its remarkable past.

"Iris," the most recent film from legendary documentarian Albert Maysles, will screen at AIFF15 on opening night. The 89-year-old filmmaker turned his camera on Iris Apfel, the fashion and interior design maven, who herself is just shy of 94. Maysles received the AIFF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He died March 5 and will be honored at the AIFF Awards Celebration on April 12.

The final film from acclaimed documentarian Les Blank, AIFF07 Artistic Achievement Award recipient, also comes to AIFF15. "How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock in Normandy" follows Blank as he visits trailblazing documentarian Richard Leacock at his home in France. Rustic meals and long walks blend with memorable moments from Leacock’s 70-year career.

With the passing of both Blank (in 2013) and Leacock (in 2011), the documentary provides insight into the lives of two seminal figures in the history of film. Co-director Gina Leibrecht ("All in This Tea") will attend to share her experience of making the film with Les Blank.

Documentaries to be screened at this year's festival include: "Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey"; "In Football We Trust"; "James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket"; "The Hunting Ground Sneak Preview."

The AIFF lineup includes a selection of Academy Award nominees, providing an opportunity for Southern Oregon audiences to see these works on the big screen. The winner of the Best Documentary Short Subject category, "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," will screen at the festival with director Ellen Goosenberg Kent in attendance. AIFF will also screen the other nominated films in the category, "Joanna," "Our Curse," "The Reaper" and "White Earth." AIFF will also screen "AYA," nominated for Best Live Action Short and four films nominated for Best Animated Short Film, "The Bigger Picture," "The Dam Keeper," "Me and My Moulton" and "A Single Life." 

The Festival’s popular “Family Shorts” program is a collection of short films suitable for ages 5 and up. The program screens all weekend during the festival at the Ashland Street Cinemas. This season, the AIFF will present the Oscar-nominated animated feature, "Song of the Sea," as well as "Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World."

New feature films that will be screened include "Echo Park," "Imperial Dreams" and "Wildlike."

The festival also includes three free TalkBack panel discussions with filmmakers of all genres Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings; a two-hour filmmaking workshop from Rebel Heart Films, the new enterprise from Diane Bell and Chris Byrne who made the AIFF10 Juried Best Feature, "Obselidia"; and question-and-answer sessions with visiting filmmakers and film subjects. Audiences also have the opportunity to rub elbows with filmmakers over a late-night drink at the AIFF AfterLounge, hosted by a different restaurant every night.

Festival Memberships, tickets for films and events, as well as more information about films, special events and parties and the Festival’s complete program are available online at ashlandfilm.org and at the Festival Box Office located at kiosk on the Ashland Plaza and at the Varsity Theatre April 9-13.

Four-time Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis' documentary about his life, 'Back on Board,' will be screened at AIFF15. Photo from cherylfurjanic.com