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AIFF wraps up with awards celebration

Actor Jonathan Luke Stevens as The Tramp performed emcee duties for the online awards ceremonies, never uttering a word. Courtesy photo.
Inger Nova Jorgensen and Jeff Pevar entertain during the Ashland Independent Film Festival online awards celebration. The festival will continue with live, outdoor events in June. Courtesy photo.

The Ashland Independent Film Festival wrapped up its virtual 20th anniversary event Thursday with an online celebration full of music, awards, and a few surprises.

The 98-minute program was put together by AIFF film editor Jayson Wynkoop, who edits trailers for the festival.

“It was a big undertaking,” said Richard Herskowitz, AIFF artistic director. “Jayson was able to weave together many elements for a cohesive awards program. And each award presenter was either a member of the jury or a colleague of the recipient, which made the ceremony even more meaningful.”

OSF actor Jonathan Luke Stevens, in a comedic turn as “The Tramp,” appeared out of nowhere to silently host the event when actor Bruce Campbell was told the festival, after 20 years, didn’t need his professional services and could manage without him.

Special awards were given to actor David Oyelowo, producer Christine Vachon, and directors Bruno Santamaria and Laney D’Aquino for their work and contributions.

Jury awards came with $10,000 in cash prizes. Among the winners were:

  • Niav Conly for “Small Time,” best narrative feature
  • Kaveh Nabatian, writer and director, for “Sin La Habana,” Gerald Hirschfeld Award for best cinematography
  • Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss for “Missing in Brooks County,” Les Blank Award for best documentary feature
  • Marcia Jarmet and Ken Schneider for “Los Hermanos/The Brothers,” best documentary feature editing
  • Doug Roland for “Feeling Through,” best narrative short
  • Emily Harrold for “Meltdown in Dixie,” best documentary short.

Audience awards went to Alicia J. Rose and Alicia Jo Rabins for “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff,” best narrative feature; Skye Wallin for “American Gadfly,” best documentary feature; Tammes Bernstein for “Shoal,” best narrative short; and Ciara Lacy for “This is the Way We Rise,” best documentary short.

Special recognition awards were presented to Pete Nicks for “Homeroom,” excellence in documentary feature production; Iara Lee for “Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse,” excellence in documentary feature editing; Mylissa Fitzsimmons for “Everything in the End,” excellence in narrative feature direction and in narrative feature cinematography; Paige Compton for “Guide On,” excellence in narrative short production; and Lance Edmands for “The Seeker,” excellence in documentary short production.

Herskowitz cites two highlights for him during the festival.

“The Q&A sessions were recorded for every program,” he said, “but we added three by high school press students conducting the interviews. They did a great job.”

He also was pleased with efforts to create socializing and networking experiences for filmmakers.

“We came upon a service called Filmocracy that created a virtual ballroom with a large table where people could take a seat virtually to participate in discussions.”

The festival will continue June 24-28, live and outdoors at three venues—ScienceWorks and the AIFF center in Ashland, and Walkabout Brewery in Medford. Wine, beer, and food carts will be available.

The closing night on June 28 will celebrate the 20th anniversary of both “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and AIFF at an outdoor screening, featuring a costume party and live music.

“Some festival events are currently sold out,” Herskowitz said. “As state public health restrictions change, the festival will offer additional tickets. Festival subscribers will be the first notified when tickets are released.”

For more information, go to ashlandfilm.org. To view the awards celebration, search Ashland Film Festival on YouTube.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.