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The Reel Deal returns to Ashland

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Jose Andres, right, and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen are featured in "We Feed People," a documentary feature directed by Ron Howard, which will be featured at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
Tickets on sale Friday for the annual film festival, which will be a virtual event this year beginning April 1

The 21st annual Ashland Independent Film Festival kicks off April 1 for 10 days of screenings, showcasing more than 60 feature films and a half-dozen short-film compilations.

It will all be virtual, using Eventive, an online platform designed to enhance all aspects of the film-screening experience, from ticketing to virtual cinema.

The film fest was originally scheduled to go live April 14-28, but organizers decided to run the festival virtually again due to uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, and launch two weeks earlier since weather would not be an issue.

Executive artistic director Roberta Munroe promises an exciting festival for patrons.

“We have selected fantastic films that are entertaining and inspiring,” she said. “Our team has been working around the clock to ensure that our members see a world of filmmaking that maintains a high standard worthy of film-loving Ashland.”

Director of programming Joe Bilancio thinks filmgoers will like the 2022 mix.

“We have a lot of great films, with something for everyone,” he said. “There’s a great mix of true independent films that Ashland audiences have come to enjoy, but also some bigger independent and international films that normally would not be shown in the festival.”

Courtesy image "Wildwood" is about two brothers who flee their abusive father and embark on a journey where one of them discovers his sexuality and rediscovers his Mi'kmaw heritage.

Cited by MovieMaker Magazine several times as one of the “Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World” and one of the “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee,” AIFF offers year-round programming in addition to its annual festival.

After going online the first year of the pandemic, AIFF was honored by Smithsonian Magazine and MovieMaker Magazine as having one of the best virtual film festivals in 2020.

You can find a daily schedule, film descriptions, information about special events, and purchase tickets (beginning at 10 a.m. March 18) at aiff2022.eventive.org.

Most feature films and non-free shorts compilations are $13.50 each. They can be watched anytime between April 1 and the end of the day April 10.

The exceptions are four special screenings that cost $20 each:

  • ”We Feed People,” an opening night screening available for 24 hours April 1, spotlighting renowned chef Jose Andres and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s mission and evolution over 12 years, from a scrappy group of grassroots volunteers to a world-wide phenomenon.
  • ”B-Boy Blues,” available 1 to 5 p.m. April 2. Class and culture clash when a college-educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy-bike messenger from Harlem fall in love.
  • ”The Territory,” available for 24 hours April 6. The feature film follows an Indigenous surveillance team as they defend their land against a network of Brazilian farmers intent on colonizing their territories.
  • ”Fire of Love,” a closing night feature screening available for 24 hours April 10. Intrepid French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft devote their lives to uncovering the mystery of volcanoes, chasing fire around the world.
Courtesy image “The Assassination & Mrs. Paine” is a documentary about a woman who was charged by her detractors of helping frame Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin of President Kennedy.

There are 27 documentary features. Notable among them are “The Automat,” the story of the iconic restaurant chain that inspired Starbucks; “Boulevard,” a story about Gloria Swanson and her iconic role as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”; “Framing Agnes,” the story of a young trans woman in 1958 who entered a study about sex disorders at UCLA to get the gender-affirming care she needed; and “Tigre Gente,” which follows the storylines of two passionate people fighting to stop the jaguar trade in South America, where the animals are being trafficked in high numbers to replace tiger parts used in Chinese medicine.

Also in the lineup are 27 narrative features, seven locals-only shorts, 14 student short films, 14 documentary shorts and 14 short-story films.

Memberships in AIFF are available. Benefits include ticket discounts, early access to preview information, and recognition on the AIFF website and onscreen.

Ticket packages are also available as an alternative, providing similar benefits to some membership levels.

You can call the AIFF office from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at 541-488-3823. After-hours help is available by email at itadmin@ashlandfilm.org.

Several filmmakers are slated to make appearances during the festival, including some of AIFF’s regional student film competition winners. They’ll discuss their work and participate in Q&As.

AIFF’s Eventive channel can be accessed on televisions from computers and mobile devices, or via Eventive’s Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV and Android TV apps.

Even though the platform is very user-friendly, patrons are directed to an Eventive tutorial when they receive their email confirmations.

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