ASHLAND, Ore. – The Ashland Independent Film Festival has assembled an intriguing and illuminating array of international independent films for the 29th annual Varsity World Film Week running October 5 through October 12 at the Varsity Theatre in downtown Ashland. The 13 films selected represent 18 countries, including China, Mexico, Germany, Israel, Serbia, Egypt, Norway, Argentina, and the United States.
In addition to the week of screenings, this year will again feature opening and closing night festivities, including Q&A’s with film directors and after-screening parties. For the first time, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) will offer adult learners in a special course the opportunity to discuss World Film Week titles in depth. “Varsity World Film Week has evolved to become the second major festival AIFF is presenting annually in Ashland,” states AIFF Artistic and Executive Director Richard Herskowitz. “The selections are especially strong this year, and 8 of the 13 titles were directed by women, a sign of the growing prominence of women directors internationally.”
The opening night feature, on Friday, October 5 at 6:50pm, will be Moving Stories. This film follows six dancers from New York’s Battery Dance Company as they travel across the world teaching some of the most vulnerable youth about expressing themselves through movement and creativity. Addressing issues from gender violence and poverty to persecution and prejudice, these students respond in extraordinary ways as they prepare to perform in their communities after only a week of practice. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s producers Cornelia Ravenal and Mikael Söderstein and Battery dancer Robin Cantrell, who will be conducting workshops for students at Ballet Folklorico and Crater Renaissance Academy during her visit to Southern Oregon. An Opening Night Party will follow at the Elks Lodge in Ashland (255 E Main St, Ashland).
The closing night feature, on Friday, October 12 at 7:30pm, will be Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin. This documentary explores the remarkable life story of Oregon feminist author Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away in 2018. Le Guin, mostly known for her science fiction and fantasy novels such as A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness, defiantly held her ground on the margin of American letters until the sheer excellence of her work forced the mainstream to embrace fantastic literature. Arwen Curry filmed with Le Guin for 10 years to produce the film, which features commentary from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and more. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Arwen Curry moderated by novelist and Exterminating Angel Press publisher Tod Davies, who has acknowledged the deep influence of Ursula Le Guin on her own writing. The evening will culminate with a Closing Night Party at Hearsay Restaurant (40 S 1st St, Ashland).
Tickets for the featured Opening and Closing night films and parties ($15) may be purchased at ashlandfilm.org. All proceeds from these events benefit the non-profit Ashland Independent Film Festival. All other tickets may be purchased online at catheatres.com or in person at the Varsity Theatre box office. Synopses of the films, along with trailers, and film schedule can be found at ashlandfilm.org. Varsity World Film Week sponsors and community partners include Coming Attractions Theatres, Ashland Home Net, The Earth and Humanity Foundation, and Project A.
Discount Passport Brings Ticket Prices to Less Than $7 for Members
The $42 Varsity World Film Week Passport is good for six films. However, AIFF members, seniors, students, active military and children can purchase a Passport for only $37. The price for a single film ticket without a Passport is $9.25. AIFF members, seniors, students, active military and children may purchase tickets for $7.25. Passport discount cards can be used for regularly priced films and only be purchased in person at the Varsity box office.
Complete Varsity World Film Week 2018 Roster
(2017, China, Narrative, 107 min.)
Director: Vivian Qu
In a small seaside town, two schoolgirls are assaulted by a middle-aged man in a motel. Mia, a teenager who was working on reception that night, is the only witness. For fear of losing her job, she says nothing. Meanwhile, Wen, one of the victims, finds that her troubles have only just begun. Trapped in a world that offers them no safety, Mia and Wen will have to find their own way out.
(2018, Germany/Israel, Narrative, 105 min.)
Director: Ofir Raul Graizer
Thomas, a German baker, is having an affair with Oren, an Israeli married man who has frequent business visits in Berlin. When Oren dies in a car crash in Israel, Thomas travels to Jerusalem seeking answers regarding his death. He infiltrates into the life of Anat, his lover’s widowed wife, who owns a small café. Thomas starts to work for her and creates German cakes and cookies that bring life into her café.
(2018, USA, Narrative, 92 min.)
Director: Jim McKay
The film offers a glimpse into the lives of undocumented Mexican immigrants in Brooklyn. They work long hours six days a week and then savor their Sundays on the soccer fields. When their team makes it to the finals, team captain José and his teammates are thrilled. When his boss tells José he has to work the following Sunday, the day of the finals, José’s job and his teammates’ hopes are on the line.
(2018, Zambia/United Kingdom/France/Germany, Narrative, 93 min.)
Director: Rungano Nyoni
When eight-year-old Shula turns up alone in a rural Zambian village, the locals are suspicious. A minor incident escalates to a full-blown witch trial, where she is found guilty and sentenced to life on a state-run witch camp. There, she is tethered to a long white ribbon and told that if she tries to run away, she will be turned into a goat. Sharply satirical and boldly provocative, Rungano Nyoni’s groundbreaking debut garnered praise from audiences and critics alike at the Cannes 2017 Directors’ Fortnight.
(2016, Egypt/Germany/Great Britain/United Arab Emirates, Narrative, 118 min.)
Director: Tamer El Said
Tamer El Said’s ambitious debut feature tells the fictional story of a filmmaker from downtown Cairo as he struggles to capture the soul of a city on edge while facing loss in his own life. Shot in Cairo, Beirut, Baghdad and Berlin during the two years before the outbreak of revolution in Egypt, the film’s multi-layered stories are a visually rich exploration of friendship, loneliness and life in cities shaped by the shadows of war and adversity.
(2017, Belgium/France/Switzerland, Narrative, 127 min.)
Director: Mélanie Thierry
It’s 1944 Nazi-occupied France, and Marguerite is an active Resistance member along with husband Robert Antelme and a band of fellow subversives. When Antelme is deported to Dachau by the Gestapo, she becomes friendly with Nazi collaborator Rabier to learn of her husband’s whereabouts. Using subtly expressionistic imagery and voiceover passages from Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical The War: A Memoir, Emmanuel Finkiel evokes the inner world of one of the 20th century’s most revolutionary writers.
(with producers Cornelia Ravenal and Mikael Södersten and dancer Robin Cantrell opening night)
(2018, USA, Documentary, 83 min.)
A film by Rob Fruchtman, Cornelia Ravenal, Mikael Södersten and Wendy Sax
Six dancers from New York’s Battery Dance Company travel across the world teaching some of the most vulnerable youth about expressing themselves through movement and creativity. Addressing issues from gender violence and poverty to persecution and prejudice, these students respond in extraordinary ways as they prepare to perform in their communities after only a week of practice.
(2018, Serbia, Documentary, 104 min.)
Director: Mila Turajlić
A locked door inside a Belgrade home has kept one family separated from their past for generations. An intimate conversation between the director and her mother, the dynamic activist and scholar Srbijanka Turajlić, reveals a house and a country haunted by history. What begins as the chronicle of a childhood home grows into an elegant portrait of a charismatic and brilliant woman in times of great political turmoil.
(2017, United Kingdom, Narrative, 71 min.)
Director: Sally Potter
In Sally Potter’s new dark comedy, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is hosting an intimate gathering of friends in her London home to celebrate her political ascension, while her husband, Bill (Timothy Spall), seems preoccupied. Janet’s acerbic best friend, April (Patricia Clarkson) arrives and others follow, but an announcement by Bill provokes a series of revelations that gradually unravel the sophisticated soiree, and a night that began with champagne may end with gunplay.
(2017, Israel/Poland, Narrative, 90 min.)
Director: Matan Yair
Seventeen-year-old Asher always has been an impulsive troublemaker at school. Although his strict, Sephardic father sees his strapping son as a natural successor to his scaffolding business, Asher forges a special connection with his literature teacher and begins to see new possibilities for himself. Based on the director’s own experience as a teacher, this gripping debut film was awarded Best Israeli Feature at the Jerusalem Film Festival and is this year’s Israeli Oscar submission.
(2018, Norway/Germany/Sweden, Narrative, 106 min.)
Director: Iram Haq
Winner of Audience Awards at AFI Fest and the Les Arcs European Film Festival, What Will People Say is a tense and moving drama about women’s rights, immigrant identity, and familial duties. Sixteen-year-old Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) lives a double life. When out with her friends, she’s a regular Norwegian teenager. At home with her family, she is the perfect Pakistani daughter. But when her father (Adil Hussain) catches her alone with her boyfriend, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide.
(with director Arwen Curry on closing night)
(2018, Canada/USA, Documentary, 65 min.)
Director: Arwen Curry
This is the remarkable life story of Oregon feminist writer Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away in 2018. Le Guin, mostly known for her science fiction and fantasy novels such as A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness, defiantly held her ground on the margin of American letters until the sheer excellence of her work forced the mainstream to embrace fantastic literature. Arwen Curry filmed with Le Guin for 10 years to produce the film, which features commentary from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, and more.
(2017, Argentina, Narrative, 115 min.)
Director: Lucrecia Martel
In a remote South American colony in the late 18th century, officer Zama of the Spanish crown waits in vain for a transfer to a more prestigious location. He suffers small humiliations and petty politicking as he increasingly succumbs to lust and paranoia… Adapted from Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 classic of Argentinean literature. From the director of La Cienaga and The Headless Woman, Zama is “Beautiful, hypnotic, mysterious and elliptical”– The New York Times.
About Ashland Independent Film Festival and Coming Attractions Theatres
The Ashland Independent Film Festival is a widely recognized and highly regarded film festival, screening 100-plus independently made documentary, narrative, animation, and short films at the Varsity Theatre, the Historic Ashland Armory, and the Ashland Street Cinema each April. Praised by filmgoers for the intimate access it affords to filmmakers, and by filmmakers for its warm and intelligent reception given to the filmmakers, the Ashland Independent Film Festival was named by MovieMaker Magazine one of the “Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World” in 2016 and “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” in 2018. The National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Arts have each awarded AIFF with rare festival support grants. The 18th annual festival will be held April 11-15, 2019.
Coming Attractions Theatres, Inc. was founded in 1985 in Ashland, Oregon when the company’s founder, John C. Schweiger, settled in Ashland and developed an interest in the local movie theatre, the art deco Varsity Theatre, built in 1937. After renovating and operating that one theatre, Mr. Schweiger’s enthusiasm for film exhibition drove his company’s expansion to include 18 theatres in small to medium‐sized markets up and down the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and most recently Alaska).