Celluloid Celebration

Film Fest Tucson partners with area community groups to highlight Old Pueblo film and culture

Tucson, there's another Film Festival coming your way Oct. 20-23.

Film Fest Tucson will take place in the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Tucson. Among the event highlights will be the screening of two silent movies filmed in Southern Arizona back in the twenties. Ridin' Wild (1925) will receive its first ever Tucson screening, with musical accompaniment by jazz pianist Jeff Haskell, and The Mine with the Iron Door (1924) will screen with live music by members of the Tucson Symphony conducted by Brian Holman.

Another local production, the 1986 coming of age drama Desert Bloom, will get a special screening. The movie stars Jon Voight, Ellen Barkin and Annabeth Gish, and was shot in Tucson, featuring many prominent city landmarks.

"We are dedicated to raising the level of awareness of other Tucson cultural partners through collaborative events," says Film Fest Tucson director Herb Stratford. "We've partnered with Fashion Week, Modernism Week, the Tucson Historical Preservation Foundation, the Tucson Jazz Festival and Tucson Symphony, to name a few, to share audiences, tell stories and engage a wider population in the arts and cultural community using film as a catalyst."

The guest list for the inaugural year of the festival includes Academy Award-winning sound re-mixer Gary Rizzo, whose credits include Inception (for which he won his Oscar), The Dark Knight and Inception, for which he received Oscar nominations while working for director Christopher Nolan. Other guests include actor/screenwriter Will Jaymes (whose new film Beast will be screened) and directors Dan Guerrero, Allison Gryphon, Jacob Oelman and William Shockley.

Other film screenings include:

Beast (directed by Sam and Tom McKeith): An Australian boxing drama starring Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave, The Road) and Chad McKinney as a father and son coach/boxer team. The film screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and this will be its U.S. premiere.

Sticky Notes (directed by Amanda Sharp): A family drama featuring strong performances from Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).

Common Threads (directed by festival attendee William Shockley): A period piece that takes place in Tucson, 1887. The plot involves a mysterious child taken in by a reclusive widow, changing their lives forever.

If There's a Hell Below (directed by Nathan Williams): A drama involving a young journalist, a national security agent, and serious revelations in an isolated, American West location.

Hunky Dory (directed by Michael Curtis Johnson): A comedy about a glam rocker whose life is upended when his ex drops off their child for a week.

Neptune (directed by Derek Kimball): An orphan girl (Jane Ackermann) becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a classmate in this drama set in the late 1980's on an island off the coast of Maine.

Diverge (directed by James Morrison): A survivor of nuclear war wakes up in a parallel universe where everybody he loves is still alive.

American Fable (directed by Anne Hamilton): Described as a "fairytale thriller set in 1980's Midwest," this is Hamilton's directing debut.

The Happy Film (directed by Hillman Curtis and Ben Nabors): A documentary about world-famous designer Stefan Sagmeister.

What the F@$- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It? (directed by festival attendee Allison Gryphon): A documentary about a woman's fight with breast cancer.

Fursonas (directed by Dominic Rodriguez): A documentary on the furry phenomena.

Learning to See: The World of Insects (directed by festival attendee Jake Oelman): A documentary involving an insect photographer's trip to the Amazon.

Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano (directed by festival attendee Dan Guerrero): This documentary will close out the festival with its tenth anniversary screening on Sunday, October 23.

The festival will also include a shorts program, a program featuring works by legendary animator Bill Plympton, and a conversation with Academy Award winning sound re-mixer Gary Rizzo, who in addition to the aforementioned Nolan films, just completed work on Suicide Squad and the upcoming animated Sing!, starring the voices of Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson.

There are many film fests coming to Tucson in the coming months, and Stratford thinks his offers aspects that make it special.

"I think the unique presentation of the two period silent films with live music is going to be truly magical," says Stratford. "We think there are some great film fests in Tucson, but what we're doing is different. We're bringing a different style of festival to town, based on my work as the program director of the Napa Valley Film Fest (2013-2014). There are so many great films and we want to bring more to town. More films, more filmmakers, more stories and more fun."

For more information, a complete screening schedule and to get tickets, visit FilmFestTucson.com.

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