Film Fiesta(s)

The Tucson Festival of Films is one way to get our hands around film fests in the Moldy Pueblo

There’s almost more film coming to Tucson in October than you can get your arms around. Almost.

In addition to the unofficial start of Oscar season with flicks like The Martian and Steve Jobs making it to theaters, Tucson plays host to a number of film festivals, each catering to fairly specific audiences: The Tucson Film & Music Festival, the Loft Film Festival, the Native Eyes Film Showcase and Tucson Terror Fest are all on the way this month.

While that may be a daunting schedule for any cinephile to keep, there is a new way to get the “best of the fests.” According to Kerryn Negus, co-producer of the Tucson Festival of Films, this idea was the brainchild of Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who thought one unified event capturing elements of all of Tucson’s film festivals would be a great way to bring together a city full of movie lovers. And so, the first-ever Tucson Festival of Films kicks off Oct. 8, and features movies not just from the four October fests but also the Tucson International Jewish Festival, Tucson Cine Mexico, the Arizona International Film Festival and the Tucson Underground Film Festival, which just wrapped at the end of September.

Each festival is represented by a featured film over three nights this weekend. The Arizona Underground Film Festival, for example, is presenting the world premiere of Death in the Desert, based on the book of the same name, which chronicled the wild life and bizarre murder of Las Vegas casino heir Ted Binion. Michael Madsen, soon to be seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful 8, stars as a fictionalized Binion.

Death in the Desert will premiere on Friday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. Director Josh Evans is excited to bring his new movie to Tucson, saying, “I thought this would be a great place to get people who like movies, not just an industry type of audience. It’s increasingly more and more difficult to find a non-biased audience, where people are excited to see your film. “I wanted an old-fashioned theater experience, and I think the film will play great for an audience,” explained Evans, the son of actress Ali McGraw and super-producer Robert Evans. “So to have the opportunity to show it in Tucson is wonderful.”

With one exception, all the films featured this weekend will be shown at the Temple of Music & Art. That one outlier: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year as part of the Loft Film Festival, which will host its anniversary screening on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore was my first studio picture,” remembered Martin Scorsese recently. “I was intrigued and excited by the challenges of working in wide open spaces, something completely new to me; dealing with a way of life that was so different from what I knew; and telling the story of a single woman and mother who is more or less forced to reinvent herself and go on the road.”

The legendary director also had very kind words for our fair city. “I loved Tucson with its enormous desert skies and expanses and its beautiful light—it was an extraordinary place to shoot a movie,” he said. “I treasure my memories of the experience, and it means the world to me that this picture we made four decades ago will be closing the inaugural Tucson Festival of Films.”

From 40-year-old classics by cinema icons to brand new movies from filmmakers looking for their first big break, the Tucson Festival of Films offers a lot of options over the course of three nights. A complete schedule and more details are available at

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