Local feature film to open Sunburn Film Festival

click to enlarge Local feature film to open Sunburn Film Festival
(Chris Studenka/Submitted)
A behind the scenes photo from the independent local feature film, “Run Rabbit.” It will be showing July 22 at The Screening Room.

An independent local feature film titled “Run Rabbit” was selected to play opening night of the Arizona Sunburn Film Festival in Tucson.

Written and directed by Latino artist Justin Rose, “Run Rabbit” is a 1970s-style dark action film boasting a majority cast of Arizona actors. The film has garnered significant attention across the globe over the past few months, snagging numerous awards at film festivals worldwide. Followed by a Q&A, “Run Rabbit” is slated to play for its local community at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22 at The Screening Room.

“We’re big fans of local theaters and this is a great one if you're in Tucson,” said lead actor and producer Chris Studenka. “So, we're excited to come down and share it and hope people turn out for sort of a dark thriller and have a chance to meet the cast and be a part of that.”

The producers behind the film consist of Phoenix natives Rose, Studenka and actor Greg Wave. They banded together with the goal of creating “a fantastic film” with a message left to the viewers’ discretion.

“Run Rabbit” depicts a notorious underground crime syndicate on high alert as a string of conspiracies unravel due to a series of brutal murders on Catholic authority, according to its IMDB.

“I think there's a lot of sort of cloak-and-dagger to (the plot),” said Studenka. “That's why if you read the IMDB, it doesn't give a lot of that, sort of on purpose. We don't want to give too much of it away. Essence is what it's about.”

Greatly story-driven and dialogue-heavy, the team prioritized gathering strong actors to support the style of the film. As a result, they were able to cast a talented group of actors, some of whom are from Tucson, that they are “very proud” of.

“That's something that we take great pride in, something that a lot of independent films can suffer from because of their budgets and trying to get it done,” said Studenka. “They sort of just get whoever they can. We probably were delayed six months because we wanted certain people to be part of it, and we never compromised the film.”

Studenka, who has worked on two award-winning short films with Rose in the past, credits the director for the film’s accomplishments.

Prior to the birth of the feature-length version, “Run Rabbit” was originally a five-minute piece that Rose created while attending film school at Scottsdale Community College. Hoping it would one day translate to the big screen as a full film, the director worked on the feature-length script for years.

“I'm fortunate to work with him,” said Studenka. “He's a younger guy, so he's got a very bright future ahead of him. Anything that I can do to help push him forward, he deserves it, because film is his life and he's truly a super talent.”

The team began working on “Run Rabbit” with production meetings in summer 2020. A majority of the footage was filmed in Phoenix and parts of Tucson the following summer, running from June to early September. It was completed in April 2022.

Since its completion three months ago, the film has been submitted to festivals around the world and seen significant success.

“Run Rabbit” has won Best Feature Film at the Prague International Film Festival, Toronto Indie Filmmakers Festival, Black Hat Festival in Hungary and Gothamite Monthly Film Awards in New York City.

Other awards include Best Feature Film Silver Award at the Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque, N.M., Outstanding Filmmaker at the Brazil International Film Festival and Honorable Mention at the Athens Film Festival.

It has also obtained Official Selections at all of those film festivals in addition to several others.

Although the team has received multiple offers to purchase “Run Rabbit,” they plan to continue entering it in festivals and hope for greater offers in the future.

At the moment, however, they look forward to showing the production to family, friends and locals on home soil.

“We've had a great start and a lot of international (success), and so we're excited to be able to start to share it domestically,” said Studenka. “It's really fun to share it with an audience and see the reactions and be a part of it.”

“Run Rabbit” will be playing at The Screening Room located at 127 E. Congress Street. Tickets can be purchased screeningroomdowntown.com.

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