Local and national filmmakers alike are flocking to Tucson to show off their stuff—and if you have any free time next weekend, you might be able to catch a world premiere or two.
At the very least, you can find some great music.
In its sixth year, the Tucson Film and Music festival combines both music and film into a five-day event set at five different venues. A wide-ranging lineup of musicians from Tucson, Tempe, Phoenix and Los Angeles will pair up with a mixture of full-length features, shorts and music videos.
Michael Toubassi, director of the Upstairs Film company and the creator of TFMF, explained the festival's origins.
"We made a documentary about the Tucson music scene called High and Dry, and when we premiered the film (in 2005), we got bands from the film to come together, reunite and play for the screening. ... It was so popular, and everyone loved it. It was such a great time, so we said, 'We got to do it again next year.'"
Toubassi, who is from Arizona but lives in Los Angeles, approached the Tucson Film Office and the University of Arizona to see if they felt an annual festival would be a valuable event for Tucson. Both entities responded with excitement.
"Because I love Tucson, I want to make my films here. I've made all my films here. My company is an Arizona company, and so my goals are similar to their goals—just bringing films, art and culture to Tucson. That's what the festival does," Toubassi explained.
High and Dry, the Tucson made documentary that started TFMF, steered the festival toward what it is today. The documentary—written, directed and co-produced by Toubassi—highlights the Tucson music scene over 20 years. The festival's focus on music documentaries remains constant, and the music genres showcased depend on submissions to the festival: Often, TFMF organizers try to bring in the band or musician that a featured film is about, to perform or do a Q&A session.
Case in point: Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, the centerpiece film of this year's festival. The film, which is making its Arizona debut, is narrated by Laurence Fishburne and tells the story Fishbone, a punk and funk band that challenged racial stereotypes and broke through genre boundaries. The documentary will be play at 9 p.m., next Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., and will be followed by and a Q&A session with the band and filmmakers, and live show by the band.
The festival will kick off on next Thursday, Oct. 7 at Cinema La Placita, 110 S. Church Ave., with a showing of a film called Unbroken: The Pearl Bluegrass Circle, about a tiny Texas town that collaborates for a monthly bluegrass jam.
Two other feature films are being touted as the festival's "official" opener and closer. The opener, Rise, Ride, Roar, is a David Byrne concert film featuring performance clips and behind-the-scenes interviews that will show at 7:30 p.m., next Friday, Oct. 8 at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. The closing film, taking place at 7 p.m., next Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Rialto Theatre, has more of local spin. Mars is an animated sci-fi romantic comedy that was made by an Austin-based company. Tucson's own Howe Gelb, this year's inductee into the TAMMIES Tucson Music Hall of fame, will be making his acting debut as the villain (sort of) of the story. He also composed the score and plays in parts of it. Notable actors involved include Cynthia Watros (Lost) and Mark Duplass (Humpday).
Other events include a handful of short films showing in a daytime event called Desert Shorts at the Crossroads 6 Grand Cinemas, 4811 E. Grant Road, and the world premiere of Dead West, a locally made horror film, also taking place at the Crossroads 6.
"It really kind of brings in a lot of what the festival is about, with local production and supporting local filmmakers and giving them a place to premiere their work—and hopefully go on to more festivals," Toubassi explained.