By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Berlin. Venice. Cannes. Tucson. Film Festivals are not just for ritzy European cities anymore. And for the 14th year, Arizonans - Tucsonans in particular - are proving that with the Arizona International Film Festival.
The AIFF is a 10-day long celebration of local and independent film, and it starts tonight. It is a great event for Tucson because it showcases national and international talent. But it is especially exciting because it exposes talent that has come out of the UA.
Jason Brandt, alumnus of the UA College of Fine Arts, composed music for two films being shown in the Festival. These films, "The Passing" and "Repossessing Kaufman," are both official selections.
Another alumnus Kevin Jarvis, is presenting his 30-minute film titled "Turntable Trauma." It is a mockumentary about the psychological ramifications of hip-hop music, which also comments on the club scene change in New York in 2000.
"It's funny, originally this film was going to be a serious documentary about hip-hop. But the more I edited the movie and test screened it, people were just like 'ugh.' So I decided to make it into an over-the-top mockumentary. At least people would not be bored when they watched it," Jarvis said.
Using his training from the media arts program at the UA and the KUAT studio, Jarvis was able to adapt his film to his audience and make a film that he says is interesting and fun to watch. He said that both his schooling and his sense of humor definitely prepared him for filmmaking.
"I made the whole story and film very exaggerated. I have a scene in the film where there narrator is telling people that hip-hop music will make you see visions of ghosts. It's pretty over the top, but at the same time the whole film is a joke. You have to have a sense of humor to watch it," Jarvis said.
Dannielle Wheeler, publicist for this year's AIFF, said film festivals serve an important role for filmmakers who have an off-beat vision.
"Audiences need festivals to bring them these works that are kept on the margins by the mainstream. Audiences are interested in alternatives to mainstream entertainment-oriented work, and it's our job to bring them challenging, experimental, offbeat work," Wheeler said. "This sentiment is summed up best by The Screening Room's motto: 'Extraordinary films not seen on ordinary screens.'"
One of the major films of the AIFF considered to be extraordinary by many audiences is "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer." This film was created by a group of UA alumni, and it was recently screened and well received at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
"Garcia Girls" is about three generations of Mexican-American women who experience sexual awakenings over a summer. Alumni Georgina Riedel (director), Sean Olsen (editor) and Lisa Fowle (sound/music editor) came together to make this film.
"The production program that I was a part of [at the UA] was an important part of my development as a filmmaker. The media arts department fostered a creative atmosphere and allowed all the students a chance to make films," Riedel said.
Since her days at the UA, Riedel has graduated from the American Film Institute with a master's degree in directing. As a director she has received a lot of praise, especially from the film's editor, Sean Olsen.
"Georgina loves to invite the audience to participate in the film instead of passively watch the film. She lets moments play out in such a way that you can feel what the character is feeling," Olsen said. "Independent film is important because someone like Georgina is able to tell a personal story and make it the way she wants to without outside interference."
Dannielle Wheeler shares Olsen's sentiment.
"To understand the journey of life, we must develop an appreciation and understanding for the human adventure through the eyes and vision of artists with a unique story to relate," Wheeler said. "Independent film is always the end product of a story or issue that an individual is passionate about and shares its uniqueness with the audience without regard to commercial restraints."
For the next 10 days, independent films from Arizona, California, Missouri, Texas, Maryland, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Israel, Iran, and several other states and countries will be screened all around Tucson. The screenings are taking place at the Screening Room, The Loft Cinema, Crossroads Festival Theater and Valencia Crossroads.
"If you are tired of the same trite (films) that regularly get trotted out at the big cineplexes, then film festivals are a great way to see new and exciting things by filmmakers who are willing to try different things," Georgina Riedel said.
"How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" is being shown at the Loft Cinema tomorrow at 7 p.m.
"Turntable Trauma" is being shown at the Screening Room on Sunday at 3 p.m.
For ticket information and a complete schedule of the festival, visit www.azmac.org or call 628-1737.