t began eight years ago as a project to augment the UA film program, and is now a seperate entity and the proud sponsor of its own film


The Arizona Center for Media Arts was originally slated to be an arm of the University of Arizona's Cinema Program, then part of the theater department. However, "then we noticed that it would be too difficult to that that, and so it spun off from the university. Now it's independent and not-for-profit with no formal ties to the university," said Guilio Scalinger, the center's director and UA media arts adjunct professor.

The third Arizona International Film Festival starts today and will run until April 24. Scalinger hopes that the fledgling project, which incorporates primarily independent films into one event will boost the image of independent filmmaking and surpass last year's profit-making success.

This year's happening has a three-pronged focus, said Scalinger.

"The theme this year is Native American, human rights and regional filmmaking, of which a very important component is Arizona producers.

"I think we're showing about 15 films by Arizona producers, of which I think four are UA students.

Soon after the interview began with Scalinger, he got a call from a filmmaker in Marin County who wanted to enter a film in the festival, which was five days away, and counting.

When Scalinger, director of both the center and festival, returned he informed his co-workers that he would he reviewing the film.

"He (the caller) is a local boy. He was raised in Tucson. What can I do? We'll have to look at it, won't we?...We haven't even advertised outside of Tucson and we are getting calls from all over." That is the goal of the Arizona Festival to "stick with independent filmmakers, and especially those from Arizona" said Scalinger.

But before you get out your old super eights from high school, "Some films fit the theme of the festival, other don't." said Scalinger, cautioning those not yet ready for stardom.

"In the end I'm responsible for the selection of the films, although I have a committee who looks at a lot of films and gives me advice and suggestions.""

The key word here is "independent." The Arizona festival creates its own niche by supporting work that was made outside of the Hollywood financial and creative system.

According to Scalinger, the Arizona International Film Festival is "grateful to Sundance (International Film Festival) for establishing the importance of independent films." Scalinger worked at Sundance during its early years and still attends every year scouting for new releases and interesting filmmakers.

"We go to Sundance in Utah and the Independent Feature Market in New YorkÄ those are the two key places we go to look at films because that's where most independent producers will show their work because they're looking for distributors or festivals.

"We also get producers from around the country who call us up," Scalinger said.

While the idea of independent films may go against the grain of a culture raised on Hollywood images, this festival does not want to be merely a collection of weird, arty films designed for a miniscule audience

"People think the work we show is obscure, then they come to the festival and realize that the films they are seening here are also opening in New York at the same time" according to Claudia Jespersen, administrative director of the festival.

The Arizona Center for Media Arts, which opened the Screening Room cinema in early 1992, is a not-for-profit organization and garners most of its income from ticket sales and grants, with about 20 percent of revenue coming from center memberships and "other projects," said Scalinger.

But despite the fact that film festivals apparently are rarely money-making ventures, last year's event turned a profit.

"Film festivals usually don't make money. They're very cost intensiveÄyou have to fly people in, have to do publicity, pay for shipping," the director said. "And so last year it was a very unusual year and we did very well.

"I don't know exactly the amount but there was a profit last year, which really surprised us.

"Because we did do well last year, and some of the shows were sold out, what we've done is we've added a new site, and that's Crossroads Festival cinemas," Scalinger said. "Now if more people come this year then we'll probably do quite well this year."

While the Arizona Center for Media Arts is not a sanctioned part of the UA media arts program, there are still close ties between the two.

"It's an organization that we certainly are very supportive of," said Michael Gillette, media arts professor. "We have students who are doing internships with them. I think it is a very positive addition to the arts scene in Tucson."

One of the ways for anyone to get involved in the center is to become a member, where one pays a membership due and then is able to receive ticket discounts and similar perks.

"Any student who wants to be involved in the center can through many different ways, whether its being a member or whether they want to take one of my classes and work as part of the organization or even volunteer," Scalinger said.

"As far as I know there is no membership required," Gillette said. "We have graduates and undergraduates involved. It really is a wonderful addition to the department."

ne of the Films to be shown at the Tucson festival this year is "Mi Vida Loca" by up and coming

director, Allison Anders's ("Gas, food, and lodging") , and Lodging"). This film, which explores the subculture of Chicana gangs has been discribed as "...at once violent and passionate the film is told in three different sections, allowing the viewer to follow one narrative line while being lured into the second and the third. Anders treats her subject with both humor and pathos by not merely depicting street life, but instead dealing with the subjects' loves, friendships, and families." "Mi Vida Loca" will be shown for only the second time here at the Arizona International Film Festival, the Sundance festival had exclusive rights to the premiere.

Some of this years' other highlights include renown playwright Sam Shepard's "Silent Tongue," which has been touted as a "dramatic, multi-layered redefinition of the Western and the legacy of the Native American." It is also one of River Phoenix's last roles.

"Roosters" is "an engaging portrait of a Latino family seeking prosperity in the Southwest." It was shot here in Tucson and stars Edward James Olmos.

"The Right to Be" is a "moving self-portrait by Harriet Skye, a sixty-one-year-old Lakota woman and recent graduate of the NYU film school, reflects on her personal struggles during a visit back to her home on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota," according to press materials. Skye will be present at some of the showings.

"The Pope of Utah" is an independent film with a lot of buzz around it. It has been called a "dark comedy that follows the rising career of a small time TV Evangelist named , Melvis Pressin, on the Utah-Nevada border in the year 2001, whose world begins to crumble when his co-worker, Del Shandling, a manic-depressive video-censor and wanna-be comedian, unfolds and outrageous hi-tech blackmail scheme."

Other films include "Calender" by Atom Egoyan, and Armenian filmmaker, who is considered one of the preeminent new international talents; Nagisa Oshima's ("The Realm of the Senses") controversial new film on sexual exploration "Max Mon Amour" and "Public Access", winner of the Grand Prix Award at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival schedule includes a total of 45 films and videos from around the world, more noteworthy work than can be included in this article.

This year's is the third annual Arizona International Film Festival, the first was in 1990, but in 1991 and 1992 the festival had to be postponed during the Screening Room's restoration. Now, the festival is back and growing.

This year's festival venues include: The Arizona Historical Society, Crossroads Festival, The Loft Cinema, The Screening Room, The Tucson Museum of Art and Gallagher Theater, right here on campus, for three days only, between Wednesday April 20th and Friday April 22nd.

Additional festival programs include the "'Arizona' Media Arts Showcase" featuring 15 new films and videos by Arizona producers, "From the Archives", a selection of ethnographic films, and "Serving Independents," a series of panel discussions that impact independent producers. These special event are scheduled throughout the festival.

{The Arizona Internation Film Festival, 1994 will begin with a gala opening on Thursday April 14th and conclude on Sunday April 24th. Festival passes are available, call 628-1737 or 622-2262 for more information}

Stefanie Boyd, Sarah Garrecht and Roger Wood contributed to this article.} Read Next Article