Arlington International Film Festival to debut

Oct 03, 2011

Arlington International Film Festival to debut

Arlington —

The films have been judged, the lineup set and the Regent Theatre spiffed up.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, show time will get under way for the inaugural Arlington International Film Festival, which runs through next weekend at the historic former vaudeville house tucked off Mass. Ave. on Medford Street.

More than 30 films — shorts and features, narratives and documentaries — will be presented at the AIFF, which drew well over 40 entries this summer. Directors, whose films were selected by a panel of judges, hale from Arlington and Greater Boston to as far away as Afghanistan and Lithuania.

The festival is the brainchild of Arlington’s Alberto Guzman and his wife April Ranck, who have poured countless hours into the project.

“After many months of planning and organizing, I am excited to see the program come together,” Guzman said earlier this week. “I believe the quality of the films, as well as the panel discussions, will be compelling. I’m also nervous, as there is much to attend to, even up to the last minute. You can only hope that you have covered all the bases. The dream is nearly realized.”

That “dream” began for Guzman when he was a boy growing up in Colombia and fascinated with filmmakers such as Charlie Chaplin, Costa-Gavras and Woody Allen. His love of film matured while living in Chicago, when he became involved with a Latino film festival there.

Ranck, however, said the reality of a looming opening night hadn’t quite set in.

“As soon as I have taken care of printing, T-shirts, banners and programs, making arrangements for visiting filmmakers and organizing volunteer duties, I will breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the festival,” she said. “I think on the eve of opening night I will be excited.”

Guzman said he was surprised the panel of five judges charged with selecting films to be screened were unimpressed with any of the short documentaries that were submitted over the summer. The decision to not show any of the documentary shorts, Guzman said, eliminated what had been planned as one of the festival’s award categories. 

“What amazed me was that the judges, who have very different backgrounds, were so unified in agreeing on criteria,” he said. “For the most part, [they] made unanimous decisions.”

Indeed, Ranck said the panel’s essential consensus on which films worked and which didn’t cut it provided her peace of mind and a sense of stability.

“It was an interesting process, sitting with the selection committee while they discussed the films and made final their decisions,” she said. “Films that received awards were unanimously agreed upon and that actually felt quite good, very reassuring.”

Amy Handler, a local filmmaker and critic who was a member of the panel, described the judges’ meetings as “long, arduous and emotional — much like the jury deliberation at a legal trial.”

Handler explained film selection was based on cinematography, audio, editing, color correction, synchronization, transitions, direction, accuracy, consistency and scoring.

“All in all, much work goes into the creation and installation of a film festival,” Handler said. “And even though the judges and directors are very tired when the final meeting is concluded, we know that all the hard work is worth it in the end. We hope you are as inspired by the wide variety of movies we have selected and have as much fun viewing them as we did.”

Opening night and other highlights

Leading off Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. will be “We Still Live Here (As Nutayunean),” AIFF’s winner of Best Documentary. The hour-long film by American director Anne Makepeace tells the story of Jessie Little Doe, a Wampanoag social worker in her thirties who begins having recurring dreams about familiar-looking people from another time speaking to her in an unknown language. Later, she learns the language was Wampanoag, which hadn’t been spoken in more than a century.

The events lead to Jessie earning a master’s degree in linguistics from MIT and eventually resurrecting the language within the Native American community indigenous to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.

A panel discussion after the film will include Makepeace, MIT professor of linguistics Norvin Richards III and Jesse Little Doe Baird.

An opening night party at Tango restaurant will follow the discussion.

Friday’s lineup includes several short works produced by Michael Sheridan, “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film.”  The Boston area premiere of English director Phil Grabsky’s “The Boy Mir: 10 Years in Afghanistan” will continue the theme of stories from the war-torn country, beginning at 9 p.m. A question and answer session will follow.

Also slated for screening Friday night is AIFF’s Best Feature Narrative winner, Swedish director Mattias Sandstrom’s “Fuerteventura.” The film is set in the Canary Islands and is described as “a psychological drama on loss and grief, eternal love and destiny.”

On Saturday, the festival opens at 1:30 p.m. with director Signe Taylor’s award-winning documentary “Circus Dreams,” which follows a traveling youth circus from auditions to a 70-performance tour.

At 3:15 p.m., several high school short films, including those produced by local students, will run for about 40 minutes. The AIFF winner of Best of Festival, director Tim Skousen’s “Zero Percent,” will get under way at 6:30 p.m. The film takes a look at prison life and a successful rehabilitation program for former Sing Sing Correctional Facility inmates.

A panel discussion with the director will follow.

At 9:05 p.m., Eric Santiago’s “Five Friends” will examine men, friendships and personal growth.

A question and answer session with the director will follow.

The Boston premiere of “Ashes,” a narrative about a smalltime marijuana dealer in New York City, who must care for his mentally ill brother, rounds out the Saturday schedule, starting at 11:20 p.m.

The AIFF wraps up on Sunday, beginning at noon with Irish director Peter Flynn’s “Blazing the Trail: The O’Kalems in Ireland.” The film takes a look at early 20th century American filmmaking in Ireland and will be followed by a discussion with Flynn.

Sunday’s slate also includes the U.S. premiere of Israeli filmmaker Eitan Wetzler’s “Winding Roads,” which follows a year in the life of a young Bedouin girl from the Negev. The documentary begins at 4:15 p.m.

Rounding out the schedule on Sunday, Academy Award nominee Michele Ohayon’s “Steal a Pencil for Me” tells a story of love and survival during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The film begins at 6:45 p.m.

A closing ceremony, featuring live music and a reception, will begin at 8 p.m.

Guzman encourages filmgoers to take part in the panel discussions that he described as an integral part of the festival experience.

“One of the best things about a film festival,” he said, “is the unique opportunity it provides audiences to interact firsthand with the world of international film.”

AIFF lineup

Thursday, Oct.  6

7:30 p.m. “We Still Live Here”  (“As Nutayunean”)             

Friday, Oct.  7

6 p.m. “Finding Zabel Yesayan”

7:15 p.m. “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film”

9 p.m. “The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan”

10 p.m. “The Letter has Come (“Chitti Ako Chha”)

11p.m. “Fuerteventura”

Saturday, Oct. 8

1:30 p.m. “Circus Dreams”

3:15 p.m. High school shorts

3:55 p.m. “Changing Gears, A Love Story”

4:30 p.m. “L’Affair Coca Cola”

6:15 p.m. “Miracle”

6:30 p.m. “Zero Percent”

9:05 p.m.  “Five Friends”

11:00 p.m. “Meet Annabel”

11:20 p.m. “Ashes” 

Sunday, Oct.  9

12 p.m. “Blazing the Trail: The O’Kalems In Ireland”

2 p.m. “Family Affair”

4:15 p.m. “Winding Roads”

5:30 p.m. “The Bug Trainer”

6:45 p.m. “Steal a Pencil for Me”

WHERE Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington


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