From staff reports
What's the cheapest way to take an extended international vacation, travel the globe and tour exciting places? It's attending the Athens International Film + Video Festival running April 24 through 30.
"We'll take you to the Philippines, South Africa, France, Ireland, China and few dozen other locales," said Ruth Bradley, director of the festival, which is celebrating its 36th year. "We'll introduce you to incredible and interesting people from around the world and show you sights you've never thought possible. And all the while, there'll be fresh popcorn, comfortable seats, great conversation and an easy trip home."
This year's festival will screen 171 feature films, documentaries and shorts from around the world. Highlights of the International Feature Showcase include "Wendy and Lucy," the poignant story of a young woman on the edge of economic catastrophe; "Hunger," the portrait of IRA prisoner Bobby Sand's prison hunger strike and "The Beaches of Agnes," a playful autobiographic film by the legendary French director Agnes Varda. Other feature films to be screened during the festival's seven-day run include: "Examined Life," a surprisingly funny study of contemporary philosophers; "Food, Inc," a documentary about what we eat and "Serbis," a controversial film from the Philippines about a family-run movie theater.
Competition entries arrived from all over the world and range from feature-length documentary to three-minute animations. Three teams of pre-screeners watched all entries and completed two rounds of voting before entries were officially accepted. This year, 957 works were entered.
"It's a grueling, but ultimately exhilarating process," said Bradley. "There are many fine films that we would have loved to include in the lineup, but there simply isn't enough time."
Ultimately, works chosen for screening meet high standards of craftsmanship, personal vision and audience appeal.
"We have multiple constituencies here in Athens," Bradley said. "We've programmed the competition to include films that speak to a broad range of these constituencies and interests. There is, truly, something for everyone in this festival."
Guest jurors will award cash prizes in four categories: documentary, experimental, narrative and animation. Festival jurors are announced just prior to the festival and awards are announced on the final day of the festival. Most of the competition films will be screened during the daytime and are free admission.
In addition to the Feature Film Showcase, the festival is renowned for its competition for independent film and video artists. One example of this dedication and appreciation of independent artists is the special screening at 7:30 p.m. on April 24, the festival's opening day, at Stuart's Opera House of "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie," a documentary about two friends from Portsmouth, Ohio, who hope to convince the world that Bigfoot really exists. The screening will top off the April installment of Nelsonville's "Final Fridays" event.
Screening locations include the Athena Cinema, the Baker University Center Theatre and Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville, Ohio. The majority of the screenings will take place at the Athena Cinema with shows beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing through midnight. The Baker University Center Theatre will host screenings on April 24 through 26.
All competition shows at the Athena Cinema starting before 6 p.m. and all screenings at Baker University Center Theatre are free admission. Non-competition shows before 6 p.m. are $5 admission. Athena Cinema screenings after 6 p.m. and all screenings at Stuart's Opera House are $6.50 for general admission and $5.50 for children 12 years and under and adults 60 years and older. Festival passes for admission to any six screenings, may be purchased for $30. Tickets and passes are available at the Athena Cinema beginning April 20. Ohio students with a valid ID may receive free admission courtesy of Arts for Ohio through the College of Fine Arts.
Full screening schedules and festival information is available at www.athensfest.org. Printed schedules are available at the Athena Cinema and at various public locations around Athens.
The Film Festival is sponsored by the Athens Center for Film and Video, a project of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University. Generous support is also given from the Ohio Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts and other donors.
Beginning last fall, the Athens Center for Film and Video has assumed management of the Athena Cinema.
"By programming the Athena Cinema, we're now able to provide festival-quality films throughout the year which means for the festival itself, we can push the envelope and present a truly unique and imaginative program," Bradley said. "This truly expands film culture for Athens and the surrounding region."