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April 21, 2004
There's something for everyone at this year's festival
By Susan Green

One week. Sixteen feature films. One hundred fifty competition films.

And a new venue.

Ruth Bradley, director of the Athens International Film + Video Festival, finally has an answer to a commonly asked question, "What's new this year?"

"Usually, I say the films are what's new, but this year, all of the competition films will be shown during the day at Baker Center, rather than The Ridges," Bradley says. "The entire Festival will take place uptown. It's definitely an improvement."

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    She admits the competition films are a leap of faith and the extra effort of trekking up to The Ridges discouraged all but the most die-hard fans of experimental film. Now, people can drop-in free of charge at the Baker Center Micro Cinema.

    Organizing the weeklong Festival, which runs April 23-29, is a big job and Bradley depends on a corps of student and community members to get the job done.

    "People don't understand what it takes," she says. "They think it's as simple as going to a video store and selecting a movie."

    This is Jill Kozeluh's first year working on the festival. She quickly points out that it's not that simple. A graduate student in theory and criticism in the School of Film, she says working on the Festival is a labor-intensive, exhilarating learning experience.

    "Ruth gives us a lot of responsibility which throws us right into it," Kozeluh says. "It's a wonderful to see how a film festival works - the financial and political aspects of it as well as deciding which films will be included."

    Kozeluh is one of eight pre-screeners who viewed the hundreds of films submitted to the festival. Considering most of the pre-screeners had a theory and criticism background - as opposed to film production - there was little debate. "We basically agreed on most of the films," she says. "There was some disagreement, but where quality was concerned we agreed."

    Bradley says most people think there's a bifurcation between theory and practice, but she doesn't think it exists. "There are different points of view but a good film is a good film. It appeals to audiences on many different levels," she says.

    And this year's festival is packed with good films.

    "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," the latest Charlie Kaufman-written film, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, "Fog of War," the Errol Morris Oscar-winning documentary about Robert McNamara and his involvement in the Vietnam War and "The Dreamers," the newest film by legendary filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci are a few of feature films headlining the Festival.

    Guest artist David Collins, perhaps best known as one of the creators of television's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," will introduce and discuss "Fog of War," 7 p.m., Sat., April 24 at the Athena Cinema. Scout Productions - Collins' company - co-produced the award-winning film.

    Herb E. Smith, a documentarian from Whitesburg, Ky., will present his latest work, "Thoughts on the Presence of Fear, "a contemplative essay about rural and global issues in the post-Sept. 11 world based on an essay by Wendell Berry. Smith will discuss the film at 7 p.m., Tues., April 27 at the Athena Cinema.

    Competition films representing the latest work in independent media include screenings of "An Appalachian Memoir by Ora Anderson" and "The Cheshire Transaction," an examination of the Gallia County town of Cheshire and its problems with a big electric company.

    "The best thing about a festival like AIFVF is that it exposes people to films they normally don't see in the theater, especially in a town the size of Athens," Kozeluh says. "It's one of the reasons I came to Ohio University. I knew that students were involved with the Festival and I'd get experience beyond the classroom.

    Ruth is great. She's right there with us every step of the way and available if we have questions about anything concerning the Festival. We're learning from a master."

    Bradley says without the support of the College of Fine Arts, the Festival would be harder to produce. "It's a wonderful thing that the College supports us," she says. "Two of our external judges are fine arts faculty and one of the judges is an alum, so it's not just administrative support, it's colleagues and alumni."

    The Athens International Film + Video Festival is sponsored by the Athens Center for Film and Video, a project of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University. The Festival receive generous support from the Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Athens County Convention and Visitor's Bureau and individual donors.

    Tickets for screenings at the Athena Cinema are available at the cinema's box office: $3.50 for shows starting prior to 6 p.m. and $5.50 for shows starting after 6 p.m. A $25 pass good for any five screenings also is available.

    All screenings at Baker Center Micro Cinema (formerly known as the 1954 Lounge) are free. Tickets also are available at the College of Fine Arts ticket office, Kantner Hall, Mon.-Fri., 12-4 p.m. Complete Festival information is available at

    Susan Green is a writer for University Communications and Marketing


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