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Film festival to "reel" in moviegoers
34th annual Athens International Film + Video Festival boasts international and local flavor

ATHENS, Ohio (April 16, 2007) -- Movie buffs may enjoy the occasional double feature or movie marathon, but few could sit through a marathon like the prescreening committee did for the 34th annual Athens International Film and Video Festival.  A group of local film experts sorted through the nearly 800 submissions.

"It was almost impossible, but we watched them all," said Ruth Bradley, director of the festival.

With entries from more than a dozen countries, visiting Russian filmmakers and a feature film about military life on the border between two Eastern European countries, organizers are focusing on the international aspect of the annual film fete.

The festival runs from April 27 through May 3 and features 23 feature films plus 133 films competing for $9,000 in prize money.  The competition films will be screened in 30 public showings through the week.  Most screenings will be at the Athena in Athens, but some films will be shown at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville.

In all the festival received 789 entries, up from around 300 last year.  Bradley attributes the jump to changes in technology.  Film makers can now enter multiple festivals from one Web site. Also more entries arrive on DVDs, which are smaller and less costly to ship.  But the high number of entries hasn't diluted the quality of the films.

"The competition is stronger than in years past," Bradley said. 

Bradley said the festival saw a significant increase in the number of international entries.  Filmmakers submitted movies from countries including Croatia, India, Indonesia, Germany and other parts of Europe. 

Three visiting Russian filmmakers will host the U.S. premiere of their films at the Athens Film Festival.  The films previously had been shown at major Russian, Asian and European festivals including Cannes.  Their only other screening in this country will be in New York City following their appearance in Athens.

While featuring the best from filmmakers around the globe, local filmmakers also contribute their work.  Ohio University eminent scholar Rajko Grlic will screen his feature film "Border Post" about soldiers at a remote post on the border between Yugoslavia and Albania.  A military comedy in the style of Robert Altman's "MASH," it recently earned a thumbs up from The New York Times.  The film has screened at 30 other festivals and has won five awards.

Another locally produced film, "How Ohio Pulled it Off," is a documentary that focuses on the controversy surrounding the 2004 presidential election's alleged fraud.  Produced as a thesis project by Ohio University students, the film could have an impact far beyond the festival.

"This is the most ambitious student film I've seen in a long time," said Bradley.

Organizers will screen another film with strong ties to Ohio University.  "Keeping Ellen" was produced, directed and written by Senior Video Producer Dave Urano, features a cast and crew of Ohio University alumni and was shot in Athens.  In the film, a lonely, middle-aged man develops a crush on a younger neighbor.  The actors improvised much of the film's dialogue following Urano's detailed narrative.

The festival also features a number of special guest artists who will be screening their films and serving as jurors for the competition films. 

Bradley said the festival is best known for showing short films and documentaries.  Competition films are separated into three categories for judging:  narrative, documentary and experimental.  Judges divide $3,000 in prize money in each category as they see fit.

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Written by: Tom Bosco, bosco@ohio.edu


Media Contact: Festival Director Ruth Bradley, 740-593-1330 or bradley@ohio.edu 

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