AIFF 2009

So many films, so little time. But let the celebration begin. Lovers of film — features, animation, documentaries, shorts, gala events, Q/A sessions — cue up. From April 2-6, the eighth annual Ashland Independent Film Festival will offer more than 90 films featuring filmmakers both national and international. It's estimated some 6,000 folks will turn out to enjoy what should be a rich filmgoing experience.

This year's AIFF Artistic Achievement Award will be presented to director, producer, writer and animator Bill Plympton. Several of his short films and his newest animated feature film, "Idiots and Angels," will be featured. He will also present "Animation Live: An Evening with Bill Plympton," an animation demonstration and retrospective of his career. Plympton won the Jury Prize and Canal Award at Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Entertainment critic Elvis Mitchell will be presented with this year's AIFF Rogue Award. He is the host of Turner Classic Movies Channel's "Elvis Mitchell Under the Influence," was the film critic for The New York Times from 2002-04 and has been featured on NPR's "Weekend Edition." He will host a live, one-man show, "Elvis Mitchell on Cinema: Past Present and Future" and show his "Black List: Volume One and Two."

"This year's special guests are unique to any year of the film festival," said Tom Olbrich, AIFF Executive Director. "Bill Plympton is recognized the world over for his artistry and we are incredibly lucky to have him showing his career's worth of work and his new feature film. Elvis Mitchell is the first critic we have ever honored at the AIFF. His experiences give him great insight into the world of film. We are excited about his presentation 'Elvis Mitchell on Cinema.'"

The festival will begin with a gala Opening Night Bash on Thursday held at the Ashland Springs Hotel and featuring "Savor the Rogue," a specialty food and wine tasting presented by Rogue Creamery with regional gourmet offerings including the creamery's award-winning cheeses and chocolates.

The opening night feature film will be "Wendy and Lucy," starring Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams, followed by a panoply of documentaries and features over the next four days to include a series of Academy recognized films, including Oscar winner in the Documentary Short Subject category, "Smile Pinki," and "The Final Inch," nominated in the same category. Two nominated in the Best Documentary Feature films — "The Betrayal" and "The Garden" — will also be included in the festival.

Also highlighted is the film "All Together Now," which captures one of those rare times when two stunningly gifted groups of artists come together to create one outstanding show. The film includes rare archival footage including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and longtime Beatles producer Sir George Martin. The film tells the tale of passion and perspiration that goes into preparing the latest Cirque show. Before each screening of "All Together Now," Ashland's Le Cirque Centre's TILT Dance Theatre will perform four exclusive acts on ropes, silks, and lyra (aerial hoops).

"Each year we try to connect with our community in partnership," said Olbrich. "With the First Friday Art Walk happening during the festival, having a show at Houston's Custom Framing & Fine Art seemed the perfect collaboration. Harold Blank, the incredible filmmaker of "Automorphosis" is not only bringing a gallery display of photographs of art cars for First Friday, he is bringing his Camera Van and will park it in front of Houston's from 5-8 p.m. on Friday so people can actually see what is created in the film."

The closing night's film is "Sugar," a compelling narrative about Major League Baseball's recruiting in the Dominican Republic and a 19-year-old Dominican pitcher trying to make it in the U.S. minor leagues. The film stars newcomer Algenis Perez Soto as Sugar.

Tickets, festival membership passes, the full schedule and description of films are now available at and at the festival's Kiosk box office on the plaza in Ashland. The box office will remain open from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. During the festival, tickets are available at the Varsity Theatre, 166 Main St., Ashland. Hours April 2 through 6: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Screenings will be at the Varsity Theatre and at the Historic Ashland Armory.

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