Ashland Independent Film Festival announces Varsity World Film Week lineup

The Ashland Independent Film Festival unveils today the lineup of 12 films for the 26th annual Varsity World Film Week coming up Oct. 2 to 8. Films from 10 countries, including Senegal, Israel, India, Norway, France, Indonesia and the U.S., were selected by new AIFF Director of Programming Richard Herskowitz in his curatorial debut. Tickets go on sale this afternoon.

The week kicks off with Reel to Rogue, a lavish dinner event at the Ashland Springs Hotel, on Oct. 1. Jeremy Teicher, director of “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” a feature film made in Senegal, will be there to discuss the film, which was inspired and acted by villagers. The story is based on the true-life experience of a young girl from a small African village who escapes an arranged marriage to pursue an education.

Teicher, a Sundance Fellow, is currently in post-production on his new film, “Tracktown: The Movie,” a feature film about runners in Eugene. The star and co-director of “Tracktown” is Alexi Pappas, an elite pro runner, who also cowrote "Baobab Tree." 

Director Beth Harrington will present the first two screenings of her film “The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes, and the Course of Country Music.” The New Autonomous Folksingers will play before the 6:50 p.m. screening of the film on Saturday, Oct. 3.

“It’s very much about the south and the history of country music,” said Herskowitz, “It will fit into World Film Week because it’s such a portrait of the Southern region and how it’s at the root of this indigenous country music.

"I tried to gather extraordinary films from all over the globe, to give Ashland audiences the opportunity to go on 12 unforgettable voyages in one week," Herskowitz said in a statement. "The films have all been acclaimed by critics and audiences at international festivals and are best seen, I strongly believe, on a big screen, among other cinephiles."

“A Woman Like Me,” directed by Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, interweaves documentary and fictional filmmaking. The film portrays Alex Sichel’s journey, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film has been reviewed as “An interesting look at the importance of artistic expression when dealing with one’s own mortality.” After the showing, Giamatti will be available via Skype to answer questions.

The other nine films are: "Charlie's Country," in which an Australian aboriginal warrior experiences the end of his traditional lifestyle; "Court," which follows the case of an elderly folk singer and activist in India who is arrested for supposedly inciting a suicide; "The Look of Silence," a documentary about the aftermath of the 1965 Indonesian genocide; "Güeros," a comedic road movie about two Mexican college students on a quest to find a folk-rock hero; "Fidelio (Alice's Odyssey)," in which a French woman leaves her fiancee to work on an old cargo ship, and it turns out her old lover is the captain; "The New Girlfriend," also French, in which a woman's best friend dies and she discovers the widower dresses as a woman while caring for their child; "Boy and the World," a Brazilian animated parable by Alê Abreu about hope in a world filled with injustice; "The Kindergarten Teacher," an Israeli feature about a woman who becomes consumed by the poetic genius of a 5-year-old student; and "Blind," a Norwegian film about a woman coping with blindness who starts to write that won the Sundance World Cinema Screenwriting Award. 

Varsity World Film Week is produced by AIFF, which will run April 7-11, 2016. Submissions are currently being accepted for AIFF’s 15th annual film festival. The festival expects more than a thousand entries from which they will choose 90 to a 100 for screening. Submission fees range from $45 to $85. Local filmmakers and students may submit films for free.

There are contests for students from kindergarten through college.

“It’s pretty special when little kids submit their films. They’re very creative and fun. They get to see them on the big screen, and they have audiences with lots of family members and friends and lots of supporters to come and see,” said Candice Turtle, AIFF communications manager. “The role of independent film is giving a voice to the underrepresented voices in the mainstream media. We have (made) a real effort to include women and minorities and different perspectives. We think that’s an important part of independent film.”

AIFF is supported by 350 volunteers, including middle and high schoolers and university students, plus the general population. Volunteers screen films and write critiques, copyedit the program guides, and man the venues, among many other tasks.

AIFF is funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the state of Oregon, the city of Ashland, private foundations and ticket sales.

All screenings for Varsity World Film Week are held at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main Street, Ashland. Tickets are available at the Varsity box office. For tickets and information, or to volunteer, visit

Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. Reach her at


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