Opening Bash buzz about AIFF films

Filmmakers Thursday imbibed local wines and chatted up their movies amid the gaiety of the Opening Night Bash of Ashland Independent Film Festival at Ashland Springs Hotel.

Many, like the multinational trio who created “The Day That,” were in Ashland for the first time and remarked on the enthusiastic, informed and loyal audiences here.

Their 26-minute narrated documentary portrays the impact of a father’s death on his family and — being their first film — was funded by a combination of “love, passion and pity,” says director Dorian Tocker.

“We just saw it in a theater for the first time, today. Dorian and I have recently lost our fathers, so it was very emotional, painful and beautiful. I cried,” said Russian-born Lidia Nikonova. The producer is Cemile Turam of Turkey.

Talking with Sarah Red-Laird, subject of “Bee Girl,” was its director Natalie Faye, who said she discovered the woman’s bee world when she lived here and was driving around, looking for local, organic honey. “I saw her passion and had a moment when I realized this will be a great movie. Also, I so admire this diverse community of filmmakers who support each other.”

Quincy Briscoe, co-star of his father’s “The Road Between Us,” said, “It felt surreal sitting there in the theater with my mom on one side and dad (Christopher) on the other. I so got to appreciate that bike trip across the nation and all the little moments with people and my dad, moments I took for granted when they happened. (Facing the strenuous effort), my dad and me just said ‘yes’ and kept pushing ourselves. It’s something I intend to do with my son.”

Photographer Christopher Briscoe said one of the big gifts from the film was realizing it will “be preserved for eternity” on the internet and his great-great-grandchildren will be able to watch it and be amazed they came from these people. It will show at the Portland Festival, where it has already won Best Bicycle Film of the Year, he says.

“One thing everyone tells me, he says, is, ‘wow, I wish I’d done that with my son’ or ‘my dad did that with me.’”

Talking up his 12-minute magical realism film, “Tortoise,” director Stephen Cervantes notes it portrays the friendship of a man and a talking tortoise in the desert, but things go terribly wrong, because, “there’s a lot of conflicting voices in our heads telling us who or what we should be, then we go against what’s in our heads and get crushed by it. Part of the self wants to isolate in our shell, so we’re exorcising those demons by doing this movie.”

In his movie “The Lightkeeper,” North Medford High School graduate Zach Bandler tells the story of an elderly man dealing with dementia on a remote part of the Oregon Coast.

“This is my second film at this festival,” says Bandler, “and, believe me, this festival is the best in the country. This community fosters filmmakers more than anyone. People here stay in touch and are incredibly loyal and encouraging.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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