For the next 10 days, movie buffs the city over will gather in front of theater screens as the 12th annual Anchorage International Film Festival presents more than 100 selections from more than 20 countries. And between the director Q&A sessions, workshops and parties, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know the filmmakers.
This year's festival kicks off with an opening night gala at 8 p.m. Friday at Bear Tooth, which begins with the Alaska premiere of "Deadfall," the latest from Oscar award-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky. The night will also serve as a primer on what to expect throughout the rest of the festival and can offer some guidance in what might otherwise seem like a daunting list of independent films on slate for the next week and a half.
The AIFF selections are culled from submissions made over the course of the past several months and are divided into six categories: feature narratives, documentaries, animation, short films, super shorts and Snowdance, which includes films produced in Alaska. AIFF president Ton Sheppard said that the fest received 370 submissions, with about 140 of those selected for screenings.
Of those selections, the festival's website says, about 20 percent are also entered into competition, with a jury awarding the best film in each category, including the Golden Oosikar for the best feature. Attendees can also vote for the Audience Choice winner. Last year the festival introduced a new award called the Aurora Award, designed to recognize the most original and creative selection. That distinction is getting a new name this year and will be presented along with the others at the awards ceremony at Organic Oasis, 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
This year AIFF is also partnering with the Mexican Consulate in Anchorage, which submitted three feature-length films, including "El Estudiante," with its screening at 8 p.m. Wednesday followed by a Q&A session with director Roberto Girault Facha and screenwriter Gaston Pavlovich. The consulate will also present a short films program, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Alaska Experience Theater, and host a 10 p.m. reception that same night at Bear Tooth.
Other events include "25 Years of Art Production in Alaska," a presentation by Joe Hamilton on the individual and community impact of films, commercials and TV productions (11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Alaska Experience Theater). The annual AIFF celebration and filmmaker reception is 9 p.m. Thursday at Spenard Roadhouse, while the Open Screen Night offers a kind of open-mike night for filmmakers (7 p.m. Thursday at Koot's).
For a full schedule of films, workshops, parties and everything else AIFF-oriented, visit anchoragefilmfestival.org. IPhone users can also download the Festival Genius app and access the interactive schedule on their smartphones.
By Matt Sullivan
Anchorage Daily News