Tucson Festival of Films

By Chuck Graham –

Eight is not Enough
Inaugural Tucson Festival of Films to Showcase Movies From Other Film Fests

Every year Tucson hosts eight very different film festivals, from the vast Arizona International Film Festival bringing pictures here from every part of the globe, to the very specific genre-munching Tucson Terrorfest.

So what could make this city even better for sunny cinephiles? Why, having nine film festivals, of course.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild had the same idea. After the huge success of last spring’s Tucson Jazz Festival, he wanted to continue encouraging downtown’s cultural renaissance by creating an autumn celebration dedicated to film.

A double feature, so to speak, of destination festivals that would help bring Tucson’s name to wider creative circles around the country – jazz in January and movies in October.

So cue the spotlight for the city’s inaugural Tucson Festival of Films, presented by Cox Communications and playing Oct. 8-10, mostly at the downtown Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

This all-star event will showcase one film selected by each of those eight established festivals. Each film will be an Arizona premiere or a Southwest premiere that best represents the spirit of that particular festival.

For example, the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival is submitting “Raise the Roof,” documenting how a traditional wooden synagogue in Poland that was destroyed by the Nazis has been meticulously restored.

Meanwhile, the shock-loving Terrorfest has gone to European Georgia for “Landmine Goes Click.”

“More than anything, the Festival of Films is an umbrella marketing event to promote each of Tucson’s eight festivals,” said Herb Stratford, co-producing this eclectic weekend blowout in company with movie marketer Kerryn Negus.

“I love that we’re able to bring together all these genre film series that Tucson is famous for,” said Negus. “The International Jewish Film Festival as well as Tucson Cine México, the Arizona Underground Film Festival, Native Eyes Film Showcase of Native American cinema and the Tucson Film & Music Festival.”

This year the Loft Film Fest’s contribution is to host two days of celebrating the 40th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” one of the most successful films made in Tucson. Details of the celebration at the Loft, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., were still being worked out at press time. A bus tour of locations from the movie will be included.

“Every year we want to feature a heritage Hollywood film with a strong Tucson connection,” said Negus. “This city has always been about more than cowboy movies.”

Rothschild wants the festival to emphasize the Old Pueblo’s legacy of filmmaking and also provide one roof for the city’s “longstanding and much loved local film festivals.”

“Our budget is around $130,000-plus,” said Stratford. Visit Tucson has signed on to be the lead sponsor the first two years. The list of supporting partners includes Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, Cox Communications and the recently opened Downtown Clifton hotel.

“This money is used to produce the festival,” said Stratford. “We aren’t competing with the city’s other film festivals. All of the ticket revenue from each screening goes straight to the festival that brings the film.”

In addition, some $100,000 of Visit Tucson’s media budget for targeted marketing in other cities will be used to promote the Festival of Films.

Film Tucson, a division of Visit Tucson, is exec-producing the festival. “All of the films in the festival’s 2015 lineup are must-sees,” said Shelli Hall, Film Tucson director.

“And within the lineup, films as broad-ranging as a Scorsese classic, a music documentary, and a feel-good indie about women’s rugby were all shot in Tucson,” Hall said. “Film Tucson is using TFOF as a marketing tool to raise Tucson’s profile as a destination production location in the international film industry by inviting filmmakers to experience Tucson during the festival, by targeted industry advertising, and a festival focus on films that were shot in Tucson.”

Allison Cooper, VP of sales and marketing for Visit Tucson, said Tucson’s rich film history makes for a natural fit for the festival, which she believes will bring new tourism dollars to the region.

“As a community, we can be really proud of these films and the impressive list of directors who have chosen Tucson as a location to tell their stories,” Cooper said.

“The economic impact that film tourism and film festival events can generate for a community is tremendous,” she said.
“Visit Tucson is proud that several local festivals have come together for this inaugural event because we now can show film lovers what many legendary directors have known for decades – we are a destination for creating stories and making lasting memories.”

Stratford and Negus expect to attract upward of 2,000 people this first year. Tickets are $8 for each show. No ticket packages are offered.

“Of course we’d like every screening to be a sellout,” said Stratford. “But our first step is to develop the fest as a destination event, to have an impact on local hotels and restaurants.”

“We hope that fans of one film fest will take this chance to discover a film from a different festival they have never attended,” Negus said. “We want to encourage lots of interaction in the film community.”

While details are still being settled, all the films except “Alice” will be shown at the Temple. Most screenings will be in the evening, employing both the Temple’s main theater and the upstairs Cabaret Space.

While a few of the films are definitely edgy, there will be several with more universal messages of positive bonding and support. In this debut year, Negus and Stratford want to cast an inclusive net of programming with wide appeal that also recognizes Tucson’s role in the film world.

Leading the list and representing the Loft Film Fest is the heritage Hollywood entry, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” Released in 1974 and directed by Scorsese, it stars Ellen Burstyn, Diane Ladd and Kris Kristofferson and also features a young Jodie Foster.

“Sounds of Tucson,” a North American premiere, is described by Stratford as “a new doc about Tucson’s music scene by a pair of French filmmakers. It features Joey Burns of Calexico, Howe Gelb of Giant Sand and a bunch of other Tucson music people. Presented by the Tucson Film & Music Festival.

“Maïna” is a period film by Michel Poulette depicting when the Innu from the Great Waters and the Inuit from the Frozen Land meet for the first time. Selected by the Native Eyes Film Showcase.

“Güeros,” written and directed by Alonso Ruiz Palacios, tells the story of ornery Tomás sent by his mother to live with his older brother Federico, aka Sombra, in Mexico City. Chosen by Tucson Cine México.

“Raise the Roof” has filmmakers Yari and Cary Wolinsky documenting how the traditional wooden synagogue of Gwoździec in Poland was lovingly restored by students, traditional artisans and builders. From the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival.

“Death in the Desert,” with director Josh Evans and a cast led by Michael Madsen and John Palladino, becomes a deadly love triangle that sizzles the hot sands and hotter nights of Las Vegas. The choice of the Arizona Underground Film Fest and a Tucson Festival of Films World Premiere.

“Landmine Goes Click,” with director Levan Bakhia, tells the story of three American tourists backpacking through the remote countryside of European Georgia when one gets trapped on an armed landmine, launching the true terror. Selected by Tucson Terrorfest.

Arizona International Film Festival’s selection is Robert Loomis’ indie crowd-pleaser “Dropkick,” a film about love, loss and women’s rugby.

Tucson Festival of Films, presented by Cox Communications and playing Oct. 8-10, mostly at the downtown Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

$8 per show
follow on Twitter @festoffilms and on Instagram @tucsonfestivaloffilms and join the conversation using the hashtag #TFOF2015

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