It's Oscars weekend. But coming soon in April is Ashland's own film festival. The Ashland Independent Film Festival is is here, says the director, "to offer up a world of ideas in a few days, a couple of hours at a time, in an intimate setting that engages our community and stimulates local business — and in the process change hearts and minds."

Each April for the past decade, the world and works of independent film have taken over downtown Ashland for five glorious days.

To attend the Ashland Independent Film Festival is to experience an event unlike any other in the Rogue Valley, both inside and outside the theater.

My first experience as an attendee was in 2005. As a then-recent transplant from Brooklyn, N.Y., I was delighted to find such a rich and varied collection of independent films and filmmakers in our small town. That first year, I pored over a Jefferson Monthly article about the festival, and my husband and I scheduled films to see in shifts so that we could take turns caring for our young children.

The film that hooked us that year was "The Loss of Nameless Things." It's a haunting documentary that chronicles the life of playwright Oakley Hall III, and the tragic and mysterious accident that abruptly shattered his promising theatrical career. The film features some familiar faces from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company and offers up a fascinating view of the creative process of live theater.

But it was the Question & Answer session following the film with the playwright himself, as if resurrected from the dead, reunited with those same festival actors, that brought on goose bumps I can feel to this day.

In an annual survey of festival attendees, filmgoers report that their favorite festival experiences are the films, Q&A sessions and engaging with other filmgoers while standing in line or seated in the theater waiting for the show to begin.

If you've attended the festival, you've witnessed first-hand the lively — and nearly unstoppable — audience banter, which leads right up to the moment the lights dim and resumes as soon as the credits roll. It's priceless.

After my first year and every year since, I've scheduled vacation days around the AIFF and it continues to be the highlight of my year.

As a board member and now executive director for the festival, I've heard similar "conversion" stories from countless other festival attendees, each of us captivated by a different, life-changing film experience.

And really, that's why the AIFF is here: to offer up a world of ideas in a few days, a couple of hours at a time, in an intimate setting that engages our community and stimulates local business — and in the process change hearts and minds.

Anne Ashbey Pierotti is the executive director of the nonprofit Ashland Independent Film Festival and lives in Ashland with her husband and two children. She worked as the vice president of marketing for Blackstone Audio and vice president of internet marketing for Harry & David.