The Ashland Independent Film Festival continues to explore new media technologies during its annual celebration of independent documentaries, features and short films from Oregon and around the world.
In 2011, AIFF presented a look at the impact the Web plays on our everyday lives with filmmaker Ondi Timoner's "We Live in Public."
This year, AIFF collaborates with Southern Oregon University's Center for Emerging Media & Digital Arts to present "eMerge," a showcase of digital and interactive storytelling created by students enrolled in the program.
"This transmedia showcase will put the SOU students' films 'on the street,' " says Anne Ashbey, the festival's executive director. "They'll be shown on digital tablets in shops around town."
The eight student films, tied to the theme Follow the Food, offer behind-the-scenes looks at artisan foods and beverages. Look for them at the Opening Night Bash and at Standing Stone Brewing Co., Noble Coffee, Boulton & Son Butchers and other locations.
Edited, short teasers will make the rounds on mobile devices, and there is a "Follow the Food" app, according to EMDA Director Bobby Arellano. There will be posters with bar codes, and there will be ways to share information on Twitter and Facebook.
The AIFF kicks off with its Opening Night Bash at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at Ashland Springs Hotel, 212 E. Main St. New and emeritus filmmakers participating in this year's showcase of 91 films will be at hand. Tickets cost $30.
The festival will continue Friday through Monday, April 5-8, at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main St.; the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St.; and the festival's newest venue, Ashland Street Cinemas, 1664 Ashland St.
"Another aspect of the transmedia showcase will be the 'Immigrant Nation' art installation at Houston's Custom Framing and gallery," Ashbey says. "We're asking visitors to share their immigration stories in 140-character tweets. Illustrator Anthony Weeks will translate those tweets onto a 4-by-8 mural. It will be a colorful illustration of people and dialogue."
The festival will honor filmmaker Lucy Walker with its Rogue Award at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Ashland Armory. Tickets cost $75 and include hors d'oeuvres and beverages.
Walker makes her mark at AIFF with "The Crash Reel," a look at extreme sports with dialogue about traumatic brain injuries.
"We'll also present Walker's 'Going for Gold: Olympic Shorts,' " Ashbey says. There are four shorts: "The Rein of Mary King," "Secrets of the Mongolian Archers," "The Red Pill" and "Crooked Lines."
"Lucy profiles athletes from around the world, looking at their preparation, trials and disappointments," Ashbey says. "She shows us the person behind the athlete."
"God Loves Uganda," directed by Roger Ross Williams, is another highlight on the list of documentaries to be shown at the festival, Ashbey added. It looks at the impact of America's evangelical right on the African country.
AIFF isn't all about documentaries. There are many features on the bill. Look for "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," starring Jessica Biel; the premiere of "The Forgotten Kingdom," which takes audiences back to Africa; and "The Kings of Summer," the story of three boys' transitions to men.
"Redwood Highway" was filmed in Southern Oregon and stars Shirley Knight and Tom Skerritt. This one is sold-out, so rush tickets will be the only option to see it.
Free Filmmaker Talkback Panels will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Look for "No Borders," a Friday discussion of international topics and cultural worldviews; and "Close-Up and Personal," a look at complex, distinctive voices and larger-than-life narratives Saturday. Sunday's panel is "Transmedia 101: The Future of Storytelling," a look at digital technologies that are pushing the boundaries of storytelling.
AIFF features films by local filmmakers in its free Locals Only program, playing at the Varsity and Ashland Street Cinema. Two films from the festival's regional student competition — "Z Trailer" and "Moving Road" — will be shown Saturday, followed by an award ceremony for the winner.
Advance tickets to all festival events may be purchased at www.ashlandfilm.org until April 4. Advance tickets will be held at the Varsity box office. On festival days, tickets will be available from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Varsity box office.
See www.ashlandfilm.org for the festival's full schedule of events and film descriptions.