20th Ashland Independent Film Festival Releases Full Lineup of 100 Indie Films and Events

Photo courtesy of Ashland Independent Film Festival

The 2021 Festival is a “Double Feature” with Online Screenings in April and Live Outdoor Screenings in June

Ashland, Oregon — The Ashland Independent Film Festival released the complete schedule for its 20th annual festival presented this year as a “double feature”– online, with most films available coast-to-coast from April 15-29, and live and outdoors in Ashland and Medford from June 24-28. AIFF’s 2021 festival will present approximately 100 new independent films, including 35 feature films and a dozen shorts programs, accompanied by Q&A’s with filmmakers, virtual parties, mixers, and panels.

The 2021 festival kicks off online on April 15 with the Northwest premiere of the Oregon-filmed The Water Man, the debut feature directed by actor David Oyelowo, who will receive this year’s AIFF Rogue Award. According to AIFF Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz, “The Water Man’s story is set against the backdrop of Oregon wildfires, which connects the film to the festival’s central theme of ‘Rising From the Ashes,’ inspired by the devastating Almeda Fire which hit our community in 2020.” 

The online festival’s closing night film, Lily Topples the World, won the jury prize for Best Documentary at South by Southwest in March. It stars domino artist and YouTube sensation Lily Hevesh, one of several iconoclastic female artists highlighted in this year’s “Arts” track.

The live festival in June launches with the Northwest premiere of Fanny: The Right to Rock, about the three Filipina American teens who formed the ferocious, pioneering California rock group Fanny in 1969. Fanny founding member Brie Howard-Darling will perform live, joined by director Bobbi Jo Hart, an alumnus of Ashland’s Southern Oregon University.  

AIFF 2021 Pride Award recipient producer Christine Vachon will be honored with a 30th anniversary screening of Poison, joining online with director Todd Haynes and “New Queer Cinema” critic B. Ruby Rich for a TalkBack panel discussion on the film’s creation and legacy. Vachon returns for the closing night of the live festival in June and will be joined by director/writer/lead actor John Cameron Mitchell to celebrate the 20th anniversary of both Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the Ashland Independent Film Festival at an outdoor screening that also features a costume party and live music.

The festival also includes a narrative feature competition, with entries this year including Alicia J. Rose’s A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, Mylissa Fitzsimmons’ Everything in the End, and more. Narrative features screening out of competition include Summertime, the LA slam poetry musical Carlos López Estrada filmed before he directed Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Audiences can preview the full program guide at www.ashlandfilm.org and purchase tickets beginning March 31 for members and April 7 for the general public. Most virtual films cost $10 and outdoor screenings $12, with $2 off for members, seniors, students, and those experiencing financial hardship, with many programs available for free. Memberships, which support the festival and provide access to exclusive programs year-round,  start at $35 and are also available through the festival website.


Rising From the Ashes: AIFF’s primary theme this year addresses Southern Oregon’s reemergence after the wildfires of 2020, including the opening film, David Oyelowo’s The Water Man. Seven short films by regional filmmakers addressing the Almeda Fire premiere in the Festival’s Locals section, which offers free admission to all. Other titles in this section include the environmental films Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse by Iara Lee and 2040; Anchor Point, about women firefighters; and two documentaries about heroes helping themselves and others rise from adversity (Impact, about Medford, Oregon boxing club owner Troy Wohosky, and  Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel’s The Road Up).

Screening Cuba:  In collaboration with the Schneider Museum of Art spring exhibition, Collecting Cuba: Selections from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (April 6 – June 30), AIFF2021 presents films about Cuban music and dance – Los Hermanos/The Brothers, Sin La Habana, and The Mali-Cuba Connection/Africa Mia – as well as a new title by Corey MacLean on the rebellious sport of surfing in Cuba, Havana Libre. Steve Fagin’s eight-episode mini-series The Batista Syndrome engages Havana in the 1950s and is filled with dance, music, and drama. Director Alex Cox will introduce the Cuban classic I Am Cuba, and Cuban director Miguel Coyula will present his controversial documentary Nadie. SOU Professor Robert Arellano will interview Coyula, Fagin, and media artist Nelson Ramirez de Arellano (featured in the exhibition) in the TalkBack discussion panel titled Screening Cuba.

Arts: This subject, a frequent source of inspiration for indie filmmakers and AIFF, is addressed in the Cuban arts films as well as in three films about iconoclastic women artists: Beth B’s Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over, Who is Lun*na Menoh?, and domino artist Lily Hevesh in Jeremy Workman’s Lily Topples the World, the festival’s closing film. Artists confront aging in So Late, So Soon and in Me to Play, about two actors with Parkinson’s Disease performing Beckett.

Activism: Another perennial AIFF theme returns with a special emphasis on the rise of youth activism through the films American Gadfly (world premiere), Peter Nicks’ Homeroom, Tracey Deer’s Beans, and the Eugene, Oregon-centered, Youth v Gov. Senior citizen activists get their due as well in the films Missing in Brooks County and Medicine Man: Stan Brock.


2040  (Damon Gameau, Australia, Documentary)
American Gadfly (Skye Wallin, USA, Documentary)
Anchor Point (Holly Tuckett, USA, Documentary)
Beans (Tracey Deer, Canada, Narrative)
Everything in the End (Mylissa Fitzsimmons, USA, Narrative)
Fanny: The Right to Rock  (Bobbi Jo Hart,  USA, Documentary)
Havana Libre (Corey McLean, Cuba, Peru, USA)
Hedwig & The Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell, USA, Narrative) 
Los Hermanos/The Brothers (Marcia Jarmel, Ken Schneider, USA, Documentary)
Homeroom ( Peter Nicks, USA, Documentary)
I Am Cuba (Mikhai Kalatozov, USSR, Cuba, Documentary)
Impact  (Jon Lang, USA, Documentary)
In the Same Breath (Nanfu Wang, China, USA, Documentary)
A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff (Alicia J. Rose, USA, Narrative)
Lily Topples the World (Jeremy Workman, USA, Documentary, 90 minutes)
Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over (2019, Beth B, USA, Documentary) 
The Mali-Cuba Connection/ Africa Mia (Richard Minier, Edouard Salier, Cuba/France/Mali, Documentary)
Me to Play (Jim Bernfield, USA, Documentary)
Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story (Paul Michael Angell, United Kingdom, Documentary)
Missing in Brooks County (Lisa Molomot, Jeff Bemiss, USA, Documentary)
Nadie (2017, Michael Coyula, Cuba, Documentary)
Poison (1991, Todd Haynes, USA, Narrative)
The Road Up ( Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel, USA, Documentary) 
Sin La Habana (Keveh Nabatian, Canada/Cuba, Narrative)
Since August (Diana Zuros, USA, Narrative)
Small Time (Niav Conty, USA, Narrative)
So Late So Soon (Daniel Hymanson, USA, Documentary)
Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse (Iara Lee, Ukraine/USA/Bulgaria/Slovakia, Documentary)
Summertime (Carlos López Estrada, USA, Narrative)
Teddy, Out of Tune (Daniel Friedman, USA, Narrative)
Things We Dare Not Do (Bruno Cantamaria, Mexico, Documentary)
The Water Man (David Oyelowo, USA, Narrative)
Weed and Wine  (Rebecca Richman Cohen, USA, Documentary)
Who is Lun*na Menoh?(Jeff Mizushima, USA, Documentary) 
Youth v Gov( Christi Cooper, USA, Documentary)

Short Stories 1: On Success
Short Stories 2: Foreign Exchange
Short Stories & Docs: Outsiders
Short Docs 1: Now What?
Short Docs 2: Land
Locals Only 1: Launch Student Competition
Locals Only 2
Locals Spotlight: Laney D’Aquino
Locals Spotlight: Autie Carlisle
Locals Spotlight: Rising From the Ashes
Guanajuato: Identity and Belonging
The Batista Syndrome (2019, Steve Fagin, Cuba, 140 minutes)
Kid Flicks One (2020-21)
Kid Flicks Two (2020-21)
Viva Kid Flicks (2020-21)

A Conversation with David Oyelowo (April 17)
Screening Cuba (April 18)
Poison at 30: Vachon/Haynes/Rich (April 25)

Opening Night Bash (April 15, 7p.m.)
Awards Night (April 29, 7p.m.) 
Member/Maker Mixers (April 21 and 28, 4:00– 5:00p.m.)

AIFF 2021 information at-a-glance:

About Ashland Independent Film Festival 

Cited by MovieMaker Magazine several times as one of the “Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the World” and one of the “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee,” the Ashland Independent Film Festival is usually held annually in April in Southern Oregon. AIFF screens 100-plus independent documentary, narrative, animation, and short films in its festival and other year-round programs in Ashland, which is nestled in the beautiful Rogue River Valley. In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, AIFF moved online for its 19th annual festival, extended its five-day event to 24 days, and was recognized by Smithsonian Magazine and MovieMaker Magazine as having one of the best virtual film festivals. 

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