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Tucson's annual film festival starts Thursday
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AZ International Film Festival

Tucson's annual film festival starts Thursday

Screenings and film events through April 25th put Tucson on the cinematic map

The Arizona International Film Festival has never been a place to go starwatching. Nor is it likely to feature any "little" films that become big hits.

Here's hoping it stays that way, for the experiences it does offer are the sort that would be impossible on a larger scale. From hard-hitting documentaries, many of them about concerns that hit close to home, to surprising pictures that restore our capacity to see the world with fresh eyes, this year's offerings promise both to reinvigorate audiences' appreciation for the diversity of cinematic possibilities and remind them of why Tucson is such a great place for alternative culture.

Highlights include the Opening Night Celebration at the Hotel Congress Thursday, 6:30pm, whose manager, Todd Hanley, is the Festival's honorary Chair, followed by a walk down Congress to see a sampler of shorts at the Screening Room.

Some highlights of the festival include "The Tijuana Project" on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Screening Room) focuses on a girl whose family makes its living from a huge garbage dump and "Don't Let Me Drown," about two Latino teens making their way in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11, screening Saturday 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. at Crossroads.

From farther afield comes "Comrade Couture," an intriguing look at the mirror world of fashion in Communist East Berlin screening Sunday at 7:30pm at Crossroads and Wednesday at 5:30pm at the Screening Room.

The festival has reached out to young filmmakers, and is proud to present no less than 16 films by teenage filmmakers, including Tucson teens from City High, Voices Inc., Tucson High Magnet School and Girls Making Media.

The always popular programs of Animation Shorts (Thursday, 4/22, 8 p.m. and the "Best of Fest" winners (Sunday, 4/25, 4 p.m.) at the Screening Room should fill up quickly. These screenings feel the most festival-like of all, and afford Tucsonans an opportunity to bask in the cosmopolitan feeling of a film festival atmosphere in downtown Tucson, and not Park City or Telluride.

In addition to the many screenings over the Festival's week-and-a-half run, there will be a number of related events of interest: three panels with filmmakers discussing their work, a "Speakeasy" at the Hotel Congress's Tap Room and a concert bill at the Screening Room as part of the annual Club Crawl Saturday featuring stalwarts of the local scene like Al Perry and Billy Sedlmayr, as well as the Sentinel's own Maggie Golston.

Charlie Bertsch has been based in Tucson since 2000. He has written about music, film and books for a variety of publications, including The Oxford American, Zeek, Tikkun, Phoenix New Times and the pioneering internet publication Bad Subjects: Political Education For Everyday Life, which he helped to found back in 1992. He welcomes your feedback.

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If you go

All the details on screenings and special events can be found in the Festival program, which can be dowloaded at filmfestivalarizona.com. Information is also available by phone at 882-0204.

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