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The Rural Route Film Festival is back for 2013 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York City, and kicks off with a special July 27 environmental ‘Green’ screening of director Jared Fletcher’s  “SOURLANDS” and will close with a Sunday night shorts party on August 4. 

The film lineup for the 2013 Rural Route Film Festival includes some of what the festival describes as ‘the best-but-least-seen’ new indie features, such as a fairytale space romance on the Kazakh Steppe, a Chilean western, a touching Senegalese drama, and a documentary about sub-Himalayan sisters caught in the crunch of modern China. 

Highlighted films include 

Opening Night Film | NY Premiere SOURLANDS. Dir. Jared Flesher. 78min. Documentary. 2012. Sourlands, NJ.

“SOURLANDS” weaves a provocative tale of ecology, energy, and agriculture through a deep forest surrounded by the sprawling suburbs of New Jersey. It’s a rampaging deer herd, invasive plants, and wholesale habitat destruction threatening the local ecosystem. Farmers in the surrounding valley struggle against high land prices, high property taxes, and increasingly erratic weather patterns; a local entrepreneur struggles to find a market for his innovative clean-tech product. But pay close attention, and the challenges facing this community look a lot like the challenges facing ecosystems, farmers, and visionary entrepreneurs everywhere. The message of cautious hope presented in the film is just as universal: to start solving complicated environmental problems, we need to forgo quick fixes and start restoring the natural world – and people’s connection to it – from the forest floor up.

Director Jared Flesher is an award-winning reporter, photojournalist, and documentary filmmaker. His articles have been published by The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, Grist, The Huffington Post, The Columbia Journalism Review. His first feature documentary, The Farmer and the Horse, has aired more than 40 times on PBS and is distributed nationally by Chelsea Green Publishing and Passion River Productions.

TALL AS THE BAOBAB TREE. Dir. Jeremy Teicher. 82min. Narrative. 2012. Sinthiou Mbadane & Mbour, Thiès, Senegal.

Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first to leave their family’s remote West African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells, to attend school in the bustling city. But when an accident suddenly threatens their family’s survival, their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her young sister from a fate she did not choose.

“As Tall as the Baobab Tree” was shot on location by a U.S. director who did work in the same region two years earlier, receiving an Academy Award nomination for a piece in which he gave locals cameras to film their own stories. This is the first feature film in the Pulaar language, with a cast made up of local villagers playing roles that mirror their own lives: the two main characters are played by real-life sisters who actually are the first kids from their family to go to school. The actors’ improvisational approach culminates in a dramatic and uniquely authentic ensemble performance, with scenes often resulting in spontaneous truthful moments that blur the lines between fiction and reality. A highlight of this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival ‘Bright Futures’ section

SALT Dir. Diego Rougier. 112min. Narrative. 2011. Región de Tarapacá, Chile.

Sergio is a washed-up Spanish director, obsessed with making a western in Chile’s Atacama Desert (the driest place in the world).  Producers in Barcelona tear his screenplay to shreds, sending him on a journey to northern Chile in search of the inspiration that will salvage his story. Once Sergio arrives, however, he is mistaken for the region’s long-lost gunslinger hero, pitting him up against thugs involved with ‘shady business’ across the Bolivian border. The local crime boss suddenly has an old score to settle with him, and apparently so does his attractive wife. Sergio will have a good script…if he leaves alive.

“SALT” is the journey of an author becoming his own character and his impossible return. This gorgeous widescreen film pays loving homage to Sergio Leone while playfully subverting the old school western genre in modern South America. Rougier’s feature film debut has been winning awards around the world, including Best Film at First Time Fest in NY earlier this year.

For the complete lineup, visit Rural Route Film Festival

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