Actor David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler), producer Christine Vachon and filmmaker Bruno Santamaria will be honored during this year’s hybrid “Double Feature” edition of Ashland Independent Film Festival running online for two weeks from April 15-29 and outdoors in Ashland and Medford from June 24-28, 2021.
Actor David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler) will receive the Rogue Award, presented annually to an accomplished mid-career artist. Oyelowo will present his directorial debut, The Water Man, a mystical adventure filmed around Portland, Oregon, on the festival’s opening day. The story is set against the backdrop of Oregon wildfires, which connects the film to the festival’s central theme this year of “Rising From the Ashes.” Oyelowo will also join critic Warren Etheredge for a conversation on his film and theater career.
“Helping David Oyelowo, Harpo Films and ShivHans Pictures bring their beautiful film, The Water Man, to life with our state’s crews and locations has meant a great deal to us and to the entire film community in this state. We look forward to seeing the film at yet another great Oregon cultural asset – The Ashland Independent Film Festival,” commented Tim Williams, director of Oregon Film, the governor’s film office.
Producer Christine Vachon is the sixth recipient of AIFF’s Pride Award, given to an important figure in LGBTQ+ filmmaking. The festival will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first feature film she produced and Todd Haynes directed, Poison, and the 20th anniversary of her film production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Poison will screen in the virtual festival in April and Hedwig will be presented outdoors in June. Haynes will join Vachon to reminisce about the making of Poison in an April discussion moderated by 2019 Pride Awardee B. Ruby Rich. Rich coined the term “New Queer Cinema” in 1992, in response to the arrival of Poison and other queer independent features.
Mexican filmmaker Bruno Santamaria is the third recipient of the festival’s James Blue Award, named after the Oregon-born director and given to an emerging filmmaker whose work, like Blue’s, addresses complex issues of social justice and social/political change. Things We Dare Not Do, gorgeously filmed by Santamaria, follows Ñoño, a 16-year-old teenager living in the small Mexican village of El Roblito, as he tries to gather the courage to communicate his greatest wish to his family: dressing as a woman.
The festival will present approximately 100 new independent feature and short films, accompanied by Q&A’s and supplemented with virtual parties and mixers bringing filmmakers and audiences together. There will be a special focus on the theme of “Rising From the Ashes,” in recognition of Southern Oregon’s emergence following a summer of wildfires, and another focus on Cuban arts and film.