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The Ants and the Grasshopper directed by Raj Patel, Zak Piper
The Ants and the Grasshopper directed by Raj Patel, Zak Piper

Under the theme “See The World From Where You Are,” the Ashland Independent Film Festival presents 14 films from 15 countries for the 32nd annual World Film Week(s). The event will run virtually September 17-30, with a special outdoor screening of the documentary Torn at Lithia Park on September 18.

“Since the pandemic has thrown a wrench in many people’s travel plans,” said Richard Herskowitz, the organization’s Artistic Director, “we’re happy to provide these captivating cinematic voyages to many foreign lands.”

World Film Week(s) opens September 17 with an urgent story from Malawi. Focusing on two Malawi women who come to meet with American farmers, The Ants and the Grasshopper is a powerful film about climate change and its impact on Africa and the US.

“In order to protect the health and comfort of our patrons, we made the decision to present this years’ films virtually,” said Executive Director Phil Busse. “We are excited to be able to screen one film, Torn, live and outdoors, providing attendees a collective viewing experience.”

On Saturday, September 18, Torn will screen outdoors in Lithia Park, Ashland. Addressing, like last year’s Free Solo, the risks and rewards of extreme climbing, Torn tells a true story about love emerging from tragedy. In 1999, legendary mountain climber Alex Lowe and his close friend and climbing partner, Conrad Anker, were trapped in an avalanche in Tibet. Lowe was killed. Anker survived, and returned to take care of Lowe’s family. A year after the tragedy, Anker married Lowe’s widow and raised his three boys. The story is directed by Lowe’s son Max, and delves into family dynamics as treacherous as a sheer rock face ascent.

Several of the films are well-known on the festival circuit: Hive was a Sundance triple-award winner, and the meticulously choreographed ROARING 20’S, shot in one unbroken 90-minute take in the streets of Paris, won best cinematography at the Tribeca Film Festival.

“The program is filled with festival favorites like Mogul Mowgli,” added Herskowitz, “which stars and is co-written by the sensational, Academy Award-nominated actor Riz Ahmed, and Ninjababy, a subversive, laugh-out-loud funny film about a young cartoonist’s unexpected pregnancy that weaves an ominous animated character into the story.”

Ashland Independent Film Festival World Film Week 2021 Lineup

Sept. 17, Sept. 24: THE ANTS AND THE GRASSHOPPER
(Raj Patel, Zak Piper, USA, UK, Malawi, 74 min)
Anita Chitaya has a gift; she can help bring abundant food from dead soil, she can make men fight for gender equality, and she can end child hunger in her village. Now, to save her home from extreme weather, she faces her greatest challenge: persuading Americans that climate change is real. Traveling from Malawi to California to the White House, she meets climate sceptics and despairing farmers.
Documentary. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 23, Sept. 28-30: DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD
(Brooke Peplon Sweeney, USA, 66 min)
The film follows Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, a Native woman adopted into a white family, as she reconnects with her Native identity. The film, both instigator and follower, documents Kendra on this odyssey as she finds her birth mother April, also a Native adoptee, and returns to her Native homelands. Relying upon verité scenes as the bulk of the film, the story is intense, emotional and personal.
Documentary. Shown only in USA.

Sept. 22, 25-27: FAYA DAYI
(Jessica Beshir, Ethiopia, 120 min)
In her hypnotic documentary feature, Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir explores the coexistence of everyday life and its mythical undercurrents. Though a deeply personal project—Beshir was forced to leave her hometown of Harar with her family as a teenager due to growing political strife—the film she returned to make about the city, its rural Oromo community of farmers, and the harvesting of the country’s most sought-after export (the euphoria-inducing khat plant) is dreamlike: a film that uses light, texture, and sound to illuminate the spiritual lives of people whose experiences often become fodder for ripped-from-the-headlines tales of migration.
Documentary. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 18: GOLDEN VOICES
(Evgeny Ruman, Israel, 88 min)
Victor and Raya Frenkel were the golden voices of Soviet film dubbing. In 1990, with the collapse of USSR, they decide to immigrate to Israel, just like hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. Their attempts to use their distinctive talent in a country that doesn’t need it, will turn the beginning of the new chapter of their life into an amusing, painful, and absurd experience.
Comedy. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 20, 27: HIVE
(Blerta Basholli, Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, Albania, 84 min)
Sundance triple award winner HIVE is a searing drama based on the true story of Fahrije, who, like many of the other women in her patriarchal village, has lived with fading hope and burgeoning grief since her husband went missing during the war in Kosovo. In order to provide for her struggling family, she pulls the other widows in her community together to launch a business selling a local food product. Together, they find healing and solace in considering a future without their husbands—but their will to begin living independently is met with hostility.
Narrative. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 21: LITTLE GIRL
(Sebastien Lifshitz, France, 85 min)
LITTLE GIRL is the moving portrait of 7-year-old Sasha, who has always known that she is a girl. Sasha’s family has recently accepted her gender identity, embracing their daughter for who she truly is while working to confront outdated norms and find affirmation in a small community of rural France.
Documentary. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 24-30: LUZZU
(Alex Camilleri, Malta, 94 min)
Jesmark, a Maltese fisherman, contends with a newfound leak in his wooden LUZZU boat. Barely getting by, he sees his livelihood – and a family tradition from generations before him – imperiled by diminishing harvests, a ruthless fishing industry, and a stagnating ecosystem. Desperate to provide for his wife and their newborn son, whose growth impediment requires treatment, Jesmark gradually slips into an illicit black-market fishing operation.
Narrative. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 24-30: MADLY IN LIFE
(Ann Sirot and Raphael Balboni, Belgium, 87 min)
Alex and Noémie, both in their thirties, want a child. But their plans are upset when Alex’s mother, Suzanne, starts acting rather bizarrely. It is due to her suffering from “semantic dementia,” a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that influences her behavior. She spends money recklessly, visits her neighbors in the middle of the night to eat slices of bread, and cobbles together a fake driver’s license for herself with scissors and glue.
Narrative. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 19, 26: MOGUL MOWGLI
(Bassam Tariq, United Kingdom, 90 min)
MOGUL MOWGLI is the debut narrative feature from award-winning documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq. It follows the story of a British Pakistani rapper (Academy Award-nominated actor Riz Ahmed) who, on the cusp of his first world tour, is struck down by an illness that forces him to face his past, his family, and the uncertainty of his legacy.
Narrative. Shown only in USA.

Sept. 24-30: NINJABABY
(Yngvild Sve Flikke, Norway, 104 min)
When Rakel (23), way too late, finds out she’s six months pregnant after a not-so-romantic one-night stand, her world changes. Her boyfriend, who’s not the father, is kind of ok with her having a baby. But Rakel is absolutely not ready to be a mother. Since abortion is no longer an option, adoption is the only answer. That’s when Ninjababy, an animated character who insists on making Rakel’s everyday life a living hell, turns up. He climbs out from her note book, jumps into her tea cup, and keeps reminding her what a terrible person she is.
Narrative. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 24-30: ROARING 20’S
(Elisabeth Vogler, France, 90 min)
On one beautiful afternoon in Paris during the surreal summer of 2020, 24 different characters roam the streets of the city with a sense of giddy abandon after a spring of lockdown and confinement. Filming began one day after the lockdown ended, allowing the audience to accompany everyday people as they cross paths throughout the day, experiencing their long-awaited freedom and celebrating the City of Love. Winner of Best Cinematography at Tribeca, the film was shot in one unbroken 90-minute take.
Narrative. Shown only in Oregon.

Sept. 24-30: STATELESS
(Michèle Stephenson, Dominican Republic, 95 min)
In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, on the basis of anti-black racism. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929, rendering more than 200,000 people stateless. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaign of a young attorney named Rosa Iris, as she challenges electoral corruption and fights to protect the right to citizenship for all people.
Documentary. Shown only in USA.

Sept. 18, Doors at 7:00 pm, Film at 8:00 pm. Butler Bandshell, Lithia Park: TORN with WAY TO GO!
(Max Lowe, USA, 92 min)
On Oct. 5, 1999, legendary climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost in a deadly avalanche on the slopes of the Tibetan mountain, Shishapangma. Miraculously surviving the avalanche was Alex’s best friend and climbing partner, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker. After the tragedy, Anker and Alex’s widow, Jennifer, fell in love and married, and Anker stepped in to help raise Alex’s three sons, including film director Max Lowe. The film follows Max as he explores his family’s complex relationships in the wake of his father’s death, and returns with them to Shishapangma to claim his father’s remains. Preceded by WAY TO GO!, Kathy Roselli’s 9-minute documentary about the composting toilet at the top of Mount Shasta.
Documentary.

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