44th Annual Athens Film and Video Festival April 3-9

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On one of the upper floors of the Central Classroom building on Union Street lies an extensive archive of the oldest festival in Athens: the Athens International Film and Video Festival.

Started in 1974, the festival is known in film circles as being especially supportive of film crafted by marginalized populations and underground artists. In the Athens Center for Film and Video’s space in the Central Classroom building, everything from mock-ups of old posters screened at the festival over the years to original festival programs dating back decades are neatly organized.

“We have a pretty robust archive,” said David Colagiovanni, the director of the festival and the Athens Center for Film and Video, gently sifting through a folder of old festival programs. “Students have been archiving everything and making it nice and clean in here.”

The festival, which is the Athens Film and Video Center’s biggest project every year, will take place at the Athena Cinema April 3 through April 9. All week long, 235 independent films from 41 countries around the globe will be shown at the Athena; screenings of which are entirely free for students with university ID.

A still from Elegance Bratton's "Walk For Me," which is screening in the 44th annual AIFVF.
A still from Elegance Bratton’s “Walk For Me,” which is screening in the 44th annual AIFVF. (Courtesy of AIFVF)

Yaphet Jackman and Kramer Ditty are both graduate film studies students at Ohio University who are assisting in organizing the festival this year.

“We really have more of everything going on this year,” said Jackman. “More people submitted their films, we have more visiting filmmakers, more t-shirts, more goodie bags.”

This year the festival saw a record 2,200 submissions, which were screened by Colagiovanni’s film festival practicum class. Select members of the Athens community, as well as filmmakers from outside the area, also helped screen the submissions to develop the 235 film itninery for the 2017 festival.

Although the festival is recognized globally, both Jackman and Ditty said that much of the news about the festival travels by mouth in regards to regional students.

“We realized that there are a lot of students who drink in Athens, so we’ve been dropping these everywhere,” said Jackman, showing a peach colored paper coaster with a swirling cartoon design on it, as well as the date and name of the festival.

A scene from Claude Barras' "My Life As a Zucchini," which will show throughout the festival. (Courtesy of AIFVF)
A scene from Claude Barras’ “My Life As a Zucchini,” which will show throughout the festival. (Courtesy of AIFVF)

Both students said that the Athens community itself is heavily involved in the festival, especially when it comes to housing filmmakers.

This year the festival features Martha Rosler, Sabaah Folayan, Margaret Rorison, Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson, and Lisa Donato and Fawzia Mirza as visiting artists to the Ohio University campus.

“With the visiting filmmakers, we get to host mini conferences with them, basically. We get to pick their brains about their process and the things that they do and the challenges that they faced,” said Jackman. “It really creates this great forum for discussion because aspiring filmmakers get to speak with filmmakers, and that helps create networks. It’s like bringing the mountain to Mohammed; because all of a sudden Athens is invaded by these people who just want to see how other people consume their films; and as students, we get to taken advantage of that.”

A scene from Marin Ade's "Toni Erdmann." (Courtesy of AIFVF)
A scene from Marin Ade’s “Toni Erdmann.” (Courtesy of AIFVF)

The festival is Academy Award qualifying in the short narrative and animation categories, which means if a film wins in either of those categories, they can be shortlisted for Oscar gold.

“The festival is a huge opportunity for us to enter our work, because we couldn’t afford to enter a lot of Oscar qualifying festivals,” said Ditty.

“The more you’re involved (with the festival) the more you get a sense of what people are looking for in films, you learn how to tailor your films to an audience right from the screenwriting process,” said Jackman. “You can see why a tight story is important and why the audience has to be able to connect with your characters right away.”

There are a number of special events taking place throughout the week, including Cocktails and Bluegrass with the Rattletrap String Band on Wednesday, April 5 at 9 p.m. at the West End Cider House; Sounds From the Underground on Saturday, April 7 at The Union, featuring music by the Nobrow.collective, Us, Today, and DJ Barticus; Noise and Donuts on Sunday April 9 at Haffa’s Records with tasty morning pastries and experimental music from the likes of Evan Miller, Andrew Lampela/AMB, and the Castiotone Orchestra.

For a complete schedule of screenings, and for more information on the featured films, check out the festival’s website.

A scene from Ned Zenlock's "Spring Jam," which will screen during the Saturday Morning Cartoons event at this year's AIFVF. (Courtesy of AIFVF)
A scene from Ned Zenlock’s “Spring Jam,” which will screen during the Saturday Morning Cartoons event at this year’s AIFVF. (Courtesy of AIFVF)