The Athens International Film and Video Festival celebrates their 50th anniversary

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – The Athens International Film and Video Festival has provided a venue for underrepresented filmmakers for 50 years.

“Fifty years is a long run. Anyone would be thrilled to be a part of it,” said Michael Salter, a member of the festival staff’s team.

Thousands of films were submitted to this year’s festival. Over 200 pieces ranging from documentary, feature-length films, animations and more were chosen from nearly 50 countries.

The festival staff wanted to make the fiftieth anniversary bigger, with more guests and jury members. It’s their first pre-pandemic level festival in terms of size.

Assistant programmer, Josh Vieth, emphasizes the festival’s legacy. He said the chosen films are ones that don’t often have an outlet or a place to be shown.

“So our reputation is we’ll show all the stuff that’s not mainstream,” Vieth said. “[stuff that] goes under the radar most of the time.”

Vieth said filmmakers from all over the world come together not just to watch films, but to discuss them and meet each other.

“I think just the experience of watching films has become more of an isolated thing, where we watch them at home more often, we watch them on streaming services,” Vieth said. “…going to a film festival is all about making it into a bigger conversation.”

The festival values exposure for underrepresented artists. Salter said the festival shows a scope of diversity.

“So to come to this, we will see ideas that I think are in the current conversation of who and what it is to be a human at the moment,” Salter said. “That’s what art does. That’s important to me. It should be important to everybody.”

The featured films display a range of cultures and values. Salter said the festival has a long, rich history of providing a venue for a diversity of voices.

“I think any good art of the moment is kind of a barometer of the culture,” Salter said. “It shows what people should be caring about.”

The devastation of natural resources for the sake of economic profit is a familiar concept in Appalachia. Wiley’s Last Resort is a documentary screened at this year’s festival focusing on one man’s fight against this.

Co-directors Shawn Lind and Evan Mascagni showcase the late Jim Webb, an advocate for preserving Kentucky’s Pine Mountain’s. The film’s title is taken from the name of the resort Webb founded in 1996.

“I think, you know, this world is full of stories,” Lind said. “…and many people deserve their stories to be told.”

A promotional image for the film "Wiley's Last Resort." It pictures Jim Webb's profile against the green outdoors, with his red truck in the foreground.
[PBS Reel South]
Webb fought to put an end to strip-mining. Lind said not many people know the destruction that strip-mining creates and the enormous strength it takes to fight against it.

“It’s hard to understand and grasp,” Lind said. “…and so, I think those who are not familiar with the issues of the coal fields, that’s going to be their takeaway moment.”

Mascagni said he hopes this film will let people learn about an interesting person from the region.

“…hopefully it will just expose people to a person they may have not known about, or a place they may have not known about,” Mascagni said. “…and Wiley’s Last Resort is an amazing place in the heart of Appalachia.”

Wiley’s Last Resort will be a part of the new season of PBS Reel South.

The festival will be hosting an outdoor screening on Saturday night and will wrap up the event on Sunday.

For more information about the festival, visit

For more information about “Wiley’s Last Resort”, visit