11/1/2011 - New Asheville film fest debuts Thursday
by Michael Flynn | Citizen-Times Correspondent
Jean Dujardin stars in the acclaimed new film "The Artist," which opens the Asheville Cinema Festival Thursday night. / Special to the Citizen-Times
ASHEVILLE -- With Moogfest over, it's time to open the curtain for a local celebration of movies. The inaugural Asheville Cinema Festival runs Thursday-Sunday, bringing 39 films, more than 20 filmmakers and guests, a host of panels and workshops, and a Saturday night awards reception.
The lineup includes feature films, documentaries, animated shorts and just about everything in between, said Wyman Tannehill, the festival's executive director.
"The festival is designed for everyone," Tannehill said. "The goal is to bring more independent films to Western North Carolina. There are a lot of great films out there that might not otherwise play here."
Organized by the Asheville Cinema Society, the festival is scheduled to become an annual event, Tennehill said, joining other showcases that have arisen since the city-run Asheville Film Festival ended its run in 2009.
The new festival's opening night film, showing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Regal Biltmore Grande theater, is "The Artist," an unusual look at 1920s Hollywood shot in black-and-white without spoken dialogue. The film, which features John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller and James Cromwell, reportedly received a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, where lead Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor award.
Other highlights include two short films from local filmmakers shot in Asheville, an appearance by noted animal trainer Bob Weatherwax with a collie that's a direct descendant of Lassie, and the documentary "Patriot Guard Riders."
"Riders" examines a motorcycle group that seeks to protect funeral services of fallen U.S. soldiers from Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church protesters, who believe military casualties stem from America's acceptance of homosexuality.
More than 50 members of North Carolina's chapter of Patriot Guard Riders are slated to roll into town on decorated bikes for the 12:30 p.m. Saturday screening at Asheville Community Theatre. It will be the first time most of the riders have seen the film, which also looks inside the home of protesters preparing for a funeral, Tannehill said. The riders' North Carolina captain will conduct a question-and-answer session after the film.
The screenings of feature films "Believe You Me" from writer/director Scott Honea and "The Lie" from writer, director and star Joshua Leonard will also include Q&A's with these filmmakers, both of whom have shown at Sundance. "These are filmmakers we can truly see in the future really making a name for themselves," Tannehill said.
The Asheville short "Men of Persuasion," by local writer and producer Jaime Parker and director Paul Schattel, looks at a unique duo seeking to prevent a distressed woman from ending her life. "The film takes turns you don't expect, which are difficult to describe without revealing too much," Tannehill said. There's also "On High," an appealing animated short about a Christmas ornament's search for love, from Asheville's Katie Damien.
There are groups of films aimed at animal lovers, families and "the young at heart," Tannehill said.
The documentary short about the Weatherwax family of animal trainers will include a Q&A with Mills River resident Bob Weatherwax.
The family trained Toto from "The Wizard of Oz" and all of the Lassie dogs.
This year's schedule was originally going to be more limited, until the volume of submissions kept growing, Tannehill said.
"When you have a ton of great films, it's really hard not to show them," he said. "I don't think anyone is going to walk away from a screening disappointed, and that's a tall order for a festival with 39 films."
An awards reception will be Sa turday night at the Doubletree Hotel, and winners will be shown Sunday at the Regal Biltmore Grande. For schedule and more information, visit http://ashevillecinemafestival.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Asheville Cinema Festival, featuring 39 films, 20 filmmakers and guests.
When: Screenings and events Thursday-Sunday.
Where: Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St.; Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway St.; Regal Biltmore Grande 15, Biltmore Park Town Square; and Lexington Avenue Brewery, 39 N. Lexington Ave.
Tickets: $6 at the door, $5 online in advance for any regular screening, or 5 tickets for $20 if purchased online. Opening night, 7 p.m. Thursday at Biltmore Grande, is $10 in advance. Awards reception, 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Doubletree Biltmore Hotel, 115 Hendersonville Road, is $35. Visit http://ashevillecinemafestival.com.