How would you like this job: Screen 800 films from around the world — that would be 800 good films — and select just 100 of them for viewing.

It’s what the screening committee of the Arizona International Film Festival had to do to come up with the slate of movies we can see over the next 17 days.

The selection is very international this year.

“Bridging cultures has always been our overall theme, and it really shows this year,” says Mia Schnaible, with the fest.

“There are 25 countries represented this year, including Sierra Leone, Sudan and Croatia.”

Documentaries are plentiful — a little more than half the films are docs. “We could have easily doubled that,” says Schnaible.

The AIFF began 25 years ago, with just two days of showings. Since then, technology has meant more films submitted, and so more days to see them.

“What we’ve found is that digital cameras have opened opportunities to share independent visions,” she said.

“In the old days, a 35mm print would cost $30,000 or $40,000 to send around (to festivals),” she said. “Now you can record on your phone.”

What makes a film fest like this so thrilling — other than seeing films that may never hit a Tucson screen at any other time — is that directors, writers and others attend to talk about their works.

Opening the fest is the documentary “The Anthropologist,” which parallels the works of the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead and environmental anthropologist Susie Crate, who is currently studying the impact of climate change. The film’s co-director, Seth Kramer, will be at the screening.

There will be a number of shorts and feature films, as well.

There’s much that sounds compelling.

  • “A Bitter Legacy,”
  • a doc which looks at the secret prisons created — called Citizen Isolation Centers — within the Japanese American concentration camps during World War II.
  • “Art of the Prank,”
  • a doc about Joey Skaggs, who is funny, a bit of an anarchist and a prankster extraordinaire.
  • “Bitter Coffee,”
  • a Cuban feature film about four sisters who inherit their parents’ coffee plantation.
  • “Return to Dak To,”
  • a doc which chronicles a trip a small group of Vietnam vets took to that country. The director — and one of those vets — is former Tucsonan Christopher Upham, who will be at the screening.

The film festival’s web site has detailed information on films, talks and times; you can make your own decisions.

See you at the movies.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.


Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.