Arizona International Film Festival Celebrates Silver Milestone

April 12, 2016

War drama, "Kandarhar Journals" will show Friday, April 22.

War drama “Kandarhar Journals” will show Friday, April 22.

By Liz Felix

Celebrating 25 years of showcasing compelling independent films from around the world, the Arizona International Film Festival returns to Downtown Tucson this Thursday, April 14 – May 1, offering Tucsonans a window into the diverse cultures and traditions of over 20 countries.

“We are celebrating our 25th edition of the festival. Hard to believe that we are the oldest film festival in the state of Arizona,” says festival founder Giulio Scalinger.

The festival’s theme of bridging cultures has continued on since the festival’s start in the early 1990s, and this year a total of 25 countries will be represented, all with “interesting views into other cultures,” says Scalinger.

With 30 features and 58 short films, this year’s festival lineup tackles a variety of subject matter from the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II to the sexual journey of a 75-year-old widow with Alzheimer’s.

Accompanying the screenings of features, documentaries and shorts will be meet-and-greet events that will take place at various venues around the Downtown area, giving festival goers an opportunity to rub elbows with the creative minds behind this year’s festival selections.

A still from "Bitter Coffee". Four young sisters inherit their parents coffee plantation in 1950s Cuba.

A still from “Bitter Coffee”. Four young sisters inherit their parents coffee plantation in 1950s Cuba.

“You never know who you will meet at the Arizona International Film Festival,” says Scalinger, who remembers quite a few big names that had their start doing the festival circuit.

“Bryan Singer brought Public Access to the festival and was telling people about his next film, The Usual Suspects. Now, he’s doing X-Men films.”

While  getting the chance to hear an up-and-coming director talk about the work that went into creating their film is a unique experience, Scalinger says that the truly special moments happen unexpectedly at the festival.

“Like in 2012 when [artist] Inocente saw her film, Inocente, on the big screen for the first time. She was so overwhelmed by the love shown from the audience that she teared up and couldn’t speak for several minutes.”

A still from "The Anthropologist," opening film of the Arizona International Film Festival.

A still from “The Anthropologist,” opening film of the Arizona International Film Festival.

The festival opens this Thursday with a kick off at 6 pm at Hotel Congress, where festival goers will have the opportunity to meet the filmmakers of the festival’s first documentary, The Anthropologist, which gives us a look at the impact of climate change through the perspective of an American teenager. The film will show at 7:30 pm at The Screening Room, just a bit west of Hotel Congress. The party will continue with conversation and drinks at The Independent Distillery on Arizona Avenue after the film.

If hobnobbing with future Spielbergs and Iñárritus is your thing, but you can’t make it to opening night on Thursday, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities throughout the festival to meet up with this year’s talented filmmakers. The Arizona International Film Festival’s website has all of the information you need to schedule your festival outings. For more information on this year’s film selections, showtimes and where to buy tickets, please visit the AIFF website at or check out their Facebook page here to stay up-to-date on festival events.