As someone who is couch surfing with family and non-blood relatives throughout Europe and the States since I can no longer afford to pay rent, staying in high-end digs on a beautiful beach and lounging around in 80-plus weather during the day while covering the Miami International Film Festival recently was equal parts ironic and surreal. So it was something of a happy accident that while visiting my Tucson-residing best friend from high school I stumbled upon a poster advertising the Arizona International Film Festival. Since I was in town anyhow I figured I might as well check out a portion of the 100 some odd films from 25 countries screening over 20 days (to celebrate AIFF’s 20th anniversary). Certainly I wasn’t expecting the western gem that I found — a filmmakers’ oasis in the desert indifferent to the latest buzz flicks from either coast that sucked me in for its entire lengthy run. Kudos to festival head Giulio Scalinger — after two decades with little administrative turnover (most of the volunteers I talked to were either energetic young guns or had been onboard an average of ten years or more) AIFF is a well-run, highly organized, cinematic machine with a firm identity that’s local, grassroots and community-inclusive. Shrink SXSW.
To read the rest of my coverage visit Filmmaker magazine.