Director James Ivory will receive Ashland Independent Film Festival's 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. [Photo courtesy of James Ivory]

Festival gives the nod to forerunners of independent film

American film director James Ivory will walk away with the Ashland Independent Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

Fans of Merchant Ivory Productions will recall its heyday period dramas such as "The Remains of the Day," "Howard's End," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," "A Room with a View," "Surviving Picasso" and many others.

Ivory and his domestic and professional partner Ismail Merchant, along with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, founded their film company in 1961. Their films were mostly produced by Merchant, directed by Ivory, and 23 of their 44 movies were scripted by Jhabvala. Often based on novels or short stories, particularly the work of Henry James, E.M. Forster, and two novels by Jhabvala, their films won six Academy Awards.

Ivory was born in 1928 in Berkeley, California. The son of a sawmill operator, Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, studied architecture and allied arts at University of Oregon, then cinematic arts at University of Southern California.

AIFF reaffirms its mission to promote independent filmmaking by honoring Ivory and the production companies who built its underlying framework. The festival is set for Thursday through Monday, April 6-10.

This year's lineup of more than 100 films — out of 800 submitted to the festival or selected by AIFF Director Richard Herskowitz — promises a nod to the past and the future, with documentary, narrative, animated and short films at the Varsity Theatre, Ashland Street Cinemas and the Historic Ashland Armory.

Also look for live music performances, art installations, filmmaker Talk Back panels, children's programs and community conversations. Tickets and information are available online at ashlandfilm.org.

AIFF 2017 Honorees

James Ivory, Lifetime Achievement Award: Ivory's 1987 film "Maurice," starring Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves, along with a clip from the November release of Sony Pictures Classics' release of "Call Me By Your Name," co-written by Ivory, will show at 6:40 p.m. Friday, April 7, at the Historic Ashland Armory. "Howard's End" (1992) will show at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Varsity Theatre.

A panel, TalkBack: Cinematic Literature, with Ivory, filmmaker Matías Piñeiro and Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch, will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 9, at Ashland Springs Hotel.

Alex Cox, Rogue Award: Born in England, filmmaker Cox now makes his home in Southern Oregon. With 1980s cult films "Repo Man" and "Sid and Nancy" to his credit, Cox will show his crowdfunded "Tombstone Rashomon," an homage to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa steeped in Old West mythology, at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at Ashland Street Cinemas.

Cox and Phil Thomas, art director of "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" and a fellow Southern Oregonian, will host a conversation after the film shows at 6:40 p.m. Friday, April 7, at Ashland Street Cinemas.

Rachel Lambert, Faerie Godmother Award: Rising female director Lambert studied at Boston University and the London Academy of music and Dramatic Art and worked in theater and film in Britain after graduation. She has written three films: "Kin," "Mom Jovi," and her directorial debut, "In the Radiant City," to show at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 7 p.m. Friday, April 7, and noon Sunday, April 9, at the Varsity Theatre.

Jenni Olson, Pride Award: A leader of LGBT film history, Olson's cinematic memoir "The Royal Road" premiered in 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival, along with her 2009 short documentary "575 Castro St." She produced director Eddie Rosenstein's 2017 "The Freedom to Marry."

"The Freedom to Marry" shows at noon Friday, April 7, at the Historic Ashland Armory, and "The Royal Road" and "575 Castro St." show at 12:40 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at the Varsity Theatre.

Matías Piñeiro, special guest: Piñeiro joins Ivory and Rauch for the April 9 TalkBack. Born in 1982 in Argentina, he has directed seven films that explore William Shakespeare's characters and concepts, especially those of the Bard's females.

Piñeiro's "Rosalinda" and "Viola" will show at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 10 a.m. Friday, April 7, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at the Varsity; "Hermia & Helena" will show at 12:40 p.m. Friday, April 7, 9:40 p.m. Saturday, April 8, 3:40 p.m. Sunday, April 9, and 3:40 p.m. Monday, April 10.

Indie Institution Tributes

Skylight Pictures:

Skylight founders Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís join AIFF this year with features that combine storytelling arts with media strategies to strengthen human rights. "The Resistance Saga" is a series of three films that document Guatamala's fight for self-determination and justice. Yates and Paco will host Q-and-A discussions after each film.

"When the Mountains Tremble" (1983) shows at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, and 9:40 a.m. Sunday, April 9 at the Varsity. "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator" (2011) shows at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 8, and 12:10 p.m. Sunday, April 9. "500 Years" (2017) shows at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Historic Ashland Armory.

TalkBack: Filming Activists will be at 10 a.m. Friday, April 7, at Ashland Springs Hotel. Filmmakers Yates, Peter Bratt, Jennifer MacArthur and ​Nanfu Wang will discuss the responsibility of documentary filmmakers to the political activists they portray.

Another, TalkBack: Documentary Journalism in the Age of Fake News, will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 8. Investigative documentarians Cullen Boback, Brian Knappenberger, Kirby Dick and Sonya Childress will discuss how indie filmmakers hold the powerful accountable and speak to audiences across the political spectrum.

Zeitgeist Films:

Nancy Gerstman, co-founder of Zeitgeist Films — filmmakers who focus on world cinema and documentaries — will join AIFF with "Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story," along with the film's director, Daniel Raim, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, April 9, at the Armory. Storyboard artist Harold Michelson and his wife, film researcher Lillian Michelson, were once considered the heart of Hollywood. The couple worked on hundreds of iconic films — "The Ten Commandments," "The Apartment," "The Birds," "Full Metal Jacket" and more.

Expanded Cinema:

AIFF goes beyond the theater screen again this year with "Convergence: Digital Media and Technology" at the Schneider Museum of Art on the Southern Oregon University campus. The exhibit features media art by Portland experimental filmmaker and artist Vanessa Renwick, New York artist Nina Katchadourian and Ken Matsubara of Hong Kong.

ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum will host a Virtual Reality Gallery where visitors can explore virtual reality documentaries with filmmaker Drea Cooper.

Live Performances:

Director Rick Prelinger will lead the audience to create a spontaneous live soundtrack when "Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles" is screened at 3:40 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Varsity. 

Renwick and musician Tara Jane O'Neil will perform the score of "Medusa Smack" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Schneider Museum, followed by Renwick's three-screen projection piece, "Hope and Prey," featuring cinematography of wolves in the wild.

Slanty Eyed Mama, a music and spoken word duo showcased in the documentary "Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show" — showing at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8, in the Armory — will perform live following the screening.

Community Conversations:

Facilitators Marla Estes and Kay Sandberg will lead free, hour-long discussions of selected films at 5:15 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 255 E. Main St. "City of Joy" will be Friday, April 7, "I Am Another You" on Saturday, April 8, and "Sacred" on Sunday, April 9. Audiences also can rub elbows with filmmakers at the AIFF AfterLounge, hosted by a different restaurant every night.

AIFF's box office is at the information kiosk on the Ashland Plaza. Memberships, tickets, as well as more information about films, special events and parties are available online at ashlandfilm.org.

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