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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson film festival screens local stories


    Screenshot courtesy of Screengrab/Virgil Films

    Grab some friends, a bag of popcorn and get ready to watch some great movies, because the Tucson Film and Music Festival is returning for its 10th anniversary this weekend.

    The 10th Annual Tucson Film and Music Festival officially begins Friday at The Loft Cinema with the Southwest premiere of “Pleased to Meet Me” at 7 p.m. The festival will continue throughout Saturday at the Screening Room, during the day on Sunday at the Tucson J, and will have its finale on Sunday night at the Rialto Theatre. Selected showings will also be featuring Q&A sessions with some of the filmmakers directly after the screening.

    Films from documentaries about desert seasons to a fictitious story about a road trip will be featured in this festival, giving everyone a chance to find something to fit their taste.

    The TFMF is a highly-anticipated event that receives independent film submissions from all over the world, but producer, director, editor and festival director Michael Toubassi said it started out much smaller 10 years ago.

    After directing a documentary about the Tucson music scene titled “High and Dry,” with great success, Toubassi premiered his film at The Loft with multiple screenings over Labor Day weekend in 2005. After this, Toubassi officially created the Tucson Music and Film Festival.

    “Our primary thing is showing films that have a connection to music or are desert- or Southwest-related,” Toubassi said. This criteria allows films to be submitted that were created all across the globe. According to Toubassi, a handful of international films that were created in New Zealand or Spain are included in this year’s program.

    This criteria also allows Tucson-based filmmakers to show their films, whether they feature music or not, simply because they are from the area. This gives many up-and-coming filmmakers the chance to exhibit their work in a festival setting, if chosen, and has allowed many UA graduates to screen their work in their hometown.

    Both Toubassi and Kelsey Self, the festival’s marketing director, are both UA alumni and try to do everything they can to involve students in the festival, including hiring students or alumni as interns, offering discounted student tickets and showing as many student or alumni films as they can.

    In order to get a film to be shown at TFMF, filmmakers must go through the submission process that begins earlier in the year. For three months, Toubassi and his team of judges screen every submission and decide whether it will be a part of their festival or not.

    “We’re mainly looking for a great story,” Toubassi said. “Every screening is going to be a special event, and they’re all going to exceed the expectations of a local film festival.”

    Every film being shown has a cast and crew that have poured their hearts and souls into creating a worthwhile film. Lydia Hyslop, the director of this year’s centerpiece film “Burnout,” said her film took over three years to complete and was not an easy task.“I felt like giving up so many times,” Hyslop said. “It takes superhuman strength to see something like this to fruition when all the odds are against you.”

    For independent films such as the ones screening at TFMF, acquiring funds is universally the most difficult aspect of creating a film.

    “Financing and fundraising [are] easily the worst part, but it’s a necessary evil,” said Archie Borders, director of opening-night film “Pleased to Meet Me.”

    Despite all the struggles the filmmakers must overcome, the reward is surely worth it. The films are what make the festival what it is, and based on the caliber of films this year, TFMF is looking to be spectacular, which is exactly what Toubassi wants.

    Toubassi said he hopes “the festival continues on, and when people think of great Tucson film that they [will] think of us.”Three Must-See Films of the Tucson Film and Music Festival

    1. “Pleased to Meet Me” – Directed by Archie Borders

    The opening film of TFMF, “Pleased to Meet Me,” is the story of Pete Jones, a music star who is stuck in a rough patch financially, legally and creatively. He turns to Laura Klein, a radio host and his past love, for help. The two bring together a group of musicians from all walks of life for 24 hours in a desperate attempt to give Laura’s radio show some publicity, get Pete’s life back on track and give the band a chance at their dreams. Based on the “This American Life” story, “Everyone Speaks Elton John” and, featuring actor John Doe, “Pleased to Meet Me” is sure to be a hit.

    Showing on Friday at 7 p.m. at The Loft Cinema

    2.  “Burnout” – Directed by Lydia Hyslop

    This year’s centerpiece film is the story of Ada, a woman who makes a living selling weed. Once a vote to legalize marijuana is passed, however, Ada is essentially put out of business. With her recently-fired waitress roommate, she goes on a journey of rediscovery and encounters some eccentric and hilarious situations. The screening of “Burnout” will also be followed by a Q&A session with the director.

    Showing on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room

    3. “Alive Inside” – Directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett

    “Alive Inside” is a documentary about the incredible revitalizing power that music has on the mind and memory. The 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Winner follows Dan Cohen, a social worker and founder of Music and Memory, an organization that strives to help patients with memory loss through the power of music. According to the TFMF synopsis, “Alive Inside” is said to be “a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls.”

    Showing on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Tucson J


    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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