Arizona International Film Festival

April 7, 2014 |

The 23rd annual fest returns with Cine Cubano

"Harlem Street Singer" examines the contributions of blues and gospel musician Rev. Gary Davis. photo courtesy AIFF

“Harlem Street Singer” examines the contributions of blues and gospel musician Rev. Gary Davis.
photo courtesy AIFF

April in Tucson means it is time for the Arizona International Film Festival. Marking its 23rd annual event, the granddaddy of Arizona film festivals will once again bring both films and filmmakers from around the world to Tucson from April 11 to 27 at The Screening Room, Grand Cinemas Crossroads 6 and Elliott’s On Congress.

While films from the entire world are often represented in the festival program, one particular focus of note is the Cuban film program this year, which will showcase feature length films, shorts and documentaries from the island nation that is slowly making a splash in world cinema.

The festival’s track record, having shown more than 2,200 films from 90 different countries to a total audience of over 138,000 people since it began in 1991, is definitely impressive, but equally impressive is the continued quality and diversity of films that continue to be showcased each year. This year there are films from 42 countries and there will be about 40 feature length films and 60 shorts screened.

Many film festivals are designed to bring films that might not otherwise be seen by locals in a community. That in itself is a worthy goal, exposing new, quality work to interested audiences. However, the AZIFF goes one step further, by having nearly every filmmaker whose film is being screened at their AZIFF screening. The experience of interacting with the filmmaker is well worth the price of admission, because the audience gets a much more complete experience. In fact, once you’ve seen a few films with post screening Q & A sessions, you’ll wish there was one after most films you see.

The AZIFF draws film from around the world, many of which are United States, West coast or Arizona premieres. This also adds to the fun factor when you are seeing a premiere of a film with the director present. Many high-profile directors have premiered their films at AZIFF and gone on to fame and fortune such as Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) while other filmmakers have continued to make films that are the darlings of the film festival circuit. Other AZIFF offerings have made a splash at other festivals and are brought in for screenings, which may be the only time they will be seen by Tucson audiences.

A still from "Glena." Image courtesy of AIFF

A still from “Glena.”
Image courtesy of AIFF

One documentary film of note that had its world premiere at the most recent Slamdance Film Festival in Park City is Glena. The film skillfully captures the world of a female mixed martial arts fighter and her quest to go professional at all costs. Sad and brutally honest in its depiction of personal passion, Glena is a must-see film even if you’re not a fan of cage fighting.

Other documentaries of note to watch out for include; Harlem Street Singer about a mostly forgotten ragtime, blues and American gospel singer and American Wine Story about a fledgling family winery. Also of note is the narrative feature film Hotel Congress, about a couple trying not to have an affair. This title was filmed entirely in our own Hotel Congress and on a budget of $1,000.

The Cuban film series, entitled Cine Cubano features six documentaries, four features and three short films will give viewers an inside look at contemporary Cuban life. Focusing on the conflicts due to scarcity of products, social injustice and inequality, the program promises to be an honest and sobering look at our island neighbor. Beginning with the recent high-profile film Juan of the Dead, a zombie/horror comedy, and the rise in prominence of the countries own film festival which is drawing tourists from the rest of the world every spring; Cuban films are making serious waves in the international film world.

The 23rd annual Arizona International Film Festival takes place April 11-27 at The Screening Room, 125 E. Congress St., Grand Cinemas Crossroads 6, 4811 E. Grant Rd. and Elliott’s On Congress, 135 E. Congress St. Tickets are $6-$8 per screening and an all access pass is $100. To purchase tickets/passes and for film information visit:

Category: Arts, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Film