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The Athena Cinema located on Court Street on March 21, 2023, in Athens, Ohio. The theater is hosting the Athens International Film and Video Festival in April.

Athens International Film and Video Festival returns for its 50th year

Correction appended.

The 50th annual Athens International Film and Video Festival will take place from April 10 to April 16, showcasing an array of experimental films for unrepresented artists on a global level. 

Since the first festival in 1973, artists in the documentary, experimental, narrative and animation categories enter their work to be reviewed by guest jurors to win a cash prize. Artists around the world are encouraged to enter their work in the competition. 

David Colagiovanni, associate professor of film and director of the festival, said there are around 260 films from over 60 countries competing in the festival. A pre-screening committee selected the films from over 2,100 entries. 

The festival will kickstart at 1 p.m. on April 10, and showings will run all day until 9:15 p.m. The films will be shown at the Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., and all Ohio University student tickets will be free of charge while quantities last, and adult prices will vary between $5 and $6.50 for individual screenings, as well as $50 for all you can watch passes. 

To celebrate the festival's 50th anniversary, there will be an outdoor screening of adult-themed animated short films on Friday, April 15, at 9 p.m. All of Court Street will be shut down, with the screen facing toward the Athena Cinema. Chairs will be set up and provided, Colagiovanni said. 

The festival has a budget of $100,000 and it typically doesn't exceed that amount due to sponsors, merchandise and ticket sales, and an entry fee artists pay, Colagiovanni said. He said there is a hospitality program set up for the artists with the help of some sponsors to give food for lunch, too. Big sponsorships like Jackie O's and Braddock Films and Kleinpenny Rentals have played a big role in helping fund the festival to get the outdoor screening, Colagiovanni said. 

Brian MacNeel, an OU film school alum, will have his third film, "Weekend in Brazil," shown at the festival. Macneel's short-film will be played under the "Fountain of Youth" block on April 12 at 3:15 p.m. The film is mostly driven by the setting, not the plot, and its imagery to immerse the viewers, MacNeel wrote in an email. 

"AIFVF has always been a hub for films that don't fit into the mainstream, and I am thrilled to be premiering "Weekend in Brazil" at the fest," MacNeel wrote in an email. 

Over the weeklong festival, there will be various themed blocks for each day the films are shown, representing the similar styles, categories and genres those films have in common. Though the block demonstrates similar elements within the films, they still may vary in differing execution, Mohammad Younus Nomani, a second-year MFA student in graphic design and in charge of the festival's program layout, wrote in an email. 

"I think these categories add so much value and interesting element in helping us wonder what kind of film we may see if we decide to give a time of our day to watch them," Nomani wrote in an email.

Soheil Goharipour, a second-year MFA student, had his short film, "Solar Eclipse," shown at the 49th annual festival. Goharipour was the director of photography for the film and he said it was great to have the film shown at the festival because of its high competitiveness. 

"There are other filmmakers who you can watch their film and you can talk about your feelings," Goharipour said. "It's a great experience. I think you only have these kinds of conversations with filmmakers and artists in these kinds of festivals. That's a real great opportunity for me to discuss further on my experience."

Josh Vieth, a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary arts and the co-assistant programmer for the festival, said since moving toward pre-pandemic, he hopes the festival can bring the community of Athens together. Vieth also encourages all students to come to the festival because there is bound to be something for everyone. 

"Just the chance to make it hopefully as big of an event as it's ever been," Vieth said. "Getting students involved in watching films, getting people to the community, or even outside of Athens, a lot of people have family coming in to attend and participate. So making it into a big celebration for the past century, this was a milestone for a film festival."

A big part of programming the festival is pre-screening the films and deciding which films get placed in the festival, Terra Talamh, a Ph.D. student studying interdisciplinary arts and the co-assistant programmer, said. Colagiovanni teaches a practicum course to undergraduate and graduate students related to the film festival. They watch the films and decide what gets through as a group, Talamh said. 

"I know we're a little bit ahead of schedule this year," Talamh said. "It's kind of nice to be feeling kind of ready two weeks out. I mean, there's still a lot to do but feeling more ready and less running around last minute."

Melissa Haviland, area chair, professor of printmaking and co-creator of the festival's printmaking, anticipates a high turn-out rate of participants to come to the weeklong festival. 

"Last year we ended up being heavily attended, and what I think having that it felt like a really fun ramping up to the 50th," Haviland said. "I assume it will be very heavily attended. Now we have sort of a word of mouth. I think that's really productive."

Kat Frazier, a sophomore studying film and one of the people in charge of social media for the festival, said the presence of the festival on social media has helped promote the event. She said the goal is to attract as many people as possible by displaying the festival on varying platforms for all generations. 

Jaquelee Chit Yu Chao, a second-year MFA printmaking student and co-creator of the festival's printmaking, said many people play roles in the production of the film festival that will all come together at the end. 

"I think it's just recognizing the pieces," Chao said. "'Oh, yeah, this person was really good at that. This person was involved in that process,' and kind of being able to place (and) know a little bit of the behind the scenes and be able to see it all together, and just recognizing the small stuff coming together it's really cool."

Another new addition to the festival for its 50th anniversary is its 50 different-looking dogs as its logo, Vieth said. Dogs have been implemented in the festival for years, and Vieth said it might be because dogs demonstrate an inviting nature within them. 

"They're all different styles," Vieth said. "They're all weird. They're all strange. All the dogs are doing something odd. In a way, that kind of represents our festival I think, strange, odd, different styles, and it kind of works perfectly."

The film festival allows creators to display their art on a big screen to be shown to a large audience and there may be only a few other places that would show such films, Vieth said.  

"Just knowing that there is an audience out there, what we do, what we're making, as a purpose for people who want to see the films we make as weird as they may be, as different as they may be," Vieth said. "That's certainly gratifying I think for for all the students who are going to get a chance to see their films on the big screen."


Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated the incorrect spelling of Kat Frazier’s last name. This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

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