2001: The Inaugural Year of the Anchorage International Film Festival

December 14-22, 2001

The 1st annual Anchorage International Film Festival was a smashing success! Held during winter solstice, the darkest and coldest part of our year, local movie buffs had a chance to catch some of the hottest offerings in independent films. Plus rub fleece- and wool-covered elbows with film makers and shakers from around the globe. Sundance Channel Programmer Ian Bricke was pleasantly surprised with the turnout and enthusiasm of the Anchorage crowds, and LA Film Festival Director Richard Raddon told our director Tony Sheppard he was "off to an impressive start". Richard thought our main venue, Bear Tooth Theater Pub, was one of the coolest theaters that he's ever seen.

Ralf Demesmaeker (left) prepares for his flight over the Great Land in a bush plane to film for his movie "Around The World In 25 Film Festivals". Pictured on the right is Tony Sheppard, AIFF Director.

"Our operating budget is less than the LA Fest spent on letterhead last year," Sheppard joked of his efforts. None of the film entries in this year's Festival were solicited.

The Bear Tooth Theatre Pub and the Alaskan Experience Theatre saw nearly 2,000 film goers throughout the week long festival, indicating local audiences are hungry for independent film entertainment. Belgium's Canal + network sent videographer Ralf Demesmaeker to capture this year's event as part of their documentary, "Around the World in 25 Film Festivals". He was quite happy that the Bear Tooth served beer and food with their movies. And Ralf was so intrigued with Alaska and its people he plans to visit us this summer.

The films ran the gamut from feature length to micro shorts, with a nice selection of documentaries and animation to round out the picture. Independent panels judged films in a Short-film (10-55 minute), Feature film format, Documentary, Animation, and Super Short (Under 10-min.) coming up with winners in each category. Included in a non-competitive category was "Helicopter", last year's Student Academy Award Winner.

Enjoying the inaugural AIFF are Jeff Wadlow, winner of Best Short for Tower of Babble; Jefferson Davis, winner of Best Feature for John John In The Sky; Richard Raddon, Director LA Film Festival; and Ian Bricke, Sundance Channel.

Feature Film Award >>> "John John in the Sky", by Jefferson Davis, is a wonderful story of a boy who dreams of flying. Country singer Randy Travis stars in this beautifully shot, heartwarming film (35 mm, 101 minutes). "The Slow Business of Going" a film by Rachel Tsangari was runner-up. "Down & Out with the Dolls" came in 3rd place.

Short Film Award >>> "The Tower of Babble", by Jeff Wadlow, weaves three separate stories into a rich fabric textured by a unique use of dialogue. An intriguing piece sweetened with a narrative by Kevin Spacey. As an extra bonus, Anchorage was the world premiere of this smartly executed film (35 mm, 22 minutes). Click here for more information on this film. "Room for Uncertainty" a film by Christine Vandemoortele was runner-up. "Chasing Rabbits" came in 3rd place.

Documentary Film Award >>> "The Last Stand", by Holiday, Phelan and Johnson tells the story of Pacific Lumber's hostile takeover and subsequent hostile treatment towards the last stand of pristine Redwoods. "Modern Tribalism", a film by Mimi George and Rick Kent, was runner-up.

Animation Film Award >>> "Horses on Mars", by Eric Anderson is a quirky little tale of an unambitious microbe and his long journey through the cosmos that makes one ask the ultimate question: where did we come from? "Hypertension", a film by Jeff Spoonhower, was runner-up.

Super Short Film Award >>> "Revenge of the Red Balloon", by Gregg Rossen. It's nearly forty years later and the red balloon is back and seeking revenge on les rues du Paris.

Audience Choice Award >>> "...sleeping dogs lie", by Joe Moran. Love, asparagus and parole officers in the Big Apple--a hilarious slice of life.

For any information and submission forms, please refer to the "Submit Your Film" section on our website. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you and your film up here next year. Don't forget your long johns.

--Brian MacMillan, AFF 2001 Media Relations

All photos taken at AIFF 2001 © Pamela Thompson

For more AIFF info email the AIFF Director