2003: Elvis, Missing Oosikars, Big Screens, Soggy Dog Mushing, Martini Matinee and a SnowDance

December 12-22, 2003

The King Slept Here >>>

(picture: Q&A time with the King)

The call came in at 10pm, Tuesday night. Elvis and his entourage from Whitehorse, Yukon were in Glenallen, AK. Typically that should put them in Anchorage around 1am. Of course that's a summer average, not really applicable when an inch of snow is dropping every hour. I stayed up until 3:30am shoveling my walk and a parking space for the King. With no cell number and no sign of the party, I retired.

When our organization got word that the King was coming we began wondering what to call him in the off hours; John, Mike, Dave, Roger? The next morning as I stepped into my kitchen to find him in his white polyester jumpsuit with beaded necklaces and the trademark gold sunglasses in place, it became obvious, his name is Elvis Aaron Presley and he's the real deal.

"The Elvis Project" had been accepted and producer Adam Green had asked if an advance PR team consisting of the King, his publicist, his spiritual adviser, plus his girlfriend could be put up for five days. I had volunteered my home as the org had run out of available hotel space.

The King's crew had a rough time around Caribou Creek on the Glenn Highway and hadn't arrived until 4:20am. Yet here they were up at 10:30am with maps in hand, Elvis in regalia, half a roast chicken from Sagaya City Market on the stove and a box full of posters and CDs ready to do some heavy promoting. They hit all the commercial radio stations and completely canvassed the college radio and campus in less than six hours, totally ensuring a sold-out screening on Saturday Night at the Alaska Experience Theatre.

AET is infamous for being a tourists only destination, locals could not believe they were being turned away at 11:15pm, but such is the power of Elvis. King Cinema featured the amazing super short about the infamous direct meeting between Mr. Nixon and Mr. Presley "The King and Dick" by Scott Calonico followed up by a live intro for TEP from EAP himself. Team Elvis rocked the promo booth with tees and stickers and there was plenty of cheap Molson Light on hand provided by The Gaslight Lounge to make the Yukoners feel at home. The evening ended with the story of "Goldirocks" and the three garage rawkers of Toronto, a film by Paula Tiberius.

The following night, Elvis popped off three songs of his original material with the trio Top Secret from Anchorage at our Golden Oosik Awards Gala in the Snow Goose Brew Pub's Theatre. A last minute AIFF on the fly decision produced a brand new category for an Oosikar: Best Rockumentary About Taggish Elvis from Yukon Territory aka The Team Spirit Award for Adam and his crew's dedication to promotion efforts!

The Case of the Missing Oosikars >>>

Glitz, glamour, awards, canapés and six golden walrus penis replicas go missing in a room full of smart dressed Anchorageans.

Who dunnit?

Elvis' backup band?

Was it the middle aged bad elf MC?

The high level volunteer from the SunDance Film Fest?

Some shunned filmmaker from a past festival with an axe to grind?

Despite our best efforts, I'm afraid AIFF will never know for certain where our Oosiks are.

Irregardless our 2003 Golden Oosik Award Gala was a spectacular time! Kokopelli Theatre Company artistic director Kari Mote and host of KSKA's Stage Talk, Mark Muro co-presented the evening's entertainment and judging. The top three films in the animation and super short categories were presented and gala attendees voted for the winners. Kirk Kelly's "Dia de los Muertos" and David Cairn's "Cry for Bobo" respectively.

Smitri Mundhra from "Bomb the System" was in attendance to receive the award for Best Feature. Graciously she said she "wished she could cut the award in half and give it to Aisling Walsh for her wonderful movie 'Song for a Raggy Boy'". Kyle Gilman was on hand to accept his Oosikar for "The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho".

The food was delicious, the folks looked fabulous, Elvis was superb, and a rowdy bunch headed out to the 9:30pm screening of the Top Feature "Bomb the System" at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.

As for the missing Oosikars, local artist Collin Brown is busy replacing them and Tony is going to ship them to the winners as soon as they're done.

Bring on the Big Screens >>>

Dave Parkhurst from Aurora Collection provided us with his whopper screen this year so that we could return to the Sydney Laurence Theatre with our Frankenfilm projector. Projectionist extraordinaire Thomas Howard put this ½ ton beast together just in time for 2002's festival and a collective groan was released when we realized we'd be using it again for 2003.

Fortunately this year we had a full crew of stagehands from IATSE Local #918 and help from Wendy Odden the house coordinator. A huge load of thanks go out to the members and extras of the union who made load in and load out such a breeze: Todd Lance, Christina Walters, Marlene Benavides, Buzz Schwall, Brian Hutton, Thomas Higgins, Ryan Olsen and Terry Sevy.

The Big Screen looked great in the Sydney Laurence and our ginormous projector once again proved worthy of pulling it's own weight. We will be looking into fabricating a more practical base for that baby in the future.

And you know, I just love the big ol' bubble screen of the Alaska Experience Theatre. The convex shape makes for some funky acoustics and a great in your face presentation. If you ever do take a chance at watching the 70mm in 180 degrees of ALASKA, be sure and drop some Dramamine in your system first. Both the train ride and the river raft scenes will make you daft if you've got a weak equilibrium.

Moose Meadows Mushing Expedition >>>

(picture: filmmaker Aisling Walsh and her husband, Dermot, flew in from Ireland for the festival)

Our dedicated volunteers Eileen Shute and Jen Nance took visiting filmmakers Derek & Rebecca Cernak (Dear Sweet Emma ), Aisling and Dermont Walsh, and Smitri Mundhra south on Saturday morning to try their hands dog mushing in Girdwood. The Walshes had booked a tour with nine-time Iditarod runner and dog psychologist Dario Martinez and the rest has just decided to take the road trip.

Well, when they saw what a great time Aisling and especially Dermont had, they decide to give it a whirl. A quick thinking Jen got Smitri hooked up with Sorrels and a Carhart jacket to supplement her sneakers and fleece combo. Moose Meadows is pretty boggy even when it's all snowed over. Mr. Martinez was quite taken with Ms. Mundhra and she cooked up a discount deal for the group with a promise to smuggle him in to her movie that evening at the PAC. Eileen's comment: "This is my idea of a cultural exchange. Gee, I never knew dog mushers could dress so nice." Below is Eileen's version of the story:

Derek & Rebecca Cernak and Aisling & Dermont Walsh drove down in the van with me. Smitri Mundhra went down in Jen Nance's car. We stopped on the drive down at Sagaya's to get them good coffee and pastry. All good Alaska road trips must start with Kaladi's thick espresso!

The drive down was full of story telling. I talked to Aisling a lot about Ireland and learned that thousands of people had died in those British / Irish, Catholic / Protestant wars that have been going on over there. Had no idea so many people had died in that war. Also talked to her about the Druids of Ireland to see if they were still active over there. They are.

The Cernaks told a story of how some digital guy from LA heard about them at the Savannah College of Art and Design (one of the primary digital arts schools recommended to me by more than one of the visiting film makers) and so he cruised up to meet them in North Carolina. They told him about a story line they were working on. He went back to LA. Then they got something in the mail from him that told them he had just copyrighted their story idea and they were not to continue developing it because it now belonged to him, but if they wanted to work on the production they would be hired on by him. This is what I was told when I asked them what kind of production they were working on now. They said they couldn't talk about it, and that's why...

We drove down to Moose Meadows and met the musher Dario Martinez. Moose Meadows is somewhat swampy, even in cold weather. Smitri was wearing tennis shoes and by now had cold wet feet as the snow came down. We connected with the musher and he took Aishling and her husband out mushing first, and we went back to the trucks and got Smitri into carhart's and sorels. Jen was awesome, even lacing up her sorels for her-how awesome that Smitri's buddy brought along all the right kind of gear.

Aisling was very excited about mushing. Dermont was not too excited about mushing at first but we talked him into it and told him he had to do it! So off they flew. I think he fell off the sled at one time and fell into a pond of slush! They did a big circle around the meadows, which included a stop at his kennels and cabin. Dario took them over to see his puppies. When they drove back into view, Aisling and Dermont had big huge eyes, big grins, and the look of the seduced Alaskan adventurer who is thrilled with their experience. Dermont was quite a bit more animated than when he initially took off.

Then the Cernak brother and sister team, along with Smitri, got on the sled. They decided to do it because they felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. By now the Smitri was warmly enveloped in a carhardt jacket and sorels, and ready to go. One of these guys fell off the sled, too! What a crack up, taking photos of professionals in the visual arts fields, talk about hamming it up for the photo shoots. Derek was acting like a famous Iditarod musher, waving from the sled as the dogs took off. Hah! I took photos of him doing that with his camera.

They came back fully enthused with their tour. We then proceeded to talk the Dario into coming into town for the feature showing of Smitri's "Bomb the System" that night! I think the Dario was quite taken with Smriti and her beautiful eyes, so it was quite easy to persuade him. We told him if he would give them a break on their dog sled tour price, we would smuggle him into her movie. And he showed up at the PAC! (performing Arts Center) This is my idea of cultural exchange. Gee, I never knew dog mushers could dress so nice, haha.
After her film, I asked him what he thought about it. He was amazed and said the film blew him away. He said he wasn't sure what to expect, but he had no idea it would be such a thrilling and first-rate production. He was breathless and extremely impressed and blown away with the film.

Back in Girdwood; we then marched up to the bake shop and shared in some of their excellent food, joining in another of our community traditions, the famous potatoes at the bake shop! After I took them down to meet a local Girdwood video head, Darby Thunderfoot, who had just finished putting together a new film studio for himself in his cabin. He gave them a big old-fashioned Alaskan welcome. Aisling thought it was quite cute that even out there in the woods, we took them to a local studio! From there we went and put a few more film festival posters up at Aloha Coffee Company and Chair 5, and then headed off to Portage.

It was windy and cold and icy and blowing at Portage, quintessential Alaskan weather. We played around on the shore of the lake until we were frozen, they seemed to like playing out in the icy cold with icebergs and glaciers in full view. Cameras clicked.

We then zipped back to Anchorage for the evening's film program. That night Aisling mentioned how she had ruined her gloves by petting the dogs, apparently she could still smell the dog yard on her gloves hours later! That's what I call an Alaskan souvenir.

This was the first festival I went to, and it was a gas! I loved it!

---Eileen Shute

Of Martinis and Movies >>>

Our least pretentious program even if it doesn't sound that way was held in the chilly little antechamber to Bernie's Bungalow Lounge. With a basket full of an eclectic mix of the more bizarre and trippy offerings of the 2003 fest, we plucked and played according to the audiences whims. Yes, people got to shout out decisions and selections. No, it doesn't sound like a polished film festival event, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.

"Anomalous Humanite" by Anthony Silva, Apnea & RIP by Steve Moreau, "Ananda Jo"y by Mike Smith, "Dad's Dead" by Chris Shepherd," Dowager's Idyll" by Joan Grantz, "Atraves (Crossing)" by Kika Nicolela," Bon Voyage" by Robert Chang Chin Lin, "The Mediocre" David by Daniel Riley, "The Truth About Head" by Dale Heslip, "Tom Hits His Head" by Tom Putnam, "Dear XXX" by daniel@anchored.com, and "Prix Fixe" by Nobu Adilman.

A fat toast out to our phenomenal host Bernie, may we be screening in his new building next winter.

It's a marvelous time for a SnowDance, with longer days just on the rise >>>

A fantabulous time to show homegrown movies, under the dark winter solstice skies. Over a dozen local filmmakers showcased their work for the last two days of the festival which happened to coincide with the shortest day of 2003, winter solstice. Clocking in with just five hours of daylight and with 10 inches of fresh snow and temps hanging around the 0 degree Fahrenheit mark, an excellent time to sit inside and watch films.

For the pagans among us, solstice represents a time to light a bonfire and burn the remnants of the past year away. On the last Sunday of the Fest, we did just that (plus we had a huge snowball fight to release tensions). For the organization it was a perfect time to clear desks of the paper generated by this year's festival, and burn it to ready ourselves for next year. I hope you'll join us again for the ride.

2003 AIFF Award Recipients >>>

Alaskan Film >>>
"Elizabeth Petrovich: Birth of Civil Rights" by Jeff Silverman (Best SnowDance 2003)
"Talkin with Mr. Darby" by Joel Bennett (Honorable Mention)
ect Youth/Elder" by Jean Riordan (Honorable Mention)
"Voice of the People" by Lamia Bouziane (Honorable Mention)
"Prince William Sound After the Oil Spill" by Bill Rome (Honorable Mention)

Animation >>>
"Dia de los Muertes" by Kirk Kelly (Best Animation 2003)
"¨evolution" by Michael Cusack (Honorable Mention)
"Das Raad" by Georg Gruber (Honorable Mention)
"Ananda Joy" by Mike Smith (Honorable Mention)
"Moo(n)" by Leigh Hodgkinson (Honorable Mention)
"How to Cope With Death" by Ignacio Ferreras (Honorable Mention)

(picture: on the far right is filmmaker Kirk Kelly, winner for Best Animation)

Super Short >>>
"Cry for Bobo" by David Cairns (Best Super Short Film 2003)
"R.I.P." by Steve Moreau (Honorable Mention)
"A Ninja Pays Half My Rent" by Steven K. Tsuchida (Honorable Mention)
"The King and Dick" by Scott Calonico (Honorable Mention)
"Tom Hits His Head" by Tom Putnam (Honorable Mention)

Short Film >>>
"The Epic Tale of Kalesius and Clotho" by Kyle Gilman (Best Short Film 2003)
"Wormhole" by Jessica Sharzer (Honorable Mention)
"The Truth About Head" by Dale Heslip (Honorable Mention)
"Inja" by Steven Pasvolsky (Honorable Mention)
"Love & Stuff" by Sorrel Ahlfeld (Honorable Mention)

Documentary >>>
"The Burning Wal"l by Hava Beller (Best Documentary 2003)
"Down Pour Resurfacing" by Frances Nkara (Honorable Mention)
"Who is Albert Woo?" by Hunt Hoe (Honorable Mention)
"The Elvis Project" by Adam Green (Honorable Mention)
"Maybe Logic" by Lance Bauscher (Honorable Mention)

Feature >>>
"Bomb the System" by Adam Bhala Lough (Best Feature 2003)
"Song For A Raggy Boy" by Aisling Walsh (Honorable Mention)
"Barbeque People" by David Ofek & Yossi Madmony (Honorable Mention)
"Existo" by Coke Sams (Honorable Mention)
"Twis"t by Jacob Tierny (Honorable Mention)

For more information or details of this year's event, please feel free to contact AIFF Director Tony Sheppard directly. Thanks for reading, hope to see you up here next year.