A conversation with Athens Center for Film and Video director Ruth Bradley
By Damon Krane
The InterActivist Magazine (Athens, Ohio)
Springtime is a very special time here in Athens, Ohio. Along with an abundance of blossoms, birds and breasts, the season also heralds the arrival of the Athens International Film and Video Festival – now rn its 31st year! With 22 feature films, 155 competition films, and a visit from actor/director Steve Buscemi, the 2005 Festival boasts a smorgasbord of independent media that you won’t find anywhere else in the region. Just before the beginning of the Festival, I spoke with Festival organizer Ruth Bradley, who directs the Athens Center for Film and Video and teaches at OU’s School of Film.
What can people find at the Film Fest that they won’t find at a theatre like Movies Ten?
Most of what we’ll screen is made by people outside of commercial, for-profit media. We screen lots of shorts, animations, experimental films, political films, documentaries, and feature narratives that never grace the screens of more for-profit theaters. Most of this material won’t be available on DVD, it won’t be downloadable from the web – these are visions and voices that represent viewpoints and passions that fall outside of mainstream media. That’s what excites me about the festival… and why I don’t retire to my little farm and quit working.
According to the Program booklet, this year’s Film Festival includes 22 feature films and 155 competition films. What’s the difference between feature films and competition films?
The feature films are curated by the Festival staff – that is, we research what films are available, and then book those films specifically for the Festival – they are not competing for any prize. Competitions films might be a “feature” – that is, they might be feature length. But all competition films, regardless of length, have been submitted by their makers into our competition, and are competing for $6000 in prize money.
How is the Festival organized? What is your role in its organization, and how did you come to occupy that role?
Some people would say it’s not organized very well – which might be our strength. As much as possible, everybody involved in putting on the festival has input into our decisions. People suggest feature films, and research them. Students and community people sit and watch all the competition films and then vote on which ones will be screened at the Festival. Students and volunteers put on fund-raisers, which they execute pretty much on their own. My role in the organization is the person of ultimate responsibility: I have to answer for all decisions, and I have to administer all the money. I also write the grants, deal with problems, and apply my 30 years of experience in festival management to the tasks at hand. I came to occupy this role because I did the same thing in Ann Arbor’ for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and l9 years ago, Ohio University offered me a job – offered to pay me to do the same thing I did in Ann Arbor as a non-Paid staff member!
Has the Festival grown over time, and is it continuing to grow in the future?
It depends on what you mean by “growth”. We screen about the same number of films, because there is a limit in the time/space continuum as to how many films you can screen in one space in the time of one week. Without more screens, we can’t grow in that respect. I think maybe the festival has grown over time, with regards to its regional and national reputation, and hopefully, that aspect of the Festival will grow even more in the future.
What films (or videos) are you most excited about?
That’s hard to say. But The InterActivist’s readers would probably want to catch Deep Dish TV’s “Shocking and Awful: A Grass Roots Response to War and Occupation.” It’s a multi-episode project that we’ll be screening every morning – different episodes each day. And it’s free admission. Beyond that, people should just go to http://www.athensfest.org and check out the full schedule themselves.