Ashland Independent Film Festival Launches Year-Round “Best of the Fests” Film Series with the Oregon Premiere of YOUNG MEN AND FIRE, on Oregon Wildland Firefighters


Young Men and Fire Film Still
Young Men and Fire

The Ashland Independent Film Festival is expanding its year-round programming with a new series, Best of the Fests, which will offer audiences a second chance to see some of the best and most requested films from the most recent AIFF, along with other films generating excitement on the film festival circuit. The series will launch with a “Best of the Fests Weekend” September 21-23 at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland and the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford and continue with screenings at Eugene’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in October and November.


The opening film of the “Best of the Fests Weekend” will be the Oregon premiere of Young Men and Fire, accompanied by director Alex Jablonski. According to AIFF Artistic and Executive Director Richard Herskowitz, “Young Men and Fire was enthusiastically accepted into AIFF 2018, but could not be completed in time for our April festival. I think now the film was waiting for its moment. This poetic and revelatory look at the lives of young firefighters working out of Grants Pass could not be more relevant after our summer of harsh wildfires in Southern Oregon.”

There will be only two screenings of the film at 6:15pm and 8:45pm on Friday, September 21, and proceeds will benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and AIFF. Along with director Jablonski, members of the Grayback Firefighting Team have been invited to participate in the post-screening discussions.

The Reluctant Radical Film Still
The Reluctant Radical

“Best of the Fests Weekend” will continue on September 22 and 23 with three screenings of AIFF 2018 highlights at the Collaborative Theatre Project (CTP) at Medford Center in Medford. According to Herskowitz, “Collaborative has been the home base for the new AIFF MEDFORD initiative since we hosted satellite screenings during the last festival, and we are grateful for the collaboration with this wonderful organization and space.” Four of the most acclaimed films from AIFF 2018 will screen over the weekend, including Symphony for Nature: The Britt Festival at Crater Lake and The Reluctant Radical, accompanied in person by its subject, the Portland environmental activist Ken Ward. Also screening on September 22 will be Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End, which will be followed by a Skype conversation with cartoonist Mr. Fish and director Pablo Bryant. The Medford programming will culminate on Sunday, September 23, with a program titled Best of the AIFF2018 Shorts, selected and introduced by Herskowitz and the Senior Programmer in charge of shorts programming, John Stadelman.

Saving Brinton Film Still
Saving Brinton

In October, Best of the Fests will move to Eugene, where the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will host Saving Brinton on October 10 and Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf. The screenings will be supplemented by Skype conversations with the protagonist of Saving Brinton, Michael Zahs (who delighted AIFF 2018 audiences with his live Magic Lantern presentation) and Thomas Piper, the director of Five Seasons.

Herskowitz concludes: “Best of the Fests will continue with more regional screenings this winter and spring, and we also have a tremendous Varsity World Film Week program coming up in Ashland October 5-12. Southern Oregon deserves to have an active film culture all year long, and AIFF should no longer be seen as a ‘Brigadoon’ appearing and disappearing every April.”


More information on films including full descriptions and trailers available at

Friday, September 21 at Varsity Theatre, Ashland

6:15pm and 8:45pm Young Men and Fire with guest director Alex Jablonski

Young Men and Fire Film Still
Young Men and Fire

(Documentary, 76 min.) Meet a firefighting crew based in Grants Pass as they struggle with fear, loyalty, love and defeat over the course of a wildfire season. What emerges is a quietly powerful story of a small group of men—their exterior world, their interior lives, and the fire that lies between. Stay in your seats after the film for a Q&A with the film’s director Alex Jablonski and members of the Grayback Forestry Firefighters. Proceeds from these screenings will benefit AIFF and The Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Tickets will be available online at or at the door.

Saturday, September 22 at Collaborative Theatre Project, Medford

1:00pm Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End featuring a Skype interview with Mr. Fish and director Pablo Bryant

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End Film Still
Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End

(Documentary, 70 min.) This incisive documentary introduces us to an editorial cartoonist who opens our eyes to the hypocrisy of all political sides with his outrageous, taboo-breaking art. Mr. Fish struggles to stay true to his creativity in a world where biting satiric humor has an ever-diminishing commercial value. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

7:00pm The Reluctant Radical and Symphony for Nature: Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake with guest activist Ken Ward

(Documentary, 77 min. and Documentary, 27 min.)  Lindsey Grayzel’s The Reluctant Radical follows environmental activist Ken Ward as he relentlessly pursues direct action against the fossil fuel industry. We are left to wonder: is he unbalanced, or is the rest of society delusional for not acting when faced with the unsettling evidence that we are collectively destroying the planet? Anne Flatte’s Symphony for Natures chronicles the world premiere of Michael Gordon’s Natural History, an original score performed by conductor Teddy Abrams and the Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

Sunday, September 23 at Collaborative Theatre Project, Medford

1:00pm Best Of The AIFF2018 Shorts with AIFF programmers Richard Herskowitz and John Stadelman

So Much Yellow Film Still
Best of the AIFF2018 Shorts – So Much Yellow

(81 min.) Six of the finest short films from the 2018 Ashland Independent Film Festival will be introduced and screened by AIFF Director Richard Herskowitz and Senior Programmer John Stadelman. The documentary, narrative, and animated film selections touch on the subjects of immigrant labor, gender disguise, segregation of the disabled, and the spectacle of Donald Trump. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

Ticket Information

Ticket prices at Collaborative Theatre Project will be $10 regular, $9 AIFF members, Students, and Seniors. Tickets for the Young Men and Fire benefit screening at the Varsity Theatre will be $12 regular/$10 AIFF members, Students, and Seniors. More information on ticketing and films available at


Wednesday, October 10, 7pm: Saving Brinton with a Skype Q&A with archivist Michael Zahs

In a farmhouse basement in the Iowa countryside, Michael Zahs makes a remarkable discovery: the nitrate film show reels of William Franklin Brinton, the man who introduced moving pictures to the American Midwest. As Michael uncovers this hidden trove, he undertakes a journey to restore Brinton’s legacy and save his irreplaceable cinematic treasures from turning to dust. (Documentary, Directors: Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne, 87 min.)

Thursday, November 1, 7pm: Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf with a Skype Q&A with director Thomas Piper

Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf Film Still
Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Renowned landscape designer Piet Oudolf is known for unique works such as New York City’s High Line and Chicago’s Millennium Park that have revolutionized our conception of public gardens. This gorgeous documentary takes us inside Oudolf’s creative process as he revisits gardens he’s designed around the world, sharing with us how they’ve metamorphosized from abstract plans to living, breathing works of art. (Documentary, Director: Thomas Piper, 75 min.)

Ticket Information

All Schnitzer Cinema programs are free, with popcorn and refreshments also provided. More information on films including full descriptions and trailers available at 

About Ashland Independent Film Festival

The Ashland Independent Film Festival is a widely recognized and highly regarded film festival, screening 100-plus independently made documentary, narrative, animation, and short films at the Varsity Theatre, the Historic Ashland Armory, and the Ashland Street Cinema each April. Praised by filmgoers for the intimate access it affords to filmmakers, and by filmmakers for its warm and intelligent reception given to the filmmakers, the Ashland Independent Film Festival was named by MovieMaker Magazine one of the “Top 25 Coolest Festivals in the Worldin 2016 and “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” in 2018. The National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Arts have each awarded AIFF with rare festival support grants. The 18th annual festival will be held April 11-15, 2019.

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