Anchorage International Film Festival returns with hundreds of new films

This year, the Anchorage International Film Festival will showcase 129 new films independently made by filmmakers all over the globe.

On Dec. 1, AIFF kicked off at Bear Tooth Theatrepub, where they have been hosting the event for the last sixteen years. Bear Tooth will not be the only theater to host all the films, though. Other locations include Alaska Experience Theatre, the Anchorage Museum, 49th State Brewing Company and more.

Volunteers review every single submission from May to September.

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Poster design by Nora Gecan. Gecan won gold in the AIGA Alaska “The Big One” graphic competition for her AIFF design.

“We receive about 1,000 submissions per year, and we have a group of programmers that are all volunteers,” Jessica Kaiser, AIFF program director, said. “[The submitted films] are divided up into categories, depending what [the programmers] are interested in. Then [the programmers] pick the best of the best to be shown for the festival. When that process is done, they pick the best films of their selections, and then those films go to a jury. At the end of the festival, there are awards based on jury selection.”

All films being featured this year must have been made after Jan. 1, 2016. There are seven categories of the films: animation, documentary, short documentary, shorts, feature, made in Alaska and made by youth.

This year, AIFF is flying about 50 of the filmmakers up to Alaska to attend the festival. There is also a filmmaker meet-and-greet, workshops and even a virtual reality experience for festival-goers to attend as well.

UAA English professor, Ronald Spatz, has his made-in-Alaska short film, “Shaawatke’é’s Birth,” being featured Sunday, Dec. 10, after the feature-length film “Keep Talking” directed by Karen Weinberg, at Alaska Experience Theatre.

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Spatz’s film is a simple reading of a poem of the same name. It was written by two University of Alaska Southeast professors, Emily Wall and X’unei Lance Twitchell, who are the individuals speaking in the film. The poem was originally published in the spring 2017 edition of Alaska Quarterly Review.

Spatz, editor-in-chief of AQR, wanted to do something special for AQR’s 35th anniversary and decided that making a film would be a good way to celebrate the milestone. Spatz was the executive producer and worked alongside director Ryan Cortes Perez to create the four-minute short film.

“Because it’s short, it’ll make an impression,” Spatz said. “It’s unique by being minimalist.”

“Shaawatke’é’s Birth” is spoken in English and Tlingit and is a message recognizing the importance of language and identity.

AIFF has a little bit of everything. For Andrea Trent, UAA environment and society major, she is looking forward to attending the Dec. 5 showing of “The Last Animals.”

“The AIFF is a great way to introduce worldly topics that people may otherwise be oblivious to,” Trent said. “I appreciate media that introduces environmental injustices, and simultaneously serve as a call to action, which I think [“The Last Animals”] will do.”

“The Last Animals” is a feature-length documentary directed by Kate Brooks. It follows scientists, activists and conservationists on their journey of advocating protection over endangered animals such as rhinos and elephants.

AIFF sells about 100 All Films Passes a year. Passes allow the pass-holder to get into every event the Festival holds. Individual tickets are $10. Purchasing tickets in advance is encouraged.

“We’re trying to get a broader audience involved, opening up things up to people that wouldn’t necessarily know we exist,” Kaiser said. “We’re getting involved and partnering with local companies just to do sponsorship, it’s really been helpful as well, with them supporting us, us supporting them. We’re a nonprofit so we’re running on a bare-bones budget. We want to be a real resource to our community. ”

AIFF started Dec. 1 and will run until Dec. 10. The full schedule of films, times and locations, as well as tickets and passes, are available at