This weekend we have the annual Twin Rivers Media Festival — one of Asheville’s often overlooked gems. Many times I’ve seen films from this festival that were far better than the usual film-festival fare. It wasn’t even unusual for their feature winner to be as good as anything at the now defunct Asheville Film Festival. Twin Rivers is an independent festival — done by the same people who bring Asheville the World Cinema series every Friday in the Railroad Library of the Phil Mechanic Building — and it’s always eclectic, sometimes edgy, often surprising, but invariably worthwhile. This year — though submissions were down a bit — promises to be no exception.
As usual, the festival — which runs Friday from 8 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. from May 27 to 29 — is a mix of shorts, documentaries and features. This year, some favorites from past years have been added to the program. Friday is a mixture of film types. Saturday is given over to animation, experimental works and drama. Sunday is documentaries.
I’ve been able to watch a few of the films for this year, and I’m favorably impressed with the overall quality of the entries. The elegiac short film, Archer (which plays on Friday and Saturday), is a little treasure. It’s not so much an elaborate film as it is a simple look at a small part of an old man’s life and his interaction with the young man who works as caretaker at the cemetery where the older man reads to his departed wife on a daily basis. It may not seem like much, but there’s something oddly touching about the film.
Similarly, another short film, Wolf Call (playing Friday and Saturday), brings an emotional quality to a very simple premise — a radio interview about a racially motivated murder from 1955. And it’s one that plays effectvely on the race angle by casting against race. It might sound odd, but it works in a way that a more straightforward presentation would not have. There’s also some striking animation to be found. The short animated film Prayers for Peace (playing Friday and Saturday) uses a variety of animaton styles to make its point about a memorial for fallen soldiers.
Another short, Keycard (playing Friday and Saturday), focuses on a Polish woman’s attempts to communicate with an Argentinian man in the only language — English — they both at least somewhat understand. It may not be quite on a par with the other shorts I saw, but it is nicely produced and manages to convey just how complicated such an interaction is.
I Need That Record! (second place documentary winner from 2009) is a slick, engaging feature length documentary on the demise — and possible survival of the independent record store. It raises all the right questions while managing to capture a wide array of people’s memories of searching record stores for something new and unexpected or some elusive long sought treasure. It will resonate deeply with anyone who has ever rummaged through an old style record store — and it just might make those who haven’t realize that they’re missing something. If you didn’t catch this one in 2009, here’s another chance. (It shows on Sunday.)
The Twin Rivers Media Festical is hosted by Courtyard Gallery from Friday to Sunday, May 27 to May 29, at Phil Mechanic Studios (109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). For a full list of titles and the complete schedule, visit http://www.twinriversmediafestival.com