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The Films of the Fest

The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bobcat Goldthwait, a place called Donut Taco Palace II and more than 40 other films all find a place at the Loft Film Festival

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The Loft Cinema is unleashing its fourth annual Loft Film Fest this week, and the amount of amazing, quality films this year is staggering. More than 40 international and independent films will be showcased from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11. Many of the films will be presented along with director, writer and producer Q&A's, and there will be three recipients of the Lofty Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

From eye-opening documentaries to extravagant science fiction epics, from hilarious short films to moody dramas, the Loft Film Fest has something for everybody.

"I feel like overall this is definitely our strongest film fest lineup yet, both in terms of the diversity and the eclectic nature of the programming in general, and in the quality of the individual films on a one-on-one basis," Loft Cinema program director Jeff Yanc says. "This year's program runs an extremely wide gamut, from an iconic animated Disney film like The Nightmare Before Christmas to a unique philosophical documentary like A Pervert's Guide to Ideology, and pretty much everything in between."

With the addition of the Loft's third screen last year, the theater is able to offer more programming. What used to be a Meineke Car Care center is now an elaborate screening room that seats around 100. The third screen made its debut at the kickoff of last year's festival.

"For this year's fest, we've got a full 12 months of experience with the third screen under our belts, so it's all much less stressful," Yanc says. "Having the third screen has obviously allowed us to book more films for the fest, which is fantastic, and because it's smaller than our huge 500-seat auditorium, it's given us the ability to maybe take chances on booking smaller films that are great films, but that might not necessarily fill a 500-seat venue. It really helps keep the energy of the screening on a high level and adds to the excitement of the festival experience."

Of the 40-plus films this year, one of the highlights is PAINing POORtraits, the first documentary feature from local filmmaker Adam Cooper-Terán.

"I'm a Mexi-Yaqui-Jew chamaco born and raised in Tucson with my two other brothers, Abraham and Jacob," Cooper-Terán says. "I started working my chops as a video-maker with Flam Chen in 2005 and that ultimately led to becoming a touring performance artist with Dirtyverbs Phillips and Verbo•bala."

His documentary takes a look at the work of controversial painter, author and spoken-word performance artist Steven Leyba, whom art critic Carlo McCormick once dubbed "father of Sexpressionism." The hourlong doc pulls no punches as it showcases friends and enemies destroying Leyba's paintings, follows Leyba on a national tour performing pieces from his hand-painted book on the evils of Monsanto, and presenting interviews with author Howard Bloom, counterculture icon Genes P-Orridge and Tucson performance artists Mat Bevel and David Wright. Cooper-Terán's visual style complements Leyba's psychotronic work perfectly and feels right at home in downtown Tucson's vibrant arts scene.

Each year the Loft Cinema presents a Lofty Lifetime Achievement Award to film industry icons. Past recipients include the suave German cult actor Udo Kier and the "king of the B-movies," Roger Corman.

"Each year, we want to give the Lofty Lifetime Achievement Award to someone from the film industry who has made, and is still making, significant contributions to cinema culture," Yanc says. "And ideally, the Lofty recipient will also always have that 'surprise factor' in that they may be an unexpected choice that hopefully will have audiences wondering throughout the year, 'Who's going to receive a Lofty next year?'"

This year the award is being handed out to not one, not two, but three legendary film figures. Former Saturday Night Live performer Jon Lovitz ("Yeah, that's the ticket!,) will be handed his award on Sunday, Nov. 10, at a private residence; Oscar-nominated special-effects wizard Pete Kozachik will receive his on Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Loft Cinema following a screening of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas; and local legend Bob Shelton, the driving force during the heyday of Hollywood productions at Old Tucson Studios, will be given an award on Monday, Nov. 11 at noon. In Shelton's honor, the Loft Cinema is establishing the Bob Shelton Tucson Film Legacy Award, which Shelton will be presenting at next year's film festival.

Returning to the Loft Film Fest this year is legendary, vocal-chord-shredding comedian and film director Bobcat Goldthwait. Although he dropped the voice shtick a while back, his sense of humor is as sharp and caustic as ever. In 2010, Goldthwait presented the short film Goldthwait Home Movies at the first Loft Film Fest. This year he's back with Willow Creek, a full-length, found-footage horror film about Bigfoot. In case there's any doubt, Goldthwait is a believer.

"It confuses some people because I'm an atheist, but unlike God, I have met people who have actually seen Bigfoot," Goldthwait says.

Equal parts The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Blair Witch Project, Willow Creek follows a young couple to the forests of northern California to track down the elusive Sasquatch. They're armed with a camcorder, interviewing locals for a Web series. After downing some delicious-looking "Bigfoot Burgers" at a local diner, they're off to the dense forest where Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin filmed the legendary beastly biped footage in 1967. Ignoring the town folks' warnings, the couple set up camp near the Bigfoot sighting. Before you know it, things take a turn for the worse and get real creepy. The real-life locals of Willow Creek are the stars of the film, however. There are men singing Bigfoot ballads, women selling Bigfoot decorations and a crazed fan who runs a Bigfoot bookstore. Goldthwait is clearly laughing along with the locals.

"Originally I thought I'd do a Christopher Guest-type movie, but once I went to Willow Creek I felt parodying the Bigfoot culture was cruel," Goldthwait says. "These people are tolerated less than al-Qaida."

THE BEST OF THE FEST

With more than 40 films to choose from, picking the best ones can be an arduous task. There's just not enough space to write about each one. What follows are six recommendations.

A Teacher

with writer/director Hannah Fidell in person

8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9

It seems like every other day there's a fresh headline about a female teacher having an affair with an underage male student. The public reaction is mostly always the same: What where they thinking? Washington, D.C., native Hannah Fidell takes a long, simmering look at these dangerous and, yes, often romantic relationships in her first feature-length film, A Teacher. Newcomer Lindsay Burdge plays Diane, a 20-something high school teacher carrying on a passionate love affair with 17-year-old student Eric. The film rarely budges from Diane's point of view; she's in almost every frame of the film laughing, kissing, making love, worrying, stalking and crying. There's a lot of tone and atmosphere; we get the sense early on that something happened to Diane within her family, but nothing is ever fully explained. Fidell is a great new director, and I predict you'll be seeing a lot more of Burdge soon.

Bastards

3:15 p.m., Friday, Nov 8

French film director Claire Denis' Bastards, a 2013 official selection from Cannes, is not an easy film to watch. It's a moody, unsettling film noir that delves into the seedy Paris underworld of sex torture films, incest, politics and money. Marco (the amazing, chain-smoking Vincent Lindon), a tanker captain at sea, is called back to Paris by his sister, whose husband has just committed suicide. Their family business faces financial ruin and his niece is in a catatonic state. He moves into an apartment where he meets Sandra (Chiara Mastroianni), the mistress of a prominent local business leader. Soon, he's unearthing unpleasant secrets that tie his family with his new neighbor and her lover. Denis' film is a tension-filled slide into a world where life is cheap and hedonism is king.

Go For Sisters

2:15 p.m., Monday, Nov. 11

Indie film maverick John Sayles still has it. Go For Sisters is Sayles' 18th film, and his best since 1996's Lone Star. Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton) is a no-nonsense parole officer with a missing son. He returned from the war in Afghanistan and got into the people-smuggling business with a Chinese gang operating from Tijuana. Fontaine (Yolanda Ross) is a recent parolee trying to ditch the street life that landed her in jail. She's assigned to Bernice, and the two have history stretching back to high school. This unlikely duo team up to find Bernice's son, and they get help from a retired LAPD officer, Freddy Suarez (Edward James Olmos), nicknamed "The Terminator." Olmos is at his best here, simultaneously channeling his role as Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver and his steely-eyed, no-bullshit Lt. Castillo from TV's Miami Vice.

Il Futuro

9:45 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8

Il Futuro is a moody, captivating coming-of-age tale that defies convention. While watching this film, I thought it could slip into any genre at any time. There are tones of horror, sci-fi, noir and romantic comedy at every turn. Bianca and Tomas' parents have just died in a car accident, and the two teenagers are left to fend for themselves in their family apartment in Rome. Bianca lands a job at a hair salon, and the unambitious Tomas ditches school to work in a neighborhood gym. Two muscle-heads from the gym decide to move in, to little protest from the two orphans. Tomas likes their company; Bianca lazily sleeps with the two of them. The gym rats hatch a plan to rob a blind former B-movie star played by Rutger Hauer (naturally), but their plan to use Bianca as bait backfires as she starts to fall in love him. What follows next is an enchanting love story and character study. Sorry, Hobo With a Shotgun fans. While I love that film, this is Hauer's true comeback.

Narco Cultura

7:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10

Ciudad Juárez is known as the murder capital of the world. While there has been a recent decline in slayings, more than 600 people were killed there last year. Most of the killings are connected to the drug cartels that are jockeying for control over this border town. Narco Cultura shines a spotlight on what is going on there, and the culture it's spreading north of the border, primarily through musicians who are writing songs glorifying the cartel leaders as modern-day Robin Hoods. The documentary focuses on one band in particular, BuKnas de Culican. There's footage of them recording in the studio, playing in front of packed crowds at clubs across the country and showing up at photo shoots in designer bulletproof vests. They are also shown touring Culican's drug fields and the lavish cemeteries where cartel chiefs are buried. It's an eye-opening look at the pop-culture side effects the War on Drugs is supplying.

Zero Charisma

10:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9

Scott is an overweight, 20-something, selfish metalhead who still lives at home with his grandma. The only thing he has going for him is his weekly game night; the kind of games that involve 12-sided dice and metal figurines. But even that goes sour when hipster Miles joins the festivities. Not only is Miles winning over Scott's friends with his good sense of humor and openness—things Scott lacks—but he's also turning game-master Scott's rules upside down. For anyone who has ever spent time hunched over a Dungeons and Dragons manual or a set of Magic cards for hours on end, this movie is a must-see. Zero Charisma rests on the mighty Sam Eidson's shoulders; he's hilarious at times and frightful at others, and utterly believable as a guy who whacks off to anime and works at a place called Donut Taco Palace II.

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