More than two dozen films will be showcased at the Loft Cinema over eight days during the second annual Loft Film Fest.
"We go to Sundance and South by Southwest (among other film festivals) and try to get the best films we saw," said Jeff Yanc, program director at the Loft Cinema. "We want to get a great sampling of the best movies out this year."
After a Loft employee saw the documentary Grab at the Sundance Film Festival, the Loft was quick to snap it up, Yanc said.
The film's focus is "Grab Day," an annual event in the villages of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo tribe. Tribal members throw food, water and other items from the rooftop of a home to people gathered below.
The ceremony "is our way of giving back to the community for helping us to raise our families. It does take a community to raise a family; we believe in that," said tribal member Josie Seymour, who is shown tossing one of her handmade pots to the crowd.
Director Billy Luther followed Seymour's family and two other families in the days leading up to the ceremony. He said the film features "Indian giving, redefined."
Seymour, who will be on hand to give away a newly made pot to a member of the audience at the noon, Saturday, Nov. 12, screening, said she felt some reservations after agreeing to let Luther film her.
"When he asked me to be in the film, I accepted right off the bat. And then I thought, 'What am I getting myself into?' Once I saw the big picture, I thought, 'Wow, this is big,'" she said.
Seymour said she has attended every screening since the film opened at Sundance, and is deeply touched by the stream of people who come up to her and thank her—many of them in tears.
"People use the term 'Indian giver' in such a negative way, and that's not how our culture is," Seymour said. "People need to know that."
While the Loft has expanded the number of films to be shown this year—Yanc said a total of 29 features are on the schedule—it is still tough to get filmmakers to attend the Tucson premieres.
"You need to have connections in the industry—period," Yanc said. "The reason we were able to start the festival at all is because we connected with a programmer who works at Sundance, who used to work the projections at the Loft."
Directors slated to appear at this year's festival include Richard Kelly, who will be on hand for a 10th anniversary screening of his cult classic Donnie Darko at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11; and Alysa Nahmias, co-director of Unfinished Spaces, which charts the design and construction of Cuba's National Arts Schools—and the stifling bureaucracy that has kept the buildings unfinished after more than 40 years. The screening of Unfinished Business takes place at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12.
Yanc said his goal is to make each showing as interactive as possible. For instance, Louder Than a Bomb (at 4:45 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11), about the world's largest youth-poetry slam, will feature local poets before the film starts.
Film fans can get a taste of what local filmmakers are up to at the Arizona Short Film Showcase, at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14. "It's six or seven films that we're focusing on that are locally made," Yanc said. "It's the one way we can distinguish ourselves."
However, Yanc added: "Our goal, though, is to do more nationally recognized films, ones that would not be shown in Tucson otherwise."
The Loft has signed up community partners to help promote each film at the festival. "They're helping us promote that film, and we're helping promote them at the screening," Yanc said. "We are trying to make this a community festival."