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The Twin Rivers Media Festival is Not Your Typical Film Festival
The Twin Rivers Media Festival is the first weekend in May each year in Asheville, NC. All proceeds from the festival are returned to the filmmakers and media artists after promotional and other expenses. Next year will be the 15th season of the Twin Rivers Media Festival.
The festival jury begins with the selection of films in March and April and continues directly on the official dates of the festival, during the first weekend in May, when the finalists are screened in two-hour intervals throughout the weekend. The independent media festival usually attracts around 150 viewers for each screening, totaling over a thousand visitors. “Twin Rivers audiences really appreciate media art, and this festival gives them a chance to see things that wouldn’t otherwise be available. We get submissions from all over Europe and Asia, as well as the Americas. The best in the world,” says Carlos Steward, founder and driving force festivals.
With 400-500 submissions coming from some of the best independent media artists working around the world, Twin Rivers focuses on substance over glitz and strives to be more eclectic than the typical film festival. In addition to showcasing some of the best independent documentaries, short dramas and feature films being made anywhere in the world today, The Twin Rivers Media Festival also offers categories for artists working in CD multimedia, audio media, commercials, internet media and websites. There are even special categories such as “Made on a Mac” or for projects that deal with outdoor, conservation or environmental topics.
Over the years, Twin Rivers and its predecessors became extremely popular with West Coast indie artists and film schools. Most of the films submitted are from California, followed by film schools like NYU and Florida State, then the Southwest. Successful professional artists will often be invited to speak about their work and teach workshops. Among students and local budding artists, the festival’s main attraction is education. Filmmakers and other media artists can network, talk about projects and exchange ideas in a supportive environment.
Stewards love of media art goes far beyond film and he wanted his festival to be more open and open to all media art. “These art forms are so similar and interconnected,” notes Steward, “I wanted to do more for independent artists who are creating amazing work in media other than film.” In the early 1980s, the Stewards’ vision was realized and a media festival in upstate New York was born. Since then, he has participated in festivals in states across the country, most recently settling in Asheville, North Carolina, where the Twin Rivers Media Arts Festival continues to grow and expand. “Asheville has an amazing community that’s very supportive of independent media,” says Steward, “it allows great exposure for artists from the US and other parts of the world.”
As a film student at Florida State University and a documentary filmmaker in Mexico and Central and South America, Steward has learned firsthand how difficult it is to get an independent film to audiences. “Underground media festivals are a great way to show things that wouldn’t normally be seen by a very wide audience. That’s where the idea to create my own film festival started, and this current incarnation here in Asheville is the best yet.”
Asheville offers additional advantages in that although the festival celebrates art from around the world, the entire event is organized and produced by local talent. Film judges belong to and are commissioned by MAP (The Media Arts Project) of Western North Carolina. Sound and script judges come from various professional studios in and around Asheville. Steward believes Asheville is the perfect community to host a media arts festival. “I’ve been all over the world, and Asheville has one of the most amazing pools of local talent I’ve ever seen,” notes Steward. He tries to involve as many local artists as possible to ensure the festival has a real community feel and many art forms are represented.
With 102 world premieres and 8 North American premieres, Twin Rivers Media Festival offers some of the best independent screenings to be found anywhere. Jamie Hester, a fan of the festival and a regular at The Courtyard Gallery’s Friday night World Cinema series, commented on some of his favorite entries from last year: “I really liked Tao Ruspoli’s and Sandy Crichton’s ‘Karearea’. It was amazing.” Twin Rivers volunteer Jarrett Leone commented, “I liked Jarrad Kritzstein’s ‘Camp Woz,’ and not just because of the name. I really liked ‘Eyes of the Ancestors’ by Kalani Queypo, a Native American filmmaker from California.”
The Twin Rivers Media Festival is not your typical film festival. This amazing showcase of some of the brightest international media artists manages to deliver world-class talent without the slightest pretentiousness. No Hollywood stars walking red carpets to fancy screenings here. At The Courtyard Gallery, home to The Twin Rivers Media Festival, you’re more likely to find yourself in a cozy chair or sofa surrounded by one of the most diverse collections of local and international visual artists’ work, or sit in the courtyard itself. and enjoy a secluded outdoor screening area.
There are many reasons why artists choose to enter Twin Rivers. Many are interested in very popular film categories such as feature film, documentary or short drama. Competing filmmakers thus have the chance to see how their project stacks up against 100-200 of the world’s best entries. Other categories are less competitive than other festivals and attract participants who may feel they have a better chance of being rewarded for their work. Top winners will receive a unique handmade trophy or plaque by Mexican artist Cynlos.
Although Twin Rivers is a labor of love and takes up much of Steward’s time from March to early May, he believes it is worth it. “Getting a truly exceptional entry from an unknown filmmaker just blows everyone away. This year, one of those was Muhammad Ali Hasan’s student film ‘Rábia’, about a young Islamic woman who straps explosives around her waist and then shows her past life in flashbacks. It’s a wonderful little film. Filmmakers and media artists need audiences to appreciate the tremendous amount of work that goes into their projects. Some of these projects are labors of love that can take ten years to create. To be able to produce these for an appreciative audience is truly amazing to see.”
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