AIFF's New 'Best of the Fests' Features Film About Local Firefighters

The weekend of September 21-23 will see the return of AIFF's most popular films—plus the premiere of 'Young Men and Fire,' a film about wildland firefighters in Grants Pass.

Posted: Sep. 5, 2018 2:49 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. — The Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF) plans to make a brief but triumphant return later this month with their new "Best of the Fests" series, featuring some of the most popular films from this year's festival and the premiere of a film about wildland firefighters based in Grants Pass.

The new series runs September 21-23 at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland and the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford, but will continue with screenings at Eugene’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in October and November.

Opening "Best of the Fests" is Young Men and Fire, a film by Alex Jablonski about wildland firefighters in Southern Oregon.

Young Men and Fire was enthusiastically accepted into AIFF2018, but could not be completed in time for our April festival. I think now the film was waiting for its moment," said AIFF Artistic and Executive Director Richard Herskowitz. "This poetic and revelatory look at the lives of young firefighters working out of Grants Pass could not be more relevant after our summer of harsh wildfires in Southern Oregon.”

Organizers only plan for two screenings of the film—at 6:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on Friday, September 21. Proceeds will benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and AIFF. Along with director Jablonski, members of the Grayback Firefighting Team have been invited to participate in the post-screening discussions.

Four of the most popular and critically acclaimed films from AIFF 2018 will screen over the weekend, including Symphony for Nature: The Britt Festival at Crater Lake and The Reluctant Radical—accompanied by the film's subject, Portland environmental activist Ken Ward.

Also screening on September 22 will be Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End, which will be followed by a Skype conversation with cartoonist Mr. Fish and director Pablo Bryant. The Medford programming will culminate on Sunday, September 23, with a program titled Best of the AIFF2018 Shorts, selected and introduced by Herskowitz and the Senior Programmer in charge of shorts programming, John Stadelman.

See below for the full schedule or visit AIFF's website for full descriptions and trailers.

Friday, September 21 at Varsity Theatre, Ashland
6:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. - 
Young Men and Fire with guest director Alex Jablonski
(Documentary, 76 min.) Meet a firefighting crew based in Grants Pass as they struggle with fear, loyalty, love and defeat over the course of a wildfire season. What emerges is a quietly powerful story of a small group of men—their exterior world, their interior lives, and the fire that lies between. Stay in your seats after the film for a Q&A with the film's director Alex Jablonski and members of the Grayback Forestry Firefighters. Proceeds from these screenings will benefit AIFF and The Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Tickets will be available online at or at the door.

Saturday, September 22 at Collaborative Theatre Project, Medford
1:00 p.m. - Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End featuring a Skype interview with Mr. Fish and director Pablo Bryant
(Documentary, 70 min.) This incisive documentary introduces us to an editorial cartoonist who opens our eyes to the hypocrisy of all political sides with his outrageous, taboo-breaking art. Mr. Fish struggles to stay true to his creativity in a world where biting satiric humor has an ever-diminishing commercial value. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

7:00 p.m. - The Reluctant Radical and Symphony for Nature: Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake with guest activist Ken Ward
(Documentary, 77 min. and Documentary, 27 min.) Lindsey Grayzel’s The Reluctant Radical follows environmental activist Ken Ward as he relentlessly pursues direct action against the fossil fuel industry. We are left to wonder: is he unbalanced, or is the rest of society delusional for not acting when faced with the unsettling evidence that we are collectively destroying the planet? Anne Flatte’s Symphony for Nature chronicles the world premiere of Michael Gordon’s Natural History, an original score performed by conductor Teddy Abrams and the Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

Sunday, September 23 at Collaborative Theatre Project, Medford
1:00 p.m. - Best Of The AIFF2018 Shorts with AIFF programmers Richard Herskowitz and John Stadelman
(81 min.) Six of the finest short films from the 2018 Ashland Independent Film Festival will be introduced and screened by AIFF Director Richard Herskowitz and Senior Programmer John Stadelman. The documentary, narrative, and animated film selections touch on the subjects of immigrant labor, gender disguise, segregation of the disabled, and the spectacle of Donald Trump. Tickets will be available at the door or online at

Ticket Information
Tickets for the Young Men and Fire benefit screening at the Varsity Theatre will be $12 regular/$10 AIFF members, Students, and Seniors. More information on ticketing and films available at Ticket prices at Collaborative Theatre Project will be $10 regular, $9 AIFF members, Students, and Seniors.

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