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Athens, GA Festival Returning With New Leadership and A New Name

Athens, GA Festival Returning With New Leadership and A
New Name

by Eugene Hernandez




Its been a rocky road for film festival staffers in Athens, GA since the
conclusion of their first year event last October. By all accounts,
year one was a major success. The young group of local organizers did
the unthinkable by not only creating a solid debut event, but garnering
significant interest from local creative types and college students -- no
small feat in a city that is renowned for its rich musical tradition and
noted visual art scene. The town that bore such acclaimed rock groups
as R.E.M. and the B-52's rallied around the first year festival
alongside R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, whose band served as a primary sponsor
of the event. A partner in two film production companies (including
C-Hundred with "Girls Town" filmmaker Jim McKay), Stipe hung around the
festival all week, attending screenings and parties, and welcoming
out-of-towners from indieWIRE, FILMMAKER Magazine and others into local
Athens hangouts. When the festival concluded at a private party
following the closing night activities, and a coincidental Homecoming
Concert by the B-52's, enthusiasm for the festival was high. On hand
were Stipe, members of the B's, and an array of local artists and
festival attendees -- celebrating the conclusion of a local first.


Surprisingly, a few months later it looked as if the event might not
make it to year two. At Sundance in January, Stipe told indieWIRE that
he was unsure about plans for the '98 event. Festival Director Juanita
Giles had resigned that month, leaving the rest of the small planning
team scrambling. It took another three months for organizers to regroup
and finally last month representatives contacted indieWIRE to confirm
that the festival would be back for year two with a new name and a
re-shuffled crew. Back for '98 are last year's second-in-command Paul
Marchant along with '97 programmer Todd Campbell, the two are serving as
the Co-Directors and Co-Programmers for the event (October 7 - 10, 1998)
which has been re-named "The Kudzu Film Festival."


"You cannot kill Kudzu," Marchant told indieWIRE recently, referring to
the plant from which the '98 festival derives its name. A native of
Japan, the plant was brought to the southern region to fight erosion,
Marchant explained, adding that the foilage "takes over any sort of
vegetation" by growing at a startling pace. With the plant as its new
mascot, organizers are hoping to "mimic that accelerated growth rate,"
Marchant explained. Rounding out the core planning group are Nic Holte
and Jason Emond, partners with Campbell in a local promotional and
development company called Prometheus X. Also on board is Doug Eller,
returing in '98 as the festival's Technical Director.


Of great pride to organizers and locals is the fact the festival returns
to the historic Morton Theater in Athens. Last year, the Sundance
Channel
came through with sponsorship allowing festival planners to
equip the majestic venue with 35mm projection. This year, the theater
is a sponsor of the festival and the Sundance Channel is among the
returning sponsors, along the local alternative weekly, "The Flagpole",
Kodak, FILMMAKER Magazine, and indieWIRE. Intermedia, the local cable
company has also been added as a sponsor for '98, and planners are again
working closely with local arts advocate, Athens Mayor Gwen O'Looney.


Kudzu planners confirm that the event is taking shape. Strand
Co-President Marcus Hu is on tap to serve as a festival judge, according
to Marchant, along with Linda Tadic a Peabody Awards curator who
also represents the Media Archives at local University of
Georgia. Meanwhile, programmers are weeding through entries and putting
out a final call for narrative, documentary, and animation works of
feature or short-subject length. The festival will again include
workshops, morning coffee events, and late-night concerts following
screening programs.


Initially apprehensive about the ability to re-group and pull the
festival together in a few months, Paul Marchant explained local
sentiment for the event changed his mind. "The city showed that they
wanted their film festval back...it was gonna happen with me or not."


[The entry deadline for the 1998 Kudzu Film Festival is August 1st (the
late deadline is August 15th). To receive an application, call
706.227.6090 or fax 706.227.1083. Or contact the festival at
kudzufest@aol.com. Download an application from the festival Internet
site at: <www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Studio/8728>


>> RELATED ARTICLE @ indieWIRE.com


(Oct 28, 1997) Athens, GA -- Outside In: A Report from the 1997 Athens
Film Festival

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