Film festival brings international flair

By ROBYN ZELICKSON

The world arrived in Tucson last month, courtesy of the Arizona International Film Festival.

AIFF took place from April 14 to May 1 at The Screening Room, located downtown at 127 E. Congress St.

Over the course of the festival’s 25 years, 95 countries have submitted films.

“We received over 800 submissions and accepted over 100 from 25 countries this year alone,” said Mia Schnaible, AIFF director of marketing and development.

The films covered categories from action to science fiction in a multitude of themes.

Los Angeles filmmaker Desmond Devenish was represented with his entry, “Misfortune.” Devenish spent three weeks shooting the crime thriller in Tucson.

Co-star and co-writer Xander Bailey worked in Tucson on the 2010 short film, “My Father’s Son.” He loved the location and convinced Devenish to shoot their new film in the city.

AIFF was the best fit for the film’s U.S. premiere, Devenish said. “Misfortune” screened to a packed house of enthusiastic and absorbed listeners on April 29.

Devenish had considered bigger festivals such as Tribeca and Sundance. “The nice thing about coming here is I shot this locally, and I have so much respect and support for this community,” he said.

The film’s world premiere screening took place in India in January.

“People don’t know what to make of it but I wanted to do it because I thought, ‘What a great experience,’” Devenish said. “To go to a country east of Europe, that’s now coming to gain even more appreciation for traditional cinema, as well as stronger financing options for overseas films.”

“Misfortune” was a collaboration of talent, with locals playing extras and working on the crew. Sound re-recording and mixing came from Tony Lamberti, who has worked on movies such as “Django Unchained” and “Inglourious Basterds” for Quentin Tarantino.

Devenish believes talent is very important, along with creativity, original ideas and passion. He has learned, however, that persistence trumps all.

His thesis project, “Split,” gained distribution at Cannes because of persistence. All meetings with distributors were booked, so Devenish crashed a breakfast meeting.

Two months later, he received an email asking if “Split” was still available. He was given a distribution deal with Shorts International, a rarity for a short film.

“Misfortune” will continue on the festival circuit.

“We have a couple more spots with this film,” Devenish said. “We’re playing Black Hills, South Dakota, and then we have an LA screening. Our goal of the circuit is to come back to Tucson and get a nice theatrical here.”

Devenish plans to generate more visibility for films in Tucson and Arizona. The state does not offer tax incentives, but he believes the legislature will be more inclined to institute inducements for filmmakers if more films are made here.

Up next for Devenish is work as an associate producer on a documentary called “Gregory Porter, Don’t Forget Your Music.” It spotlights a Grammy-winning jazz vocalist from Bakersfield who moved to New York, performed in Harlem and made a name for himself.

“He’s extremely popular in Germany and other countries in Europe but does not have any significant visibility in the U.S.,” Devenish said. “There’s a lot of talent that is present and it’s just about finding an outlet.”

Finding an outlet is also the goal of another of Devenish’s  projects—a collective called Gunnison Galaxy.

“My goal is ultimately to create a place where we can have any independent artists that work together to have distribution and great avenues and be able to more easily pipeline projects from beginning to end,” he said.

“I think there needs to be much more synergy in this industry and I see how effectively it works in smaller pockets,” he added. “I know for a fact that it’s going to be very successful when we all start working together and finding our mutual goals and are able to find a way to make all of our projects come together.”

Devenish’s philosophy of successful filmmaking exceeds profits. He believes you need to get out of your mind, let go of fear, believe in the work and know that the goal is bigger than you.

“It’s not so much about people understanding your ideas or understanding your metaphors,” he said.

Rather, he believes people come to the movies to have an experience. “If you can provide that experience for them, then you have this mutual moment and that’s wonderful.”

Desmond Devenish awaits his “Misfortune” screening. Robyn Zelickson/Aztec Press

Desmond Devenish awaits his “Misfortune” screening.
Robyn Zelickson/Aztec Press

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