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Zooey Deschanel in “The Driftless Area” at the Aruba International Film Festival: another spot for indie film

There’s no way around it folks…it’s truly festival season! Between the recently concluded Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival as well as the currently gearing up New York Film Festival, Oscar hopefuls are finding places to screen everywhere. Not all fests are designed to be Academy Award contender showcases though, with some meant to highlight independent film. The Sundance Film Festival is the cream of that crop (with some titles there developing into awards players), with the Tribeca Film Festival another of them. Next month though, a smaller fest is screening an interesting flick that I wanted to mention quickly. It’s the Aruba International Film Festival and the opening screening is The Driftless Area. I saw it back at Tribeca and enjoyed the work from Zooey Deschanel there, so I wanted to give it a moment in the sun.

The film is an indie drama that centers on a young man named Pierre (played by Anton Yelchin) who runs into trouble on the way to his hometown and the danger that develops when he arrives. Pierre’s a bartender whose parents have died, which is why he’s headed home, but a chance encounter with a criminal (John Hawkes) leads to stolen items and a vendetta of sorts. Pierre also begins to fall in love with a mysterious young woman (Deschanel), which clearly complicates matters even more. Zachary Sluser co-writes with Tom Drury and directs, while the cast aside from Deschanel, Hawkes, and Yelchin includes Ciarán Hinds, Frank Langella, Aubrey Plaza, and Alia Shawkat, among others. I can vouch for Deschanel and Yelchin being very good, while Sluser has a unique visual palate that suggests he has a great future ahead of him. The movie is a bit on the slow side, but it does reward patience.

Aruba’s festival (known as AIFF) could be the next in a crop of smaller fests that may very well take advantage of a longer Oscar season. Right now, it’s not meant to feature Academy hopefuls in particular, as mentioned above, but at one point the Hamptons International Film Festival said the exact same thing and now it’s one of the fastest growing showcases for movies in New York, complete with plenty of things to appeal to voters. I have no idea what will happen in the years to come with AIFF, but it’s a place with potential, so that’s why I wanted to quickly highlight its lineup announcement today…

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Here’s the press release announcing the lineup for the Aruba International Film Festival:

The Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) has announced their feature film and documentary competition programs, opening and closing screenings, short sections, and Caribbean films. The fifth annual festival will be held from October 7-11 on the exotic Caribbean island of Aruba. Sponsored by the Aruba Tourism Authority, this world-class event is filled with international and regional premieres of feature-length and short films from around the world, special tributes, master classes, panel discussions, and more.

A jury of industry professionals and acclaimed filmmakers will be presenting awards to competition films in the following categories: International Features, DoxNfocus, Caribbean Spotlight Series, Aruba Flavor and International Shorts.

The Driftless Area / U.S. & Canada (Director: Zachary Sluser, Screenwriters: Tom Drury, Zachary Sluser) Based on the novel of the same title by Tom Drury, Sluser’s neo-noir, metaphysical romance centers on a budding love affair that causes a ripple effect in a quiet town.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Zooey Deschanel, John Hawkes, Alia Shawkat, Frank Langella, Aubrey Plaza, Ciarán Hinds

Viaje / Costa Rica (Director: Paz Fábrega, Screenwriter: Paz Fábrega) After meeting at a party, Luciana and Pedro spark up a spontaneous rendezvous. Eschewing the fraudulent nature of traditional relationships, the pair embarks on a spur of the moment journey together that takes them on a path of personal exploration.
Cast: Kattia González, Fernando Bolaños

International Features and Documentary (DoxNfocus) Highlights:

Countries from across the world are spotlighted in this year’s International Features program, and current news-gripping stories are brought to the screen in DoxNfocus. The jury members for these categories include, among others, Belize International Film Festival director Suzette Zayden and American film producer Steve Stabler (Dumb & Dumber).

The Caribbean premiere of the Cannes Film Festival award-winning (Jury Prize) sci-fi-comedy The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz.

The beautifully lensed Colombian drama La Tierra y la Sombra (Land and Shade), a 4-time award winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (Camera d’Or, France 4 Visionary Award, SACD Award, Grand Golden Rail).

The Glamour and the Squalor, a revelatory documentary following the rise, fall and reemergence of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame radio personality Marco Collins.

Shedding light on the current Syrian refugee crisis is Salam Neighbor, by award-winning documentary filmmakers Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci (Living on One Dollar).

The international premiere of Margot Schaap’s Dutch indie drama Een Dag in ‘t Jaar (12 Months in 1 Day).

The Martin Scorsese-inspired mafia epic Bombay Velvet, the new Bollywood film directed by Anurag Kashyap and starring Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.

The international premiere of the horror-comedy hit The Final Girls, starring Nina Dobrev, Malin Ackerman, Taissa Farmiga, Adam DeVine, Alia Shawkat and Alexander Ludwig.

Caribbean Spotlight Series Highlights:

The festival’s popular Caribbean Spotlight Series competition returns with its strongest program to date. This category will be juried by, among others, Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen (Joy, Sideways) and André Bennett, President & CEO of Canadian distribution company Cinema Esperança International.

The critically-acclaimed drama Liz en Septiembre (Liz in September) from Venezuela, directed by Cannes Camera d’Or winner Fina Torres (Oriana) and starring supermodel/actress Patricia Velasquez (Scorpion).

The international premiere of La Granja (The Farm), the fascinating new suspense-drama from Puerto Rican director Angel Manuel Soto.

The intimate documentary Tocando la Luz (Touch the Light) from Oscar-nominated filmmakers Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger (Sun Come Up), about the lives of three blind Cuban women in search for independence in present-day Havana.

The nostalgic drama Sin Alas (Without Wings) by director Ben Chace, the first American feature film shot entirely in Cuba since 1959.

Deal With It, the gritty, award-winning documentary from Aruban director Shamira Raphaëla.

Industry and Special Events:

This year, the festival will host master classes and panel discussions with attending filmmakers, on-camera talent and special guests, on topics such as acting, documentary filmmaking, marketing and distribution, and gender equality in the film industry.

For the complete festival lineup, go to:

About the Aruba International Film Festival:

Sponsored by the Aruba Tourism Authority, the Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) is one of the international film community’s essential stops on the Caribbean and South American film festival circuit. The festival serves to not only develop an understanding and appreciation of the art of cinema and filmmaking, but also to inspire, educate and promote emerging local and regional filmmaking talent.

The fifth edition of the AIFF promises to once again feature a fine selection of international narrative, documentary, and short films from every corner of the globe, while offering its guests in-depth panel discussions and master classes, and rare “In Conversation With” sessions with top industry professionals.

The festival creates an environment where local and Caribbean filmmakers can learn from and network with one another, while gaining a truly unique and exclusive festival experience. The AIFF’s popular Caribbean Spotlight Series and Aruba Flavor competitions have drawn some of the finest regional films to Aruba, and continue to provide a platform for local filmmakers to feature their latest works. Films that have premiered in these categories, such as Abo So (Aruba), Boys of Summer (Curaçao), Children of the Wind (Bonaire), and Peace: Memories of Anton de Kom (Netherlands/Suriname) have gone on to award-winning, international festival runs in the Caribbean, USA, Canada, Europe, and South America.

Stay tuned for more on The Driftless Area when it hits theaters at some point next year!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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