Thu, May 23

Sedona International Film Festival

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THE cast of the feature film Never Been Thawed, a selection of the Sedona Film Festival.

Great features, documentaries, shorts, and student films, plus workshops with experts on the art of directing, will provide four days of nonstop excitement for all who find the movies a source of pleasure and enchantment.

There’s a “Cast Party” Friday night at the Radisson Poco Diablo Resort, which will provide an opportunity for attendees to put on their dancing shoes and party with the stars. Filmmakers, cast and crew members, celebrity guests, festival sponsors and film lovers will join in a presentation of awards to festival honorees. The sounds of Sistah Blue are sure to keep toes tapping, and there will be cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to fuel the merriment.

Ed Asner, who won five Emmy awards for his portrayal of Lou Grant, the crusty, irascible news director on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and on "Lou Grant," will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award during Friday’s “Cast Party” gala. He is being recognized, especially, for his contributions and commitment to independent filmmaking.

This year’s festival even has a special session for those wanting to learn the secrets of successfully “pitching” a screenplay to producers and another for young filmmakers, ages 10 to 15.

The festivities come to a climax Sunday with the Festival Awards Brunch, at L’Auberge de Sedona. The Audience Choice and Director’s Choice awards will be announced, and those at the intimate brunch will learn first which film is “Best of Fest.”

At the center of the action during the four days are films that reflect the unique vision of talented artists whose work covers a wide range of subjects, emotions and locales.

Those who see the documentary Homecoming will be inspired by the stories of 14 men and women who were orphaned and raised in institutions that often conjure up images of stern headmasters straight out of the pages of a Dickens novel.

Homecoming presents intimate, moving, often funny stories about experiences in the orphanages. They are stories of resilience and gratitude, stories of love and lives celebrated, not of deprivation and damage done.

A quite different vision of human relationships is found in Hate Crime, a film that takes an unblinking look at intolerance.

Shot in Dallas, Hate Crime was written and directed by Sedona resident Tommy Stovall, whose partner, Marc Sterling, was the film’s executive director.

Hate Crime is a movie that shows that even the most unlikely among us is capable of exacting Old Testament revenge and justice and that there can be an impulse to act in God’s stead when we suspect he isn’t doing enough. The movie is visually and psychologically dark, though there are glimpses of the possibility of redemption.

While the film shows what can result from blind hatred and bigotry — the multiple messages are not far from the viewer’s mind — there is plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement. But Hate Crime is not obvious in the way most contemporary American thrillers and horror films are. There are no car chases, no explosions, no gratuitous blood and gore, no AK 47s mowing down the masses, no asteroids crashing into Earth.

A third and quite different portrayal of relationships is found in Spin, which presents a gentle, sympathetic treatment of subject matter that could have been exploited for its sensation value.

The that power love and family ties can have in uniting people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds is the focus of the film, directed by James Redford. Redford, who also wrote the screenplay, based his work on the novel "Spin" by the film’s producer, Donald Everett Axinn.

Set in Southern Arizona during the 1950s, Spin is, in Redford’s words, “a drama based on sort of subtle, intimate emotions played out against a huge backdrop.” And that backdrop, the immense spaces of the desert, reminds viewers of their small size — and the small size of their problems — when contrasted with the sparse, beautiful, impassive landscape.

To summarize Spin as a movie about a Caucasian youth, Eddie Haley, raised in a Latino family who is involved in an interracial romance is to miss Redford’s and Axinn’s central point: that in a world used to the portrayal of violence and speed, it is important to remember life really unfolds more subtly, gently and slowly than we are generally led to believe.

These three movies and a hundred more will give festival-goers a four day, world-class feast for the eyes that will be remembered long after the final credits roll.

For festival tickets or more information, visit or call 282-1177.