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September 3, 2015

“Putting on the Ritz” with the Joshua Tree International Film Festival.

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"Putting on the Ritz" with the Joshua Tree International Film Festival

By Hilary Sloane

Does it get any better? We have Hollywood, the Palms Springs Film Festival, and the Joshua Tree National Park. Now we have our own International Film Festival. 

Residents of the High Desert will have a chance to see some of the best Independent feature films and shorts, right here in local venues. There are also events, panel discussions, workshops and red carpet parties that will set the High Desert on fire.

The Joshua Tree International Film Festival (JTIFF) will begin Friday, September 18th and run through Sunday, September 20th. Festival venues will include the Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce, Ricochet, the Starlight Courtyard behind Pie for the People, JT trading post, The Station, 29 Excursions, and the Art Queen. The JTIFF/Black Lotus Award in Filmmaking to commemorate outstanding work featured at the festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 19th at 6:00 PM at the Station. Check the website for a complete list of events and venues.

The idea for the festival began when resident Eric Quander (“Q”) had a casual conversation with local celebrity, Teddy Quinn. Quinn, the founder of Radio Free Joshua Tree and owner of the Beatnik Lounge, suggested to Quander that he show weekly films. After making a couple of phone calls, Q discovered he could get access to many independent feature films and shorts from all over the world. He also knew musicians and media trendsetters who were more than willing to come to Joshua Tree and send off the festival with just the right amount of pomp and ceremony.

“Film was my first love and calling,” said Quinn, “but I prefer the Joshua Tree aesthetic to the one favored by my hometown of Hollywood.  The fearless Eric Quander is an inspirational person. He thinks big, in a small town, communal way.”   

The festival begins Friday with the Red Carpet Kickoff Party and the Haymarket Squares will perform their particular brand of Punk and Bluegrass known as “Punk Grass.” This feisty, foot-tapping group, known for ecstatic dancing, revolutionary lyrics, and quick picking mandolin playing, should get the blood running through the film-loving-High-Desert crowd.

Bruce Greenwood (actor in Wildlike), Jason Mamoa (actor in Road to Paloma), Dr. Chris Ryan (Author), Erin Aubrey Kaplan (writer and Journalist), Ian Edwards (Comic), Esther Potvitsky (Comic), Maya Taylor (actor in Tangerine) and numerous filmmakers are planning to attend the festival. 

Quinn will be on hand to moderate a discussion by three multi-talented artists and filmmakers, Diane Best, Kate McCabe, and Eva Soltes.

The films chosen for the festival cross different genre’s and disciplines and include both experimental and the traditional representation.

Experimental filmmaker and Joshua Tree resident, Kate McCabe will be showing her film “You and I remain.”  McCabe’s work in 16mm film honors a medium she hopes to keep alive. 

“I am a huge fan of celluloid,” said McCabe. The alchemical and tangible experience of film, is for me, the most rewarding. It has silver halides on it, it needs light to be exposed, it’s part of this magical process and projected.”


Mania, a Canadian drama, released in 2013 is another film being show at this festival. The film, directed by Michel Poulette is the story of the daughter of an Innu Chief, who embarks on a dangerous quest that takes her to an unexpected new life. Poulette, who spoke to me by phone, said he was sorry he would not be attending the festival because of a conflict with his shooting schedule, but he is delighted the film is part of the Joshua Tree International Film Festival.

Mania, a sensitive and cinematically beautiful and touching film was adapted from a book by the same name. Mania has been named Best Picture at the 2013 American Indian Film Festival, and Roseanne Supernault (the lead actress) was named Best Actress.The film also garnered six Canadian Screen Award nominations at the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Picture, Best Art Direction/Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score and Best Make-Up.

Tangerine, a game changer, both by its choice of subject matter (transgender working girls) and its shooting style (shot with an I Phone 5) is an Indie film causing lots of buzz around the world. Its star Maya Taylor will represent the film. 

“Now we have a film festival that is going to bring directors and filmmakers from around the world to Joshua Tree,” said Seth Shteir, a Joshua Tree resident. “This festival is a natural extension of our arts and music scene.”

Tangerine’s producer Darren Dean said, “I think a lot of filmmakers take film festivals for granted. My second feature was based on meeting someone at a film festival. It’s a great social event that helps the community, helps the audiences and makes the Arts number one.”

There are 40 highly acclaimed, artistic, inventive, and original films, documentaries and shorts, scheduled for the first Joshua Tree International Film Festival. McCabe is eager to share her work with the community as well as connect with artists, filmmakers, and cinema lovers from around the world. This festival is strengthening and expanding the community to reach way beyond the desert. The High Desert has become the little town “that could”.

Passes and tickets to screenings and events can be purchased online in advance at  http://jtiff.org. Tickets will be available for pickup at the Box Office, at the JT Trading Post (61716 29 Palms Hwy) beginning on Friday, September 18 at Noon and on Saturday, 8:00 AM.

Advance individual tickets (August 18-Sept. 14) – $5-$20

Festival Pass – $125 (All films and events)/$40 for Seniors, Military & Students 

Day Pass (All films): Saturday – $85/Sunday – $75

Tickets purchased after September 14 and At-Door – $10-$25 


Check the website - JTIFF.org for a list of events and venues.

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