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The Twin Rivers Media Festival is not your typical film festival

The Twin Rivers Media Festival is the first weekend of May each year in Asheville, NC. All festival proceeds, after promotional and other expenses, go back to the filmmakers and media artists. Next year is the 15th season of the Twin Rivers Media Festival.

The festival’s judges begin selecting films in March and April and continue until the official festival dates, during the first weekend of May, where the finalists are screened in two-hour intervals throughout the weekend. The independent media festival typically draws around 150 viewers at each screening, for a total of more than a thousand visitors overall. “Twin Rivers audiences really appreciate media arts, and this festival gives them the opportunity to see things that might not otherwise be available. We get entries from all over Europe and Asia, as well as the entire Americas, and they are some of the best in the world”, says Carlos Steward, the founder and driving force behind the festivals.

Boasting 400-500 entries from some of the best independent media artists working around the world, Twin Rivers focuses on substance rather than glitz and strives to be more eclectic than your typical film festival. In addition to presenting some of the best independent documentaries, short dramas and feature films being made anywhere in the world today, the Twin Rivers Media Festival also offers categories for artists working in multimedia CDs, audio media, commercials, media of the Internet and websites. There are even special categories like “Made on a Mac” or for projects that deal with environmental, conservation, or outdoor issues.

Over the years, Twin Rivers and its predecessors have become extremely popular with West Coast independent artists and at film schools. The majority of US entries come from California, followed by film schools like NYU and Florida State, then the Southwest. Accomplished professional artists will often be invited to speak about their work and lead workshops. Between students and budding local artists, education is a big draw for the festival. Filmmakers and other media artists can network, discuss projects, and exchange ideas in a supportive environment.

Stewards’ love of media arts goes far beyond film, and he wanted his festival to be more inclusive and open to all media arts. “These art forms are very similar and interrelated,” observes Steward, “I wanted to do more for independent artists by creating incredible work in media other than film.” In the early 1980s, Stewards’ vision became a reality and a media festival was born in upstate New York. Since then, he has participated in festivals in states across the country, most recently settling in Asheville, North Carolina, where the Twin Rivers Media Arts Festival continues to grow and expand. “Asheville has an amazing community that is very supportive of independent media,” says Steward, “It allows for great exposure for artists from the US and other parts of the world.”

As a film student at Florida State University and a documentary filmmaker in Mexico and Central and South America, Steward learned firsthand how difficult it is to bring independent film to the public. “Underground media festivals are a great way to showcase things that wouldn’t normally be seen by a very wide audience. That’s where the idea of ​​creating my own film festival started, and this current incarnation here in Asheville is the best yet.” “.

Asheville offers other advantages, as although the festival celebrates art from around the world, the entire event is organized and produced with local talent. Film judges are owned and accredited by MAP (Media Arts Project) of Western North Carolina. The audio and screen writing judges come from various professional studios in and around Asheville. Steward believes that Asheville is the perfect community to produce a grassroots media arts festival. “I’ve been all over the world, and Asheville has one of the most amazing pools of local talent I’ve ever seen,” notes Steward. He tries to involve as many local artists as possible to ensure that the festival has a true community feel and has many forms of art represented.

With 102 world premieres and 8 North American premieres, Twin Rivers Media Festival offers some of the best independent screenings to be found anywhere. Jamie Hester, festival fan and regular of The Courtyard Gallery’s Friday night “World Cinema” series, commented on some of her favorite entries from the past year: “I really enjoyed Tao Ruspoli’s ‘Fix’ and ‘Karearea’. by Sandy Crichton. It was great.” Jarrett Leone, a Twin Rivers volunteer, noted, “I liked Jarrad Kritzstein’s ‘Camp Woz,’ and not just because of the name. I also loved ‘Ancestor Eyes,’ by Kalani Queypo, the Native American filmmaker from California.”

The Twin Rivers Media Festival is not your typical film festival. This incredible showcase of some of the brightest international media artists manages to offer world-class talent without being the least bit pretentious. There are no Hollywood stars walking red carpets to fancy screening venues here. At The Courtyard Gallery, home of The Twin Rivers Media Festival, you are more likely to find yourself in a comfortable chair or sofa surrounded by one of the most diverse collections of works by local and international visual artists, or to sit on the patio itself. . and enjoy the secluded outdoor screening area.

There are a multitude of reasons artists choose to enter Twin Rivers. Many are interested in the very popular movie categories such as feature film, documentary or short drama. This gives competitive filmmakers the chance to see how their project stacks up against 100-200 entries from some of the best in the world. Other categories are less competitive than other festivals and attract entrants who may feel they have a better chance of getting rewarded for their work. First place winners receive a unique handcrafted trophy or plaque by Mexican artist Cynlos.

Although Twin Rivers is a labor of love and consumes most of Steward’s time from March through early May, he thinks it’s worth it. “Getting a really outstanding entry from an unknown filmmaker just blows everyone’s mind. This year, one of them was ‘Rage’, a student film by Muhammad Ali Hasan, about a young Islamic woman who straps explosives around her waist and then shows his former life in flashbacks. It’s an amazing little movie. Filmmakers and media artists need audiences to appreciate the enormous work that goes into their projects. Some of these projects are labors of love that can take a decade to make. products to an appreciative audience is truly a wonderful thing to see.

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