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First Annual Southern Shorts Film Festival by Guest Writer Kelly Kazek

Organizers of the Southern Shorts Film Festival, the first of its kind in Athens, Ala, will be screening three feature-length films and a special presentation of the Thomas Beane short film "Spirit World of the Shoals," in addition to more than 25 juried short-film entries from across the South. One of those features, the award-winning independent film "The Way We Get By," tells the story of a group of senior citizens who gather daily at a small airport to greet American troops and thank them for their service.

"When its three subjects aren't at the airport, they wrestle with their own problems: failing health, depression, mounting debt," reads a description on the film's web site,
"Regardless of your politics, 'The Way We Get By' celebrates three unsung heroes who share their love with strangers who need and deserve it."

Film festival organizer Alissa Rose-Clark said the feature films are all set in the South and are produced or directed by local and regional filmmakers.

"The feature films are special selections that we thought would be interesting to our community," said Rose-Clark. "They round out the film festival experience."

The festival, which accepted entries of films five to 15 minutes in length, will be from noon-10 p.m. Saturday at Athens State University's McCandless Hall. A premiere party will be from 7 to 10:30 Friday night, when the winning entries will be screened at The Club House in downtown Athens. A few tickets remain for the premiere party. Tickets are $35 for one ticket or $60 for two and can be purchased by going to the AOTS web site.

Rose-Clark said complimentary Southern food and drinks will be available at the party, including Hickory Barn barbecue, Moon Pies and more. Attendees are encouraged to wear shorts for the Southern Shorts theme, but it is not a requirement. All -day passes for Saturday's film festival are $8 and are available the day of the event at the door. Children may enter at no charge from noon to 2 p.m. for screenings of children's films.

A panel of judges including Cornerstone Entertainment's Monya Claborn, Huntsville Film Co-op's Don Tingle and the Alabama Film Development Project's Thomas Beane worked Saturday to choose winning entries in adult and youth categories. The winners, whose films will be screened Friday night, are:
--Athens State University Grand Jury Prize: "The Voices of Jericho: Stories of Jail Diversion," social documentary, directed by JoAnn Self;
--Adult Division Westside Jiffy Pharmacy Best Indie Award: "Collecting Chloe," drama/thriller, directed by Brad Thompson;
--Youth Division J.R. Douthit Excellence in Film Award: "The Legend of the Lost Gold," action adventure, directed by Stahlie Calvin
--Cornerstone Entertainment Technical Excellence in Film Award: "Collecting Chloe;"
--Art On The Square Creative Vision Award: "The Key," mystery, directed by Matthew LaBathe
--Spirit of Athens Community Vision Award: "1 Small Detective,"  mystery/comedy, directed by Joseph Kirby.

A schedule of films to be shown Friday and Saturday can be found online. The public will have the opportunity to vote for the People's Choice Award.

Here are synopses for the other two feature films and a specially selected short film to be shown in addition to film festival entries:
"Feast of the Vampires'
"Feast of the Vampires
," produced by Athens resident Monya Claborn and written and directed by Jay Burleson, is a Southern spoof of vampire films. The film "replaces the castle with a plantation, and Dracula with Duke Wolfgang Moonlight," said Rose-Clark.
A press release states: "When Scotty (Joseph Ray) tries to track down his missing friend in a farming town plagued with a vampire curse, he enlists the help of beautiful Autumn (Aly Sutton) and the wacky vampire professor Orson Corman (Bob Dellaposta), but things get out of hand when they sneak into the plantation of Duke Wolfgang Moonlight (Kevin Wright) and become trapped as darkness falls."

'A Genesis Found'
"A Genesis Found"
directed by Lee Fanning, was produced in the summer of 2008 in Huntsville, Decatur, Tuscaloosa, and Plevna.
A press release states: "In 1938, while working an excavation at Moundville Archaeological Park, Civilian Conservation Corp cadet John Patton Jr. found the key to our darkest secret -- an anomalous skeleton neither animal nor man. Uncertain of its implications, Patton concealed the secret for decades -- until revealing it to the world in a sensational tell-all novel that made him notorious across the globe. Claiming the skeleton was proof of not only the existence of extra-terrestrials, but also of their involvement in the genesis of the human race, the novel would ultimately destroy his accomplished anthropology career and leave him shunned at home. Nearly 30 years later, his grandson Gardner, an anthropology student at the University of Alabama, is forced to come to terms with his grandfather's past."

'Spirit World of the Shoals'
"Spirit World of The Shoals,"
directed by Thomas Beane, "explores four legendary places in Florence, Ala., where witnesses have encountered ghosts reliving events of days past," a press release states. "From a Confederate officer whose funeral is recreated nearly 140 years later to one of the oldest inns in Alabama being revisited by spirits who once stayed there, these stories are told by local author and paranormal expert Debra Glass. Come journey through one of the most haunted areas in Alabama with 'Spirit World of the Shoals.'"

----Guest writer Kelly Kazek is managing editor of the Athens News Courier. This article first appeared in the News Courier on October 10 and was picked up by the California Chronicle. Watch Swampland for a review of Kazek’s recent book “ Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom.”


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