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Oxford film fest hosts debut of epic documentary

Category: Beowulf & Grendel News
Article Date: April 1, 2007 | Publication: The Enguirier (Cincinnati) | Author: JACKIE DEMALINE

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Who knew Gerard Butler was going to star in the biggest March movie opening ever?

Nobody - which is why the debuting Oxford International Film Festival is the unlikely locale for the U.S. premiere of "Wrath of Gods" starring and co-produced by Butler.

The documentary feature chronicles the misbegotten location shoot of "Beowulf and Grendel" in Iceland, beset by storms and even an erupting volcano. Butler, most recently of "300," starred in the movie, and, serendipitously, "Wrath" director Jon Gustafsson (who will attend the Oxford festival) was one of the cast members. He happened to bring along his own camera and as drama spun out around him, he started shooting.

Miami University student J.C. Shroder is the executive director of the new festival, and he's still trying to make the public understand it's a real film festival - four days, 77 feature and short films, workshops, guest filmmakers, audience and jury awards.

Sundance without snow? "It does attempt to turn a little town in the middle of nowhere into a center for film," Shroder says, and he wouldn't mind if the population triples like it does in Park City, Utah, as film fans convene.

Oxford International Film Festival has been almost a year in the making. It began as an inspiration by the Miami Association of Filmmakers and Independent Actors, (MAFIA) founded in 2003 by Miami students frustrated by the lack of an outlet in Southwest Ohio for young independent filmmakers.

Partners and sponsors came on board, starting with Miami University. At a risky budget of approximately $100,000 and with a largely volunteer staff, there's nothing like the film festival in Southwest Ohio.

Alums have stayed active, even the ones who have relocated to Los Angeles, so much so that MAFIA members will screen the world premiere of comedy feature "Fingerman: The Movie" as part of the Oxford festival.

Shroder crows that when promos for new Fox series "On the Lot" ran during "American Idol" in late March, it featured the "Fingerman" trailer. Shroder isn't suggesting "Fingerman" is going to show up on the series, which debuts in May - but it's not a bad sign.

A big part of any film festival are filmmaker panels and workshops. Shroder, whose credits include director/producer of the short "Freedomland," says that there's an emphasis on "how things work" sessions that will reach both filmmakers and the general public.

Those include Jon Putch, director/producer of feature-length drama "Mojave Phone Booth," showing footage and bringing along cast members to discuss "How to Make an Anti-Hollywood Movie (for under $40,000.)"


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