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Head For The Mountains 

It's time once again for Asheville's annual fest

The fifth annual Asheville Film Festival will be held November 8-11, meaning that it's time once again for Charlotteans not averse to road trips to get excited about seeing a wide range of potentially interesting features, documentaries, shorts and student films.

This year's career achievement award will go to actress Tess Harper, who will be in attendance. The festival will screen three of her pictures: Tender Mercies (her breakout film), Crimes of the Heart (for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination) and N.C. filmmaker Tim Kirkman's Loggerheads.

Several major titles will be screened out of competition (look for most of these to open in Charlotte in the upcoming months), including Sidney Lumet's acclaimed crime drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, The Savages, starring Hoffman (again) and Laura Linney as bickering siblings caring for their ailing father, and the French import The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, about the Elle editor who learned to function again after suffering a paralyzing stroke.

Two of the feature films -- Randy and the Mob and The List -- have already played Charlotte. And two of the selected titles are made by Charlotte filmmakers: the documentary The Spirit of Sacajawea, written and co-produced by Beverly Penninger, and writer-director Mark Young's Southern Gothic, a horror yarn billed as a combination of "art house and slaughterhouse."

As a judge last year, I can attest firsthand to the quality and professionalism involved in this important film festival, which has been praised by the likes of Ron Howard and Ken Russell. Among this year's crop of judges are actors Robby Benson and Harry Anderson, Charlotte Observer film critic Lawrence Toppman, and Felicia Feaster, film critic for Atlanta's Creative Loafing.

For complete details about the Asheville Film Festival, including titles, times and prices, go to www.ashevillefilmfest.com. And check back here after the festival for a wrap-up of the event's diverse offerings.

Forever Young

Speaking of Southern Gothic writer-director Mark Young, another of his pictures has been selected as one of the eight titles featured in After Dark Horrorfest 2007, a nationally screened film festival that will take place November 9-18 at over 350 theaters across the country.

Back for its second year, Horrorfest is offering "8 Films To Die For," and among the chosen selections is Young's Tooth and Nail, a post-apocalyptic tale that pits a small band of survivors against marauding cannibals. The movie stars Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), Vinnie Jones (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds).

In the Charlotte area, the fest will play at the Regal Stonecrest and AMC Concord Mills. For details, including ticket purchases, go to www.horrorfestonline.com.

Laughter And Tears

The Charlotte Film Society's Second Week Series continues this Friday through next Thursday with screenings of two more art-house endeavors.

The drama Snow Cake centers on a traveler (Alan Rickman) who offers a lift to a young woman and subsequently gets involved in a car crash that leaves his passenger dead. Grief-stricken, he visits the girl's autistic mother (Sigourney Weaver), striking up an unusual friendship that allows him to cope with his guilt. The Spanish import Only Human, meanwhile, is a slapstick comedy that's been tagged as "Meet the Parents mixed with Fiddler on the Roof and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Starring The Official Story's Norma Aleandro, it focuses on an eccentric Spanish-Jewish family that threatens to become completely unglued when one of its members brings home her Palestinian fiancé.

The films will be screened at the Park Terrace Cinema. For times and prices, call 704-523-9771 or go to www.charlottefilmsociety.com.

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