Desertscape International Film Festival returns to St. George with over 70 films

ST. GEORGE — The Desertscape International Film Festival is returning to Southern Utah for its second year in a four-day event set to showcase over 70 films. The festival will be held July 29-Aug. 1 at the Electric Theater in St. George.

Desertscape International Film Festival logo | Image courtesy of John Pugh, St. George News

With precautions for COVID-19 in place, festival organizers said they are excited to welcome filmmakers and audiences to the rapidly growing festival that will spotlight both feature-length and short films in a variety of genres that have been submitted from all around the world.

Guests can expect a curated selection of some of the best films that came in from all around the world,” said John Pugh, one of Desertscape’s festival directors.

Echoing Pugh’s sentiments, festival director, local film critic and movie buff Adam Mast said that for the past year, festival organizers have been watching all of the submitted films in order to choose the very best to be spotlighted.

Just over 70 films were chosen – more than double last year’s 35 films. The films will be broken down into a variety of categories that will be shown in blocks according to their category.

Film blocks and features include:

  • “All Its Name Implies” Opening Night Feature.
  • Sights and Sounds Block.
  • International Shorts Block.
  • Student Film Block.
  • Animation Spotlight.
  • Shorts Film Block 1.
  • “The 13th Cross” World Premiere Feature.
  • International Student Film Block.
  • “Omar and Us” International Feature.
  • Shorts Film Block 2.
  • “Dog Valley” Closing Night Feature.
  • Desertscape After Dark (for a more mature audience).
  • Made in Utah Block.
  • Guerilla Shorts Showcase.

This year’s festival includes one film that was recently nominated for an Academy Award, Pugh said, as well as films that have played at renowned film festivals such as Sundance, South by Southwest and Toronto. Pugh added that many of the films are still being shown exclusively on the film festival circuit, so festival’s like Desertscape are the only place to see them.

In this photo from the 2019 Desertscape International Film Festival, Southern Utah-based filmmaker and actor Dan Fowlks poses with an award, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Pugh, St. George News

For filmmakers, the festival provides an opportunity to not only showcase their work but to learn from other filmmakers – directors, screenwriters, producers and more – through educational panels and question and answer sessions.

One panel will focus solely on how to submit a film to a festival, Mast said.

Pugh said that the depth of knowledge and experience people will get at the festival is one-of-a-kind.

“This kind of stuff is pretty special,” Pugh said.

As a Utah-based film festival, Mast said it was also important to allow Utah filmmakers a chance to highlight their work, which will be showcased during the Made in Utah block.

Additionally, the Guerilla Shorts Showcase offered local filmmakers the opportunity to create a five-minute short film centered on a theme that was chosen for them based on movies that should have come out during the summer blockbuster season, had they not been postponed due to COVID-19.

The Desertscape International Film Festival is organized under The Film and Media Alliance of Southern Utah, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to promoting film and filmmaking to audiences of any age and skill level.

Some of the revenue from events like Desertscape, as well as other events the nonprofit holds, are used for charitable community contributions.

In this photo from the 2019 Desertscape International Film Festival, filmmakers participate in an educational panel, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of John Pugh, St. George News

Along these lines, festival organizers this year have chosen to honor the area’s first responders with a “Heroes Breakfast” to be held Aug. 1 at 8 a.m. in the Wells Fargo parking lot behind the Electric Theater just off Main Street. Filmmakers, all-access badge holders, festival volunteers and first responders are invited to the special event.

Regarding the film festival as a whole, Mast said that given the current circumstances surrounding the pandemic and though there will be important precautions put in place, people need events like this that offer a communal experience more than ever.

“This is a communal thing where people can react together to – to me – the greatest art form in the world,” Mast said.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased in individual blocks for $10. Guests can also purchase an all-access badge for $60, which provides the badge holder access to all of the film blocks as well as the panels, awards dinner, heroes breakfast, catered food during some events and swag bags.

More information about the Desertscape International Film Festival, including COVID-19 precautions, a list of films and ticket purchases can be found here.

Event details

  • What: Desertscape International Film Festival.
  • When: Wednesday, July 29, to Saturday, Aug. 1.
  • Where: The Electric Theater, 68 E. Tabernacle, St. George. Awards and dinner will be held at Best Western Plus Abbey Inn, 1129 S. Bluff St., St. George.
  • Cost: $10-$60. See website for various pricing.

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