Melissa Townsend on location. Photo courtesy of Melissa Townsend

The third season of the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema (IIFC) opens on Thursday, Jan. 12. Headlined by thirty premieres, this season promises the most diverse mix of films that IIFC has presented. Whether one studies the categories, synopses or trailers available online at, it is apparent the variety of selections is greater this year.

The complete screening schedule at the festival’s three venues (The Rustic Theatre, The Rainbow Inn and The Caine Learning Center) is also available at the festival website. Organizers have allowed time between films for patrons to eat and visit local shops.

Festival Chairman Phil Calderone, who like Festival Director Stephen Savage is a writer and director, seems to have fulfilled Savage’s promise to feature films with compelling story lines. The themes and synopses of the features and documentaries present a wide range of situations and issues. And, to the relief of locals, it will be hard to find a slasher or grind film in this year’s lineup.

Of 66 scheduled films, there are seven dramatic features, six comedies, two thrillers and seven documentaries. Of 14 featurettes, two, “Buttons in the Ground” and “Bosco’s Guitar” already have strong word of mouth as particularly beautiful and moving works. Four Idyllwild Arts student films are included in the mix of featurettes. Also of interest is a documentary profile of Idyllwild’s Mountain Mike, which Savage directed; a new film, “Gone,” by Will Wallace, festival co-director, actor/director and major player in IIFC years one and two; and a new film, “Simone,” by major actor Wolfgang Bodison, also a primary player in festival years one and two.

To the delight of fans of her “Libby Girl” series, director Janet Mayson returns with the short “Libby Girl: Surprise,” about the adventures of Libby, her Jack Russell Terrier.

Of three seminars also part of the all-access $20 local pass, Savage said, “We’ve put together the best seminars and panelists we’ve ever had.” Check the website for seminar names, schedules, and panelists’ credits and bios.

Savage said he has reached out to local high schools and colleges and that theater and film students from Hemet High, West Valley High and the College of the Desert are coming up for the acting seminar. Panelists include Will Wallace (“Tree of Life”), Wolfgang Bodison (“A Few Good Men”), Idyllwild’s own Conor O’Farrell, Marshall Bell (“Deadwood,” “Total Recall,” “Starship Troopers”), Oscar Torre (“NCIS/Cold Case” and “CSI Miami”), commercial actor Jamison Reeves, and Erwin Way (“Detroit 1-8-7).

The reduced local ticket price, including all films, seminars, parties and awards, is a particularly attractive bargain. Do the math — 66 films for a total of $20 comes out to 30 cents per screening. The last time theatre admission was 30 cents per screening was in 1926,

Two young filmmakers, local Melissa Townsend (“Coyote Hunt”) and “Bone Dry” writer director Brett A. Hart, Jon Stewart’s “favorite indie filmmaker,” are this season’s featured festival “Spotlight Filmmakers”. And major Hollywood producer and director Alan J. Levi is this year’s featured filmmaker.

The festival opens at noon on Thursday, Jan. 12 with the full-length documentary “Off the Boulevard,” at the Rustic and feature comedy “Waking Dreams” at the Rainbow.

Tickets are available at