Steve Savage, Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema director, stands outside the Rustic Theatre, the festival’s principal venue.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

The Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema returns for the fifth time next month. From Jan. 7 to 11, festival participants will once again be offered a panoply of dozens of films — from features to documentaries to shorts.

“We really focused on quality this year,” said Idyllwild Director Steve Savage. “Our standards are through the roof. We were able to raise the bar significantly because this year’s submissions are three times the number we had for the 2013 festival. This allowed us to take some great films.”

The opening night film is “Red Wing” from Will Wallace and stars Bill Paxton, Francis Fisher, Luke Perry and Joelle Carter, with rising actors Breann Johnson and Glenn Powell in leading roles.

International film fans will have many choices during the busy week. Foremost will be “The Fold” starring Catherine McCormack, of “Braveheart” fame. “The international fare came from all over the world,” Savage said proudly.

Continuing with the festival’s strong documentary tradition, Savage said this year the films represent five different countries. One of the most interesting will be “Yellow Fever,” an American film. The director, Sophie Rousmaniere, investigates the history of the Navajo uranium boom, its lasting impacts in the area, and examines the pros, the cons and the hot debate over nuclear power.

From Sofia, Bulgaria, “Welcome Nowhere” explores the life of a community of Roma Gypsies who live in run-down train boxcars without bathrooms or basic sanitation. Their government located them there more than 10 years ago and they still await assistance. Ethan Hawke is the story’s narrator.

The film committee is still reviewing entries, but Savage estimates that 85 to 100 films will be available during the week. “This is the first year I’ve been able to watch at least some of every film selected,” he said. Attributes demonstrating a filmmaker’s ability include sound quality, screen play and acting, Savage said.

Films will again be showcased at the Rustic Theatre and Astrocamp. And a new venue will be available for Idyllwild 2014. Silver Pines will be the newest venue. Chris Singer offered the location, and Michael Wangler of Sky Island Natural Foods will sponsor the Sky Island Theatre at Silver Pines. Couches and lounge chairs also will be available there to enjoy the full range of films from feature to documentary.

Of course, the Rustic Theatre remains the festival’s focal point. Among the other local businesses intimately involved in Idyllwild 2014, Jo’An’s will host the festival’s parties and events, Village Market is supporting the volunteers and Idyll Awhile and Café Aroma also will be important stops during the week.

On Saturday, Jan. 11, the festival will offer seminars for attendees, including one on scoring and sound design. Geno Lenardo, former guitarist with Filter, will lead this session with Thomas Corkran, composer and Indie sound designer.

A relationship with local film schools is inaugurating in 2014. The first school to have student films featured at the festival will be Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

“We’ll have six of their films. These films are brilliant,” Savage promises. Next year, he plans to work with a Los Angeles film school.

The website for the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema is www.idyllwildcinemafest.com/. Tickets may be purchased on line for the complete festival, the weekend or day passes.

J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected].