On Thursday, September 24, at Dixie State College of Utah’s Eccles Fine Arts Center, Phil Tuckett, director of DSC’s Dick Nourse Center for Media Innovation, announced the college’s plans to host a new international film festival that specializes in documentaries.

Set to begin September 16, 2010, and lasting through to September 25, the Southern Utah International Documentary Film Festival (DOCUTAH) will feature a diverse set of films produced by documentarians from around the world, ranging from amateurs to professionals.

After the announcement, Christina Schultz, DSC vice president of institutional advancement and DOCUTAH’s marketing and sponsorship director, honored some of the festival’s founding sponsors by presenting them with statuettes resembling the Academy Awards’ famous “Oscar” statue. Kanab City Councilwoman Nina Laycook accepted the award for the City of Kanab, and Kay Giles, director of the Kane County Office of Tourism, accepted for the Kane County’s Office of Tourism and Film Commission/The Center for Education, Business, and the Arts.

“We have a winner in the world of film festivals with DOCUTAH,” Giles said in an interview, “and if we plan and work hard, I believe this film festival could come to mean as much to our area as the Sundance Film Festival means to Park City... probably more.”

Festival organizers will screen films at a variety of locations in and around Kanab and Kane County, as well as in Ivins, Springdale, and St. George.

“The City of Kanab does not have a large palace of cinema in its town borders,” said Tuckett, DOCUTAH’s director. He explained how the festival organizers plan to use large blow-up screens to compensate for a lack of theaters. “We’re going to go out, into some of the most beautiful country you can image, and put up these screens and have our screenings in Kanab.”

One of the highlights of the evening occurred when Lesley Mendenhall, DOCUTAH’s general manager, and Jeff Ham, the artist behind the festival’s poster design, unveiled the promotional artwork prepared for the festival. The posters feature a black raven with a curled piece of film in his beak, set against a backdrop of stunning reds and yellows, meant to represent southern Utah’s red rocks and endless sunshine.

Ham explained his artwork by describing his view of documentaries. “Documentaries, the best of them, they are objective,” Ham said, “and they stand back and observe.” This objective quality of documentaries reminds him most of ravens, which likewise often stand back and observe the artist while he works in the desert. These similarities led Ham to use the raven as the main figure in his poster artwork.

Giles noted on the posters, “I enjoyed everything, but the unveiling of the raven was profound. People will take note of this art, and it’s an item they will not forget.”

“I love how he captured the expression of the humble raven,” commented Laycook. Similar to Ham’s ideas of documentary objectivity, Laycook hopes DOCUTAH will open doors “to the ethical documentary filmmaker who treats the storyteller, and the subject with truth and light.”

Recently documentary makers from DSC explored Kane County’s own history as a major center for film and television production in the west, in a documentary entitled “Return to Little Hollywood.” With this area’s history in mind, many people have hopes DOCUTAH will help breathe new life into southern Utah’s film industry.

“Our community has been impacted by the film industry in many ways, for many years,” Giles said. “I hope to see this festival rekindle an interest in filming for the community.”

Laycook also looks forward to the affects of DOCUTAH on her community. “There are stories in Kanab yet to be uncovered, that include elements of human interest…drama, conflict, romance, courage and much more,” she explained.  “Segments of history that have been lost or only briefly touched upon are waiting to be explored.”  

To learn more about DOCUTAH, visit its website at www.docutah.com or contact festival director, Phil Tuckett at (435) 652-7574.