Producer, director, writer Roberta Munroe now directs festival she’s long admired
By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news
For several years Roberta Munroe enjoyed visiting Ashland to view and participate in the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
Now she’s in a different role – Munroe is the festival’s new artistic director.
“I think there is a real genuine love of film and filmmakers in Ashland,” Munroe said, citing the positive interactions involving businesses, individuals and others she’s experienced and appreciated over the years. “It’s always been one of my favorite festivals.”
This year’s 21st anniversary festival, which will run April 1 to 10, will again face COVID-19 related challenges with all screenings and programs being done virtually. “We’re gearing up for the festival that I wish could be live. We’re trying to make it as special as we can,” she said.
Munroe, who assumed her directorship earlier this year, has an extensive background in film and filmmaking. She has produced, written or directed (or some combination thereof) more than 40 award-winning short- and long-form projects, including films and television pilots done independently and for such companies as Fox Searchlight, AT&T and the United Nations (UNFPA).
In addition, Munroe previously oversaw programming for several premier film events, including the Los Angeles Film Festival, New York Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) and Sundance Film Festival. She’s helped launch the careers of hundreds of filmmakers, including Aurora Guerrero (“The Tribe,” “Connected, 24Six Life,”); Seith Mann (“The Wire,” ”The Walking Dead” and ”Homelands); and Taika Waititi (“Jo Jo Rabbit,” ”Hunt for the Wilderbeast,” and “Thor”).
She credits such actresses as Lily Tomlin and Olympia Dukakis for teaching her “old school professionalism.”
Her second short, “Happy Birthday,” enjoyed similar success in 2008. In 2009-2011 Roberta was commissioned by the UNFPA to create two projects, “Maya and Family Prayers,” with a focus on Arab states and eastern Europe. Another directing project, “The Sibling Code,” premiered at the Nantucket Film Festival in 2016.
Munroe believes her background, including being a Black lesbian, gives her insights that benefit her work..
“As a Black lesbian in the film festival world, I’ve had the pleasure to work with several top tier festivals in the mainstream and LGBTQI communities over this past 30 years,” Munroe said. “Community is deeply important to me both personally and professionally and it’s been an absolute pleasure to be embraced by the Ashland community. AIFF will continue a strong focus on local talent and local audiences, while also welcoming the global filmmaker communities.”
She emphasizes the support for the festival is more than financial. Along with generating income, the number of memberships help when the festival applies for grants. While the pandemic has resulted in negative impacts, Munroe said it’s also stimulated cooperative efforts with other groups, including opening the way for possible co-marketing and co-events with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
With timing for the festival nearing, Munroe is increasing her focus on Ashland.
“That’s my main goal, to have a sense of community at the festival and in my life.”
And, as Munroe likes to tout, she is “a champion of all great art, artists – and ice cold martinis.”
Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at email@example.com.