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On the Silver Screen

PROCTORVILLE — The first time Chris Lusher saw that flickering configuration of light, also known as film, he knew he was hooked. This was the art form that reached him viscerally.

“I have always been a huge, huge fan of film, every since I was a small child,” Lusher said. “This was not a fleeting sort of thing. It was something I always responded to. It is the greatest art form there is. It is everything. It has photography, art and music.”

So when the Proctorville native was asked to head up this year’s Appalachian Film Festival, there was no hesitation on his part.

“It is basically running the show. What is going to play and when,” he said. “It is not really as glamorous as it might sound. It is a pretty heavy load.”

But Lusher already had a good idea of the drill. Last year he got his feet wet learning the ropes of the festival that is in its seventh year. It is open to filmmakers who have lived in Appalachia either of the past two years or are a full-time student attending a college or university in the region. There are 13 states that make up the Appalachian Region — West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

This year’s festival attracted works from 200 filmmakers for the categories of either screen plays, shorts, micro film and film.

The first year Lusher volunteered, he said he did a lot of footwork, making sure the festival stayed on track. Now as the director, Lusher decided he wanted to put his mark on the event.

“I figured if I was going to be put in the position I would try to be pro active, kind of looking for filmmakers who were Appalachian and were established and get them to play their films that were out of the competition,” he said.

Lusher grew up in Proctorville and graduated from Chesapeake High School. Now he calls home, Huntington, W.Va., the locale for all the festival’s events.

Starting on April 9 from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. there will be the first screenings at Marshall University. Then on April 16, the Huntington Museum of Art will host a showing of the shorts and micro films up for competition.

That event will be a joint fundraiser between Hospice of Huntington and the museum that will begin with a cocktail reception from 5:30 to 6 p.m., with viewings starting at 6 p.m. at the museum’s auditorium.

Then on April 23 begins the two-day festival with the finalist entries shown at the Keith-Albee Theatre in downtown Huntington.

Lusher, who isn’t showing any of his films this time, makes short experimental videos and looks to this festival as a way to open the region up to more independent filmmaking.

“If you live in an area such as Huntington, culturally things need to happy for the people to be excited and hopeful about things happening in their area if they are interested in being a creative person,” he said. “The importance of this festival is it is a step in the direction of making things happen.”