Visitors to the Southern Theater on the West Bank may have noticed the cool performance space also provides the home for Altered Esthetics, a volunteer-driven nonprofit art gallery and organization that also once a year hosts the fantastic Ae Film Festival

Before this weekend’s Ae Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday and runs in the performance space through Saturday with dozens and dozens of action-packed local, national, and international films, live music, and other related events, we checked in with Festival Director Jes Reyes to see how the organization crams it all in and how much prep we’ll need for their fest parties.

Secrets of the City: You pick the theme based on trends in submissions, and this year’s theme is Unravel/Reclaim—we easily get the unravel part, how much reclaiming is happening in this year’s selections? Can that even happen these days, or are we just going to keep unraveling?

Jes Reyes: I think with many of the films screening you will be able to tell right away that the subject or focus of the work is investigating, undoing, or trying to explain or express something complex. Specifically, with these works, too, there is definitely a sense that reclamation is part of that process. Whether it is reclaiming the fact that dance is considered a sin, or reclaiming the past by visiting your childhood home . . . We are constantly trying to reclaim things in our lives . . . our politics, our bodies, or minds. Film can help us do that because it is a form of communication and expression. So yes, we can definitely reclaim these days! Reclaiming is often necessary, especially during these last months with our current political climate . . . reclaiming can be healing. We want to offer a perspective that is positive.

Some film festivals with this many entries—including international pieces!—can take weeks of showings, but you all do it in three days! How does that even happen?!

Oh gosh, there are so many films that we want to show, but can’t fit in. It is probably the hardest part of the job! We create a schedule though of work that talks and dances with one another. They compliment each other! That’s why we pay attention to threads that connect the films together. We are able to narrow it down when we locate the theme that connects them.

This is a film fest inside a cool little live performance theater. How does The Southern setting add to the film fest?

We definitely play with the performance element. We want to engage and create active experiences for our audience during our screenings. Six Families and Why World are inviting our audience literally into our opening screening with an immersive experience of dance, music and moving image. We are asking people to arrive early to participate. Doors open at 6:30 PM and their performance will start at 7:15 PM. Each of our screenings actually will have a music performance.

There’s got to be pros and cons to Ae being a volunteer-driven organization and gallery. What can you all do that full time shops can’t?

Self-motivation, a deep love for art, and a joy in creating community. That is what keeps us going. It’s what makes us different and valuable to our local arts scene. Also, Altered Esthetics is run by artists for artists. That kind of says it all. We definitely have a DIY mentality that energizes us.

You’ve got a piece showing on Saturday as a piece of the very cool Feminist Video Quarterly program—how did that FVQ get included, how did Midway help, and weren’t you busy enough putting together the fest, you wanted to shoot video, too?

I think what you are asking me is how FVQ got involved with the festival. They were invited to partner last summer; before they even applied for their grant. This event with Ae is outside of their Midway VAF work. They will be showing an anthology of work that they have screened over the last year and a half. FVQ regular Tamara Alswager (of Drumbeat Red) will be performing before the free screening on Saturday.

How crazy does the closing party at Town Hall get?

If you like a conversation, making friends, and drinking beer—then it may get pretty wild! It is my last year organizing the festival so I am hoping to see many familiar faces, especially those I have screened over the years. I also want people to get to know our new on-boarding Co-Directors Chelsea Arden Parker and Ari Newman! Those who come out to our screening at 7:30 PM on Saturday can get 20% off at Town Hall with their ticket!

Thursday-Saturday, various show times. $20 general admission, pick your price available. Tickets to screenings available on the Southern’s Website.

Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave S, MPLS;

image: Nik Nerburn, Prairie Dreamers