A local feature will open the Sunburn Film Festival | Cinema function

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(Chris Studenka/Submitted)

A behind-the-scenes shot of the local indie feature, “Run Rabbit.” It will be presented on July 22 at The Screening Room.

An independent local feature called “Run Rabbit” has been selected to play the opening night of the Arizona Sunburn Film Festival in Tucson.

Written and directed by Latin artist Justin Rose, “Run Rabbit” is a 1970s-style dark action film with a majority cast of actors from Arizona. The film has garnered considerable attention around the world over the past few months, winning numerous awards at film festivals around the world. Followed by a Q&A, “Run Rabbit” is set to play for its local community at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22 at The Screening Room.

“We’re big fans of local theaters and it’s a great one if you’re in Tucson,” said lead actor and producer Chris Studenka. “So we’re excited to come out and share it and hope people turn to some kind of dark thriller and get a chance to meet the cast and be a part of it.”

The producers behind the film are Phoenix Rose natives Studenka and actor Greg Wave. They came together with the aim of creating “a fantastic film” with a message left to the appreciation of the spectators.

“Run Rabbit” depicts a notorious underground crime syndicate on high alert as a series of conspiracies unfold due to a series of brutal murders under Catholic authority, according to its IMDB.

“I think there’s a lot of swashbuckling in (the plot),” Studenka said. “That’s why if you read the IMDB, it doesn’t give much of that, sort of on purpose. We don’t want to give away too much. The essence is what it’s all about.

Strongly story-driven and dialogue-heavy, the team prioritized bringing together strong actors to support the film’s style. As a result, they were able to cast a talented group of actors, some of whom hail from Tucson, of whom they are “very proud”.

“It’s something we’re very proud of, something a lot of independent films can suffer from because of their budgets and trying to do it,” Studenka said. “They kind of get who they can. We were probably delayed six months because we wanted certain people to be part of it, and we never compromised the film.

Studenka, who has worked on two award-winning shorts with Rose in the past, credits the director for the film’s accomplishments.

Before the feature version was born, “Run Rabbit” was originally a five-minute piece that Rose created while attending film school at Scottsdale Community College. Hoping it would translate to the big screen one day as a full movie, the director worked on the script for the feature film for years.

“I’m lucky to work with him,” Studenka said. “He’s a younger guy, so he has a very bright future ahead of him. Anything I can do to help him move forward, he deserves it, because cinema is his life and that’s really a great talent.

The team began work on “Run Rabbit” with production meetings in the summer of 2020. The majority of footage was filmed in Phoenix and parts of Tucson the following summer, from June through early September. It was completed in April 2022.

Since its completion three months ago, the film has been submitted to festivals around the world and achieved significant success.

“Run Rabbit” won Best Feature at the Prague International Film Festival, the Toronto Independent Filmmakers Festival, the Black Hat Festival in Hungary, and the Gothamite Monthly Film Awards in New York.

Other awards include Silver for Best Feature Film at the Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque, NM, Outstanding Filmmaker at the Brazil International Film Festival, and Honorable Mention at the Athens Film Festival.

It also obtained official selections in all these film festivals in addition to several others.

Although the team has received several offers to buy “Run Rabbit,” they plan to continue performing at festivals and hope for bigger deals in the future.

For now, however, they can’t wait to show the production to family, friends and people back home.

“We’ve had a great start and a lot of international success, so we’re delighted to be able to start sharing that domestically,” Studenka said. “It’s really fun to share it with an audience and see the reactions and be a part of it.”

“Run Rabbit” will play in the Screening Room located at 127 E. Congress Street. Tickets can be purchased at screeningroomdowntown.com.

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