Stroll down North Fourth Avenue and you may as well be touring Tucson's soul.
Locally owned, independent businesses line the roadway, maintaining its eclectic flair.
You can check out work from local authors at Antigone Books, stop by Maloney's for a drink and Brooklyn Pizza Co. for a slice. And you can catch performances by local bands or break it down in the thriving nightlife scene.
Producer Nico Holthaus, director Alan Williams and editor Chris Valentine collaborated to sing the praises of Fourth in the documentary, "The Avenue," which closes the Arizona International Film Festival.
"We focused on the entire avenue, but concentrated on the central and south end of Fourth because that is where we got the most interest from shop owners and 'Fourthers,'" Williams said via email. "As you know, when you get a little further up on Fourth closer to University Boulevard the shops start to dwindle a bit until you get up to Epic Cafe."
The film details how Fourth Avenue has endured as a cultural epicenter of town.
"I did not know how unique and cool 4th Avenue was and is until I cut the film. It truly is a precious gem, that Tucson should appreciate," Valentine said via email.
Holthaus says the slow-moving nature of Tucson business and politics has served to the city's advantage. By valuing heritage and consensus over growth, Fourth has retained its vibrancy, said Holthaus, who directed the 2008 film "Mill Ave. Inc.," which described the downtown Tempe street's loss of soul due to the encroachment of corporate interests.
"Tucson has rustic ideals and tends to cling to this 'old village' mentality," he said. "It shows the rest of the country how to run a city."
Holthaus enlisted local filmmaker Alan Williams to direct "The Avenue" because he was burned out after directing "Mill Ave., Inc." Valentine, who hails from Tempe, edited the film and chose all the music.
Under Holthaus's guidance, Williams wove together interviews with local musicians, including Al Perry and Fish Karma, and business owners to put together an upbeat film about Fourth Avenue's spirit and resiliency.
Holthaus says the energetic, triumphant tone of "The Avenue" is a stark contrast to the elegiac, mournful feel of "Mill Ave., Inc."
"That was the whole point. We decided to do Tucson next, because two big cities that are so close to each other are so completely, diametrically opposed," said Holthaus , who also lives in Tempe.
"When I came down to the Loft back in '08, I told the crowd there that Tempe tells the country how not to run your city," Holthaus said. "You guys in Tucson are much more organized, communicate better and have better synergy. Everybody's on the ball."
Holthaus is working on a nationwide documentary series about downtown cultural centers that have sold out to corporate interests.
He's also a singer who has traveled the country as a member of various bands and has made ends meet by performing in and designing seasonal haunted-house theme parks.
IF YOU GO
• What: "The Avenue," screening followed by Q&A with director Alan Williams and executive producer Nico Holthaus.
• When: 8 p.m. Wednesday
• Where: The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.
• Admission: $8.
• What: 2011 Arizona International Film Festival, featuring more than 140 films from 20 countries. Short films will also be screened, plus films by and for youths. There are also workshops, parties, panels and other events.
• When: Through Wednesday.
• Where: The Screening Room.
• Admission: Varies from $5 to $8 per screening. A 5-screening pass is $20. Tickets available in advance and at the door of The Screening Room, as well as at the box office of the venue if different than The Screening Room.
• Online: filmfestivalarizona.com
Subject to change.
6 p.m. Chicano-themed films.
8 p.m. "El Andalón" (Spanish with subtitles), 28 minutes, followed by "Ex Voto" (Spanish with subtitles), 55 minutes.
7 p.m. "The Pipe," 83 minutes.
9 p.m. "Pancho Goes To College," 100 minutes.
8 p.m. Club Crawl acoustics stage - an acoustic concert hosted by Al Perry (not a film screening).
2 p.m. Irish shorts.
3 p.m. "Boys of Bonneville: On a Ribbon of Salt," 90 minutes, with filmmaker Q&A.
4 p.m. "The Deadly Companions," 93 minutes.
6:30 p.m. Best shorts of the festival.
7 p.m. Best films of the festival.
7 p.m. Best films of the festival.
6 p.m. "Abused: The Postville Raid," 96 minutes, with filmmaker Q&A.
8 p.m. "The Avenue," 78 minutes, with filmmaker Q&A.