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In 2002, a group of film buffs based in New York City launched the Rural Routes Film Festival, an effort aimed at exposing the work of little-known American filmmakers who ply their trade far outside our urban centers of culture. The result was popular enough to gain the group plenty of media attention and for the festival to expand its scope and reach every year since it began.

On Wednesday, a touring version of the festival presented by Squeaky Wheel will screen outside Big Orbit Gallery (30D Essex St.). The festival will include several short films from across the country, including Kate Balsley's "Anima Mundi," as well as "a portrait of an 80-year-old shoe carver who lives on a tulip farm, a narrative about a man and his pet crocodile, and a remake of a special scene from Footloose."

"Unlike most festivals that operate under a general theme of 'independent film,' Rural Route's specific focus on rurality has allowed us to place similar artists together whose work might otherwise be ignored," according to a statement on the festival's website. The event, which is free, gets started at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Attendees should bring their own chairs. Organizers, in true Squeaky Wheel fashion, will give out awards for the most creative chairs. For more information, call 884-7172 or visit www.squeaky.org.

-- Colin Dabkowski