Sunday, February 11, 2007

Show-Me's Festival Is Coming

Film festivals have really taken off for the motion picture industry, providing an outlet for filmmakers to show a wide range of material in one location over a concentrated period of time. Naturally, film industry personnel frequent these festivals, as there’s a ton of content out there just available for the right bidder. High-profile gatherings such as the Sundance Film Festival or the Toronto Film Festival snag most of the media attention as these locations are considered to be the trendy and influential places to see films and be seen.

Nowadays, there are more film festivals being held all over the world than one could possibly ever hope to attend. That’s certainly not to say that there are more than there should be, as there will probably never be enough outlets for established, burgeoning or first-time filmmakers to showcase their creations. So it’s good to see communities like Springfield, Mo., working to bring something new and exciting to town – namely the Show-Me Missouri International Film Festival – that could prove to be beneficial to so many inside and out of the film industry.

Hosted by the Missouri Film Alliance of Springfield, the Feb. 21-25 event will be primarily held in downtown Springfield with four locations (Gillioz Theatre, Moxie Cinema, MSU Plaster Student Union, and The Creamery) holding various festival screenings, workshops and forums. The festival is really a celebration of independent filmmaking and invites filmmakers from around the world to submit their entries in the following categories: feature, short narrative, documentary, animation, college and homegrown, which is aimed at films made in Missouri or by Missourians.

To be fair, this is actually the festival’s second year, but the first one for me to be completely aware of it. I’m not only aware of it this year, but I’m also involved, getting the pleasure of serving as one of the festival judges. This meant I got the opportunity to see some of the festival’s offerings weeks before they would be screened for audiences. That perk, in and of itself, made it an easy decision for me to participate. Now my intent was to try and screen all of the films I received (which was in the documentary category) in a timely manner, in an attempt to keep them all fresh in my head. I started off well in that regard for the first few, becoming increasingly impressed with the entries I received as I went along.

Then a little thing now known as the Ozarks Ice Storm 2007 came along, temporarily making it impossible to finish the screening process. Naturally, it wasn’t much of a priority either at that particular moment, as I was wondered if the giant tree limbs now covering the vast majority of my back yard would ever be cleared (they would) or if I would have the intestinal fortitude to hole up in a house that had dropped to an interior temperature of 35 degrees (I didn’t).

But after relocating for about six days (a relatively short amount of time compared to some of my friends), my electricity would be restored and I was able to finish watching the films. Now, I’m only one of the judges in the documentary category, so my results will only be a part of the greater whole. But if you get the chance to catch “Hello Again Everybody: The Harry Carey Story,” “A Place to Dance,” or “Waiting to Inhale,” during the festival’s run, I can definitely recommend any of those.

The first one listed is self-explanatory if you’ve ever heard of the famous baseball announcer, while the second one deals with New Orleans senior citizens and a band of musicians who have gathered for many years at a club, only to find themselves dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Using a clever play on the best-selling book title from Terry McMillan, “Waiting to Inhale” offers a quite thorough examination of the fight to legalize medical marijuana.

However, I must admit, there’s one documentary that will be featured at the festival that wasn’t included in those I screened, which would have actually ranked ahead of all the ones I saw. Having seen it several months ago, “Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos,” is a great examination of the rapid rise and spectacular fall of the professional soccer team that achieved notoriety in the 1970s. It screens Feb. 24 at the newly restored Gillioz Theatre (a venue I can’t wait to view a film in) and is a must-see. The 7 p.m. show will be followed by a Meet the Filmmaker session with co-director Paul Crowder.

Aside from that special presentation, there will be three days worth of screenings (which include all of this year’s Oscar nominees for Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film), guest speakers, educational forums and workshops, leading up to the Feb. 25 awards ceremony at the Plaster Student Union on the campus of Missouri State University. Moving from one awards show to another, the festival will even be hosting an Academy Awards party at the University Plaza Hotel around 5 p.m., after wrapping up its ceremonies.

For a complete schedule and description of the film festival lineup, including ticket options and prices, go here. Or call the Missouri Film Alliance of Springfield at 417-862-2787, ext. 40.

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