Tallgrass Film Festival

10 years old and stubbornly independent as ever

Story by Joe Stumpe

In 10 years of existence, the Tallgrass Film Festival has shown a lot of great films, thrown some fun parties and even found its way onto a beer can.

So would founder Tim Gruver, who died in 2005, be surprised that his creation is still around? Would he happy with what it's become? Lela Meadow-Conner, his handpicked successor, thinks so on both counts. "I think his intention was always that it would last this long," Meadow Conner said. "I think he would be really proud of what it's done and where it's going."

"Tim was a little bit ahead of his time," she added, "but the fact that he made it happen and amassed a group of people who were able to carry the vision forward says a lot"

This year's festival runs Oct. 18-21, with most events held in downtown Wichita. The lineup and schedule were still being finalized as this article's deadline arrived but the opening night gala film had been announced.

It is "Pablo," a feature-length documentary narrated by Jeff Bridges that traces the life of Pablo Ferro, a visual artist best known for designing the title sequences of such films as Dr. Strangelove, Men In Black, Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential.

The film, which mixes interviews, film clips, motion graphics and animation, has been shown in only one other place the International Film Festival in Rotterdam.

"We're actually hosting the first screening in the United States, which is a big deal," Meadow-Conner said, going on to describe the film's subject as "a very interesting guy, very eccentric."

The gala begins at the Orpheum Theatre at 7:45 p.m. and includes a question-and-answer period afterward with the film's producer, motion and design, and motion graphics artists, followed by the opening night party. Tickets are $25.

Altogether about 120 films will be shown in 18 categories, ranging from U.S. and world documentaries and narratives to shorts, films by women and students, films made by Kansans and films dealing with lesbian, gay, bi or transgender themes.

Additionally, there are workshops by and for filmmakers, awards given and the always entertaining parties and general social swirl around the festival.

New features of this year's festival include a hospitality tent where Heroes Sports Bar and Grill will serve food and drink (look for cans of the Tallgrass Brewing Company's with the festival logo on them) and Smallgrass, a children's film program that will be shown at Exploration Place.

Meadow-Conner said the festival could never have grown to its current size without its longtime volunteers. While organizers always think the next festival will be the best, they'll take some time this year to appreciate what they've accomplished. A video looking back at the festival's first decade will be shown. That and the Pablo documentary "sort of fit our whole stubbornly independent theme," MeadowConner said. "This year what we're really going to be celebrating is out stubborn independence."


For a complete schedule of Tallgrass Film Festival events, ticket prices and more information, visit www.tallgrassfilmfest.com

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