Last weekend's Tallgrass Film Festival was a rousing success. The opening-night film, " The Only Good Indian," drew record numbers for the festival, according to staff reports. And festival attendance was strong throughout the weekend.
Among Saturday events was a screening of Lawrence-based Kevin Willmott's " The Battle for Bunker Hill," a story that examines paranoia when a small Kansas town fears a national terrorist attack. The film had an interesting Q&A afterward, and Willmott reiterated that making films in Kansas allows him freedom of expression, something you won't always find in Hollywood.
The Ad Astra Award presentation to famed character actor Seymour Cassel drew an energetic crowd at the beautiful Scottish Rite Temple, and belly dancers from area organizations heated up the chilly night by performing at the street party that followed. The dancers were on hand for the earlier screening of Wamego-based Steve Balderson's documentary " Underbelly" (Balderson wasn't able to attend the screening because of illness).
Sunday's highlights included the Filmmakers Brunch at Old Mill Tasty Shop and the Spotlight on Kansas Filmmakers program, where seven short films were showcased. My favorite was " Official Selection," a hilarious take on two film buffs butting heads as they try to write — and act out — a script. Very funny, clever and beautifully executed, the film was directed by Los Angeles-based Vince Masciale and produced by his wife, former Wichitan Krysta Rinke. They were on hand for the Q&A.
Sunday's schedule also included encore screenings of " The Only Good Indian," Bobcat Goldthwait's " World's Greatest Dad," and the audience-award winning feature and short, " Sweet Crude" and " Lost Paradise."
The closing-night film at WSU's CAC Theater was " Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's (Maman est chez le coiffeur)," about a mother who leaves her family after she discovers her husband is having an affair with a man. It was a poignant story — but its strength was bravura performances from its young cast. Very inspiring.
After that, festivalgoers mingled, ate and sipped drinks at WSU's Ulrich Museum (which was more prepared for the hungry and thirsty festival crowd this year than it was last year).
It was a nice cap to a whirlwind moviegoing weekend.