The theme for this year's Tallgrass Film Festival is "get twisted." And if the opening night film is any indication of the vibe for the rest of the fest, we may be in for a real twisted treat.
"The Sandman," from Switzerland, is a surreal, quirky tale of a man who wakes up one day to find sand in his bed. He can't figure out where it came from and naturally thinks it's strange.
Then as he's walking around during his day, he discovers that the sand is coming from him. Literally, sand is falling out of his sleeve and out of his pants leg.
What's a sand-leaking fella to do?
Fall in love, naturally. He meets a fiery woman who may be the cure to — or further cause of — his problems.
The film has been a hit on the film festival circuit, and has won numerous awards. It screens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the festival's opening night gala sponsored by Fidelity Bank, at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway (a $25 ticket gets you into the film and an after-party with free drinks and food).
And that's just the beginning — the festival continues through Oct. 23 and has more than 100 feature and short films in its program, carefully curated out of a field of submitted films by a discerning yet enthusiastic screening committee. This weekend's films are the best of the crop.
There's so much going on during the festival — from parties, screenings and other events — that it's impossible to do everything. But it's fun to try. If you're not giddily exhausted by the end of the day, you're just not doing it right.
Other highlights of the festival include the Saturday night centerpiece gala screening of the documentary " Never Make It Home," which follows popular Wichita music act Split Lip Rayfield on its final tour with revered band member Kirk Rundstrom, after he was diagnosed with cancer. It should be a rousing yet heartfelt film, and will resonate with Wichita audiences. It screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Orpheum; $20 ticket includes film and after-party.
This year's Ad Astra Award — recognizing a filmmaker's career of outstanding achievement — will be given to actor Elliott Gould (the "Oceans" trilogy) in " An Evening With Elliott Gould," sponsored by the First Place & KMUW. Gould will be present to talk about his career, and the evening will include a screening of his Oscar-nominated performance in the 1969 film " Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice." It starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Scottish Rite, 332 E. First St.
The festival's closing night gala, presented by the Galichia Foundation and the Ulrich Museum, will include a screening of the basketball documentary " Elevate," which follows four West African Muslim boys with NBA dreams from a basketball academy in Senegal to the high-pressure world of American prep schools. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the CAC Theater on the Wichita State University campus. Director Anne Buford will be present to talk about the film. A party at the Ulrich follows ($25 ticket gets you into the film and party).
There will be about 30 other filmmakers in town presenting their work and talking about the making of their films in Q&A sessions after screenings.
Again this year, audiences vote in the feature and short film competition, but this time they can do it from their cellphone (not during the movie, please).
A complete guide to the festival ran in Friday's Eagle. It will also be available at film festival venues. For a full schedule, go to www.tallgrassfilmfest.com.
If you go
TALLGRASS FILM FESTIVAL
What: Screenings of more than 100 feature and short films, gala parties and special events
Where: Various venues in downtown Wichita
When: Thursday through Oct. 23
How much: General admission screenings are $10; gala parties are $20-$25; some events are free.
For more information and a complete schedule, go to www.tallgrassfilmfest.com.
Films with Kansas connections
* "Elevate" (directed by Wichita native Anne Buford)
* " Speak" (directed by Wichita native Paul Galichia)
* " Never Make It Home" (featuring Wichita-based band Split Lip Rayfield)
* " The Greater Good" (featuring subject Gabi Swank of Wichita)
* " Incident in New Baghdad" (featuring Wichita resident Ethan McCord)
* " Wish Me Away" (featuring Kansas native and country singer Chely Wright)
* High School Filmmakers Program (featuring "Deep Blue Breath" writer and star Clay Beabout and "Tracks," directed by Megan Flemming of Lawrence.
* Shorts playing before feature include "I Am Soccer," directed by Wichitan Erich Rumback, and "The Engineer's Guide to Cat Flatulence," directed by Wichitan Paul Klusman.
* Timothy Gruver Spotlight on Kansas Filmmakers program: "Nanny Goat," directed by Kai Winikka of Lawrence; "The Long Walk," directed by Titus Jackson and written/produced by Mike Furches of Park City; "Critical Mass: 719," directed by Devin Schwyhart of Lawrence, "Tell Me You Love Me," directed by Gary Warren of Kansas City; "As a Puzzle," directed by Tyler Dohring of Wichita; "Adrift," directed by Nicholas Vedros of Kansas City; "The Madness," directed by Robert Dodrill of Wichita; "The Playdate," directed by Shaun Cloud of the Kansas City area; "Get Off My Porch," directed by Patrick Rea of the Kansas City area; and "51st and Baltimore," directed by Philip Collins of Overland Park.