Correction: Sunday night's closing gala begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Orpheum. An earlier version of this story contain an incorrect time.
The vibe at the 10th annual Tallgrass Film Festival, which started Thursday and continues through Sunday, has been unanimously enthusiastic.
More than 30 filmmakers are attending the festival this year to promote their films, and the ones I’ve had a chance to chat with are overwhelmed with the hospitality Wichita and the festival has shown them.
“You never know what to expect,” Ben Hethcoat said. “But this has been amazing.”
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Hethcoat is in town with the film he produced, “Dead Dad,” along with its director, Ken J. Adachi. Their screening on Saturday afternoon drew a crowd that waited in line at the doors to get into the Orpheum Theatre. An insightful Q&A session with them followed their film.
The audience got a special treat on opening night Thursday during the Q&A for “Pablo,” about artist and renowned title designer Pablo Ferro. Ferro joined in the Q&A via Skype (though I missed that — darn).
An after-party followed the film and everyone munched on food and sipped drinks at the Executive Centre. It was a fun, jovial night.
But Friday’s night’s screening topped it. More than 600 people packed into the Scottish Rite Center for the festival’s centerpiece gala, a screening of “The Story of Luke,” a portrait of a young autistic man who ventures out on his own for the first time by getting a job and seeking love.
It was very tender and funny, and boasted a phenomenal performance by Lou Taylor Pucci (“Beginners,” “Thumbsucker”), who attended the screening and was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation after the film, along with director Alonso Mayo.
At the after-party, I got to chat with them briefly before they were inundated with admirers. Both arrived in Wichita at 2 p.m. Saturday, rushed to their screening and had to get up at 4 a.m. to catch an early morning flight.
“It’s worth it,” Pucci said. “Everyone has been great.”
There seem to be record crowds this year, with people having to choose from more than 150 films being shown over the weekend.
On Friday, I saw the inspiring documentary “Beauty Is Embarrassing,” about artist Wayne White, whose creativity and drive is astounding. I also saw “Compliance,” about fast-food workers who are tricked into doing bad, bad things. It was dark, unnerving and infuriating, in a good way.
So far my favorite film has been “Shouting Secrets,” about a Native American family who comes together when the matriarch goes into a coma. It was a brilliant portrayal of Native people in everyday settings without any of the stereotypes that are usually associated with Native-themed films. It also boasted beautiful performances. Star Tyler Christopher, probably best known for his longtime stint on “General Hospital,” attended the screening with director Korinna Sehringer.
Screenings continue throughout Sunday. The closing night gala is a screening of the documentary “The Standbys,” which follows the plight of Broadway hopefuls, at 7:00 p.m. Sunday at the Orpheum. Tickets are $25 and include the film and after-party.
Go to www.tallgrassfilmfest.com for a schedule and more information.