People used to lament Wichita’s lack of a film festival. Then one of those people, the late Timothy Gruver, acted on what he saw as the “extraordinary possibilities here.” Wichita owes him and his fellow cinephiles not only its gratitude, but also big crowds through Sunday for the 10th-annual Tallgrass Film Festival.
The 2012 festival schedule of screenings of 180 official selections will bring more than 30 guest filmmakers to town. Screenings began Thursday night with a U.S. premiere and will include world, Midwest, Kansas and Wichita premieres.
There are features, documentaries, foreign-language films, shorts, filmmaker panels, parties, children’s offerings – giving festivalgoers many chances to discover something completely unexpected and wonderful. For details, pick up a copy of the festival guide that was in The Eagle on Oct. 12 (available at festival venues), or go to tallgrassfilmfest.com.
The eclectic venues are all in or near the city’s core, making the film festival a key player in the new life of the Orpheum Theatre and the ongoing reinvention of downtown Wichita.
Though it proudly uses “stubbornly independent since 2003” as its slogan, the festival is hardly going it alone these days, having cultivated a vast community of sponsors, fans and volunteers. It’s also pushing the definition of “festival,” by presenting films and sponsoring events year round and, as a result, steadily expanding the appetite and audience for independent film in Wichita. Things have changed a lot since the early years, when Gruver died suddenly and financial problems forced a one-year downsizing to a one-day festival.
“My goal is to simply celebrate film,” Gruver said in 2003.
Gruver met that goal and, even after his death, continues to contribute to Wichita’s quality of life. Congratulations to the Tallgrass Film Festival for showing how deep roots can go in just a decade.