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Tallgrass Film Festival announces finalists for competitions; iconic actress Pam Grier will receive Ad Astra Award

Pam Grier stars in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown.”
Pam Grier stars in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown.” Courtesy

The 16th annual Tallgrass Film Festival is a little more than a month away, but things are already in motion as the festival has announced the finalists for its Jake Euker Stubbornly Independent and DOXX Spotlight competitions and the recipient of this year’s Ad Astra Award.


This year marks the Seventh year for the competition, where eligible films must be domestic narrative features made for $500,000 or less without traditional distribution. Finalists will be juried by a panel of industry professionals. The finalists are:

“Bitter Melon,” directed by H.P. Mendoza — When a Filipino-American family reunites for a Christmas party, the holiday takes a dark turn when they conspire to murder the abusive bully of the family.

“Doubting Thomas,” directed by Will McFadden — After a white couple inexplicably gives birth to a black child, the purest bonds of trust, friendship, and love are put to the ultimate test.

“Eleven Hundred to Lubbock,” directed by Sara Radie — A group of unlikely friends pay tribute to their recently deceased loved one by relay-running his ashes across the country.

“The Maestro,” directed by Adam Cushman — After World War II, a budding film composer moves to Hollywood to study with an infamous master teacher.

“The Scientist’s Guide to Living and Dying,” directed by Nitzan Mager and Shanchar Langlevm — Obsessed with finding answers in her groundbreaking genetic research, a young scientist is thrown into free-fall when she becomes pregnant with her dead husband’s child.

The winner will be announced with the rest of the festival’s lineup next month, and will be featured as the Stubbornly Independent Gala Spotlight selection sponsored by Rick & Monica Nutt on Oct. 20. The winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.


In order to be eligible for DOXX Spotlight consideration, documentaries must be feature length, directed by women and have no traditional distribution deal. The DOXX Spotlight finalists are:

“Bei Bei,” directed by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt — A legal and political drama following a Chinese immigrant charged with first degree murder and a successful white-collar lawyer.

“Light in Water,” directed by Lis Bartlett — The story of West Hollywood Aquatics, the first openly gay swim team and water polo club.

“A Thousand Girls Like Me,” directed by Sahra Mani — A 23-year-old Afghan woman confronts the will of her family and the traditions of her country to seek justice for years of sexual abuse from her father.

The DOXX Spotlight Competition is sponsored by Greteman Group. The winning film will be showcased on Oct. 18.


Film legend Pam Grier will be the recipient of this year’s Ad Astra Award.

Grier rose to stardom in “Blaxploitation” films of the 1970s, including “Foxy Brown,” “Coffy,” and “Scream Blacula Scream.” She also starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” which garnered her best actress Golden Globe and SAG award nominations.

Tallgrass will present the Ad Astra Award to Grier at the Orpheum Theater prior to a screening of “Jackie Brown” on Oct. 18. There will also be a late-night screening of “Coffy” on Oct. 18 at Roxy’s Downtown.

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