Handful of Films Will Be Shown Throughout the Year
In 10 years, the Kansas International Film Festival has grown to include films submitted from at least 20 to 30 international countries, plus many documentarians and narrative filmmakers from the United States. Co-founders Ben Meade and Ben and Brian Mossman work diligently to schedule 40 to 50 films during the week-long festival. The festival runs Sept. 30 – Oct. 6 at the Glenwood Arts Theatre.
“We have a really good problem that after 11 years, we have reached the pinnacle and have too many good films. We don’t have time to play them all, especially the longer narratives,” Meade says. “We are going to take the films we can’t show and offer special screening with something like ‘The Films That Should Have Played at KIFF.’ We only have so many days to show so many great films. With the monthly screenings, we will keep KIFF part of the conversation all year long.”
Brian Mossman agrees that the festival has so many quality narratives and documentaries that scheduling became problematic. He says both screening boards raved over many films. “We had to pull out 10 to 15 films because there simply was not enough time slots. We are hoping to work them in and give these independent films a special screening.”
Mossman watched the narrative films this year. He called out a few films: I Want to be a Soldier, Beautiful Darling, and Vincent Wants to Sea. “The audience we have built up has a higher education and higher income. We don’t normally play the traditional megaplex movies so they expect the thought provoking films. Two others jump at me, We Need to Talk about Kevin and Take Shelter. Like a good restaurant, our menu is movies. We are opening doors that moviegoers never knew existed, just like trying a new dish.”
Initially Kansas City’s film enthusiasts supported the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee (now the Kansas City FilmFest). “Some of us realized that the Kansas side of the metropolitan area was not being served by the festival. When the Mossmans opened the Glenwood Arts Theater (part of the Fine Arts Group of movie theaters), they knew they wanted to cater to a sophisticated clientele,” Meade says. “We quickly found our stride and were attracting major talent and sponsors. We were showing impactful films and we still follow this ideal,” Meade says.
KIFF attracts local, regional, and national work, recognizing visiting filmmakers and screen personalities, increasing public awareness of independent and classic cinema as a cultural, economic, and educational asset. The festival ends with the presentation of the Jury Awards for the best Social Justice Documentary and the Best Feature Narrative Film. Audience members also get to vote on their favorite Narrative and Documentary Films.
Meade, who owns Cowtown Media Group, produces, writes and directs his own works. He has made nine feature films and 27 shorts. He also teaches at Avila University. He spent part of the summer at a film festival in Mexico, promoting Que Viva! San Miquel de Allende. “It’s an experimental film shot on Super 8 and very abstract.” His latest film, Woke Up This Morning in the Arkansas Delta, looks at the “humor, hardship, music and art that lies along the Mississippi River, largely ignored by the American people. It will probably be part of the festival.
Meade says film festivals like KIFF owe Robert Redford thanks for showing films that aren’t part of the mainstream theater as the at the annual January Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. There’s the Independent Film Channel. “They give us the time of day. They know how we spend our time and energy.”
Some of the films that Meade is excited to bring include the Hungarian film called Another Planet that looks at child labor and trafficking and A. Hitler, a fictional film that takes a psychological look at Hitler The film was 15 years ago, but director Barry J. Hershey didn’t have creative control, but he got it back, Meade says.
“I always believe that the best stories are real. Human beings are truth trackers. If film festivals are done right, they bring people together of all races, creeds, socio-economic levels … we are not going to lose our film community and our momentum. We will take the paradigm shift that asks us to structure how we show films and rock and roll as usual. This is in our blood.”