By Sara Wiercinski
AMC Ward Parkway 14 will host the 27th annual Kansas City FilmFest International from March 26-29. The festival will show 151 films from among five categories: Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Narrative Short, Documentary Short and Heartland Student Short.
“As a filmmaker who has split his career between Kansas City and Los Angeles, KCFF is the perfect place to premiere my movie, The Unseen,” said director J.S. Hampton. “It’s great to be able to share a Midwestern tale with an audience in the Midwest.”
The Festival began in 1996 when Fred Andrews spearheaded a collaboration between the Kansas City Art Institute, University of Missouri Kansas City, Independent Filmmakers Coalition, Film Society of Greater Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Avila University. The first event, the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee, was held in 1997 and showed ten short films to nearly 500 people. The festival continued to grow, and in 2008 partnered with FilmFest KC and became known as Kansas City FilmFest. The “International” was added to the title in 2018 to better reflect the festival’s scope.
This is KCFFI’s second year at the AMC Ward Parkway 14 Theater.
“We’re excited to be there again.” said KCFFI executive director Veronica Elliott Loncar. “Our attendees had a great experience last year–the parking is easy and free, there is plenty of room for us to host our ticket sales, and a filmmaker check-in and lounge in the carpeted atrium area. The employees are welcoming hosts. And AMC’s projection is top of the line.”
Festival organizers expect to attract thousands of people over the four-day event.
“More than 85% of our films have a filmmaker in attendance who does a Q&A with the audience after the showing,” said Loncar. “They have wonderful and inspiring stories behind their films that you won’t learn by streaming something.”
KCFFI planners work to provide programs with a diverse selection of filmmakers and stories representing many voices.
Cash prizes are given for nine juried awards, an Audience Choice award and the 9th Annual Fred Andrews Emerging Filmmaker Award to recognize innovation and collaboration in filmmaking, in honor of the festival founder.
According to Loncar, “We usually have a good mix of people who plan ahead of time and others who hear about us and stop in to check out a movie.”
For those new to film festivals: “KCFFI volunteers love movies and are happy to share with people more in depth info about the films. Add to that, you can grab dinner at one of the restaurants before or after a movie.”
Individual tickets are $10. Gold passes at $45 allow for entry to all movies and access to the Filmmakers’ Lounge. The festival is open to the public. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit kcfilmfest.org.
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FESTIVAL FILMS TO CHECK OUT
With 151 films on the KKFFI schedule, there is something for everyone. The festival directors share this short sampling of films, including a few with local connections. (All photos courtesy of KCFFI)
premiered at Sundance, directed by Kansas Citians Sharon Liese and Kansas Citian Catherine Hoffman
A decision delayed for decades allows three generations of a Kansas City family to finally unify when they do something that countless African Americans before them could not do–choose their own last name.
Directed by David Brodie
Bruce Nakashima, a Japanese-American combat veteran, searches for LV, the friend who saved his life in the Vietnam War, when other soldiers mistook Bruce for a member of the Viet Cong. As he struggles to overcome the guilt, trauma, and anger about the past, Bruce tries to find a sense of belonging in his country.
Hundreds of Beavers
Directed by Mike Cheslik
A crazy, silent supernatural winter epic, where a drunken applejack salesman must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper to defeat hundreds of beavers.
Directed by J.S. Hampton
A witch from the 1850’s is transported into the head of her descendant in modern Kansas City, who is tasked with helping get her ancestor’s body back.
Under the Influencer
Directed by Alex Haughey
A successful YouTuber is aging out of the platform in her mid-20s, and struggling to redefine herself in the world outside her social media bubble.
Garden City, Kansas
Directed by Bob Hurst
On the High Plains of Southwest Kansas, a thriving community sustained for decades by waves of immigrants becomes the target of white nationalists intent on killing the latest arrivals: Muslims. When they attempt to recruit a local man with a conscience he infiltrates them, partnering with the FBI and risking his life to prevent the attack and bring the domestic terrorists to justice. Animated courtroom testimony of the plot is interwoven with the inspiring story of immigration and the determination of a community to welcome the world.