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Fort Wayne’s multi-day film festival hopes to see you at the movies June 15 - 18
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Let’s say you went back in time some 15 years, and could eavesdrop on a late-night bull session taking place in some pre-smoking-ban drinking establishment between youngish, civic-minded types. The topic: what cool things would you like to see in Fort Wayne?
A film festival would probably have been on that wish list (actually, those of you who participated in such things know there’s no “probably” about it), but odds are even the biggest dreamers wouldn’t have imagined something on the scale of the Hobnobben Film Festival, which takes places in various venues in downtown Fort Wayne June 15 — June 18.
Now in its second year, the Hobnobben Film Festival features dozens of films, from Cannes and Sundance award-winners to animated features to experimental shorts to acclaimed documentaries to unaired (so far) television pilots, along with panel discussions, performances and other special events.
Cinema Center is the driving force behind the event, though Cinema Center’s Executive Director Jonah Crismore is quick to point out that it’s a small army of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers — lead by festival chair Ryan Krueckeberg — that make the event a reality. “Last year, we didn’t start planning in full-force until about seven months before the festival,” says Crismore. “This time, we took July off then got started right away. It gave us more time to talk to people about helping to support the festival, more time to plan events. We were just really excited to see that people love the fact that Fort Wayne has a multi-day film festival like this. It’s enabled us to grow the festival quite a bit.”
The opening night (Thursday June 15) sees the opening reception, and a screening of a feature film that Crismore is particularly excited about — The Hero, starring Sam Elliott as an ailing actor with a long career playing (surprise!) cowboys in Westerns; Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec) and Laura Prepon (Orange Is the New Black) also star. The movie was part of this year’s Sundance festival and appears at Hobnobben just weeks before its nation-wide debut.
The Hero is just one of several “buzz” films showing at Hobnobben, features currently enjoying great word-of-mouth and critical acclaim but have yet to be seen by a wider audience. Discovering some new and exciting work is, of course, one of the big appeals of film festivals, but for the hardcore film buffs, the “shorts” and the under-the-radar films hold just as much of an allure. Seeing these smaller, shorter, and (sometimes) more experimental works in a theater is a far different experience than watching, say, online. There’s a communal experience there that Crismore sees as important and that people seem to appreciate.
And at Hobnobben, audiences will be able to talk to the creators and producers of the work. “Many of the film makers are going to be there,” Crismore says. “There’s that level of access and line of dialogue that a film festival like this provide.”
Understanding how a movie is made used to be the providence of primarily movie buffs and aspiring film-makers. That’s not the case anymore. Crismore says that even casual movie-goers no longer have the impression that films “fall out of the sky” fully formed. “People have more of an idea of what goes into a production, and for some of the panels at a film festival, that can be really great. You have a more informed audience asking informed questions. It can be really exciting.”
There are a lot of remarkable documentaries in the Hobnobben line-up, though Crismore says that wasn’t by design — it just happened that a big selection of well-made, really interesting, and sometimes provocative non-fiction films came out recently and wound up in front of the selection committee. “It felt like there was just ‘something in the ether’,” Crismore says. “It seems like people want something real, something concrete, something fact-driven right now. Two of the films —Dina on opening night and Whose Streets? on the last night — are films I think epitomize what seems to be a ‘thirst’ for documentaries right now.”
Crismore was also struck by the variety of subject matter. Dina is about an older couple — both people on the autistic spectrum — embarking on a relationship; Whose Streets? tackles the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri a couple years ago. “We saw films on a wide range of issues, from ship wrecks in the great lakes to corporate land grabs in Liberia,” says Crismore. “Technology is allowing people to film these stories and bring them to the world, and festivals like Hobnobben are a great platform to tell those stories.”
Attendees of the Blocknobben party on Friday, June 16 might find themselves in a movie as part of the “Film the Fort” project. “You might be asked to interact with the film makers, maybe do a little acting yourself,” explains Crismore. “But they’re be making these short ‘flash films’ at the party. We’ll probably unveil the results in August.”
Also among the happenings will be a revival of MetaVari’s live sound-tracking of Metropolis, which they first did last fall as part of Cinema Center’s Sound & Shadow series (see FWR #297). “It was remarkable the first time around, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing that in a larger venue,” Crismore says.
Also on the performance front, Ben Larson will perform a live soundtrack at an outdoor screening of No Country for Old Men — not a silent movie, but one that doesn’t have any music — and the Hope Arthur Orchestra will soundtrack Battleship Potemkin.
All this barely scratches the surface of everything that’s happening during Hobnobben. While the festival is only in its second year, the event’s organizers are encouraged by the enthusiasm they saw during the festival’s first year. “Fort Wayne seems to love this idea,” says Crismore. “We’re very excited to see what happens this year.”
The Hobnobben Film Festival has a lot going on. For a full list of movies, screening times, performances, venues, and an overall schedule of all events, visit hobnobben.org.
They’re also on facebook, instagram and twitter.