Reviews From The 2012 Tallgrass Film Festival

Ryan Gates & Nicole Howerton

This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends in Wichita:  The Tallgrass Film Festival!  Last year we had a blast going to films, making new friends, learning at filmmaker labs, and partying late into the night.  Following that weekend I was asked to join the board which was such a humbling moment in my career, especially since I knew this year was going to be the 10th anniversary of the festival and an amazing thing to be a part of.  Tallgrass X started on Thursday October 18th, 2012 and concluded last night, Sunday October 21st, 2012.  The films were amazing, the filmmakers we fantastic, the labs were educational, the parties were awesome, and the whole thing was simply phenomenal thanks to the staff, volunteers, sponsors, filmmakers, and of course the people of Wichita who always come together to support artistic endeavors!  While there were too many films and events to pick through them all, there are two that I would like to suggest to my readers, one for the kids and one for the parents:

THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD

One wild and windy night, the Gruffalo’s child ignores her father’s warning and tiptoes out into the snow in search of the Big Bad Mouse. This follow-up to the Oscar-nominated original is adapted from the enormously popular Gruffalo picture books by British author Julia Donaldson.

We took Max to the “Best of the NY International Film Festival: Kid Flix Mix” where I was shocked that he sat quietly in the theater and watched all the films…which was about an hour long.  Anchoring this fun series of films was “The Gruffalo’s Child.”  The Animation was gorgeous, the story very compelling, it was captivating for children and adults, and had an all-star cast to complete the package!  Both Max and I were on the edge of our seats to see how this film would end, and we both clapped when it was over.  I highly recommend it, and with a running time of only 20 minutes its a quick watch for youngsters with short attention spans.  As it is the followup to “The Gruffalo” I can’t wait to watch it with Max and to also add the book to his growing collection.

THE STORY OF LUKE

Luke, 25, is autistic and has lived a sheltered life with his grandparents. But his world is turned upside down when his grandmother dies and he is forced to live with his dysfunctional relatives who have no patience for him or his senile grandfather, who they quickly force into a nursing home. Luke is left with his grandfather’s final semi-coherent words: “Get a job. Find a girl. Live your own life. Be a man!” For the first time in his life, Luke has a mission. He is about to embark on a quest.

This was hands down my favorite film at the festival this year and one of the best independent films I’ve seen in a while.  It made me very proud to know that it was coming through Wichita as this film is clearly on its way to the top and hopefully will make it to theaters soon.  Till then you want to make sure that you go see this if you have the chance or buy the DVD once it becomes available.  The word “autistic” strikes fear into the hearts of every parent-to-be (and is a topic of discussion on this site regarding vaccinations) as we all want our kids to be “normal.”  The Story of Luke is a comedy that doesn’t poke fun at autism, it pokes fun at life as we experience it through the story of an autistic 25-year-old with aspirations like all of us.  Lou Taylor Pucci (Luke) is flawless as he leads an all-star cast including Seth Green, Cary Elwes, and Kristin Bauer. Director Alfonso Mayo gives us a film that is real.  The characters are real, the comedy is real, and you will find yourself completely immersed in this fantastic work of art.

TALLGRASS X

“In a world overrun by film festivals, Tallgrass remains a largely undiscovered gem. The festival is big enough and smart enough to curate a top-notch program, but modest enough to nurture an atmosphere in which filmmakers mingle with each other and audience members.”  -Geoff Edgers, producer/star of Do It Again and Boston Globe Arts Reporter

The 10th Annual Tallgrass Film Festival was held in and around downtown Wichita, Kansas, October 18 – 21, 2012. The festival showcased more than 120 films from around the world and is the largest independent film festival in the state of Kansas. The four-day event has become a hallmark of the city’s cultural landscape and the festival is internationally renowned for its world-class cinematic programming.

Tallgrass Film Festival strives to serve as a venue and a voice for independent films and filmmakers, spotlighting films that would otherwise not have a proper theatrical screening in the region. Every year, filmmakers from around the country and the world are invited to Wichita to participate in the festival, which is packed with educational panels, legendary parties and — renowned in the indie filmmaking community — an accessable audience with a voracious appetite for independent films.

Today, Tallgrass Film Festival was named one of FlavorWire’s

Best Under-The-Radar Film Festivals In America.”

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