The Western Kentucky Film Festival celebrates its 22nd anniversary with a lineup of the best student work from the year and a host of special guests, including horror icon Mick Garris and nationally known independent filmmakers Diane Bellino, Ryan Sage and Jonathan Rattner.
The festival kicks off Thursday (April 28) in Mass Media Technology Hall Auditorium and moves to the Capitol Theatre in downtown Bowling Green on Friday (April 29). The final day of the festival on Saturday (April 30) will move back to the MMTH Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public.
“With a host of guests and faculty films as well as our midnight movie partnership with Nashville art theatre the Belcourt, the festival is attracting attention far beyond Bowling Green,” said English and Film professor Dr. Jerod Ra’Del Hollyfield.
The festival kicks off on Thursday with Bellino’s short film, The Itching, which recently gained attention at the Nashville Film Festival. An updated animal fable, the film is the latest work from a director who has screened her work at SxSw and the Ann Arbor Film Festival and on Netflix. The film precedes the Kentucky premiere of Hit Men, the feature debut of WKU Assistant Professor of Film Luke Pennington. Made in 2015, the film is an examination of Hollywood artistry that follows two writers who pen a song for a teen “It Girl” to finance their passion project. Pennington will host a Q&A after the screening.
Friday afternoon on campus, Los Angeles filmmaker Ryan Sage will host a workshop for students and screen his latest feature, Temps, a comedy about a ski-bum finding romance at his dead-end job. Premiering online this month, the film has gained attention for its nontraditional distribution strategy, which Sage will discuss after the screening.
The festival will take a local turn Friday when Assistant Professor of Film Travis Newton will screen his two films, Gym Shorts and Woodshed at the Capitol Theatre. Shot in Bowling Green in 2014 and 2015, both shorts focus on childhood protagonists negotiating right and wrong as adult concerns infringe on their lives. Friday will also feature the Kentucky premiere of Nashville filmmaker Jonathan Rattner’s The Interior, an experimental documentary shot on location in Alaska that has garnered international festival attention this year.
Newton and Rattner’s films will lead in to the first of a series of weekend events for festival keynote Mick Garris. A frequent collaborator with Stephen King and producer of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken (2014), Garris has worked in Hollywood for nearly five decades on a host of projects from a Showtime series to several feature films. The festival will commemorate the the 28th anniversary of the release of Garris’s directorial debut Critters 2 (1988) with a special Friday screening. The sequel to 1986’s Critters, the film features carnivorous rodents descending on a sleepy Kansas town as residents and alien bounty hunters wage an all-out war to save their way of life. Garris will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.
Following Critters 2, the festival will shift back to the MMTH Auditorium for a midnight screening of Aaaaaaaah! hosted by Allison Inman and Jason Shawan of Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre. Directed by British cult actor Steve Oram, the film is an experimental examination of masculinity told in dialogue that never rises beyond primal grunts. The event is presented in association with the Belcourt’s Pop-Up screening series as the 90-year-old theatre undergoes a multimillion dollar renovation this year.
Events will conclude Saturday with a series of workshops by Garris and a screening of Disney’s perennial favorite Hocus Pocus (1993). Written by Garris and starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as witches bent on revenge, the film has gained classic status thanks to its repeat play during the Halloween season on ABC Family. Following Garris’s Q&A, the festival will showcase the best WKU student films of the year concluding with an awards ceremony at 10:30 p.m.
“This year we have one of the best festival programs to date with some of our best guests,” said film senior and festival social media coordinator MaryEllen Hendrick. “I couldn’t be more excited to have helped put together such an event.”
Contact: Dr. Jerod Ra’Del Hollyfield, (270) 745-3242