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Kansas film fest adds more movies to the mix

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: September 5, 2004 | Publication: The Kansas City Star | Author: ROBERT W. BUTLER

Posted by: admin

With just days remaining until the start of this year's Kansas International Film Festival (it used to be known as the Halfway to Hollywood fest), organizers have added a slew of films to the lineup.

Among the new KIFF titles:

• “Dear Frankie”: Little deaf Frankie (Jack McElhone) leads a nomadic life, moving from one Scottish town to another with his rootless mother (Emily Mortimer). But he always remembers to send letters to the father he's never seen, a merchant seaman who in return sends the boy stamps from exotic places.

When Frankie discovers the ship his father serves on is about to dock at the local port, he looks forward to a reunion. Gerard Butler (who will play the title role in the coming “Phantom of the Opera”) plays the new man in their lives.

• “Mean Creek”: When a teen is pushed around, his big brother devises a cruel punishment for the school bully. Unfortunately, the prank goes further than anyone planned.

Jacob Aaron Estes wrote and directed; with Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Josh Peck and Carly Schroeder.

• “Bellmore: The Unscene”: Bellmore, N.Y., is a nondescript Long Island community noteworthy mostly for the popularity there of local punk bands such as the Rat Bastards, Zombula 451 and the Eggplant Queens.

This documentary was made over several years by a couple of their fans, Frank Fusco and Jim Muscarella.

• “A Peck on the Cheek”: This recent Bollywood hit from writer/director Mani Ratnam stars the adorable P.S. Keerthana as a young girl who, upon learning from her Indian parents that she was adopted, begins a journey to strife-torn Sri Lanka to find out who her biological parents are.

Part war film, part domestic tearjerker and part musical (if it doesn't have singing and dancing, it isn't Bollywood), this winning entry should provide local audiences with a fitting introduction to one of the most popular cinema styles in the world today.

• “Since Otar Left”: Julie Bertucelli's directing debut is a bittersweet drama about three generations of Georgian women.

The elderly Eka (Esther Gorintin) lives with her daughter Marina (Nino Khomasuridze) and granddaughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova), but the love of her life is her son Otar, who has gone to Paris to seek his fortune. The old lady lives for his periodic letters and phone calls. When Otar dies in a construction accident, Marina and Ada decide to keep the news from Eka — even to the point of faking letters from the dead man.

“Since Otar Left” won the Critics' Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

• “Straight Into Darkness”: Jeff Burr's aptly titled war film is a horrifying descent into violence and madness worthy of Goya.

In 1945 France two American deserters (Scott MacDonald, Ryan Francis) break free of their MP escorts and go on a hallucinogenic odyssey, finally discovering their own heroism when they fall into the hands of resistance fighters — the maimed children of a “special” school who have been trained to regard killing Germans as a game.

The KIFF plays Friday through Sept. 16 at the Glenwood Arts Theatre in Overland Park. For information and advance tickets go to

‘Bizarre' kudos

Speaking of the KIFF, the festival's closing-night entry, “Bazaar Bizarre,” has gotten its first review (from the popular Web site and it's a rave.

“This is the most creative and successful retelling of a true crime that I've ever seen,” writes Eric Campos of KC filmmaker Ben Meade's nonfiction riff on the life and crimes of local serial killer Bob Berdella.

“This isn't a documentary as much as it is an experimental retelling of Berdella's grisly tale utilizing archival news footage (and) interviews with those associated with the case, including the victim that got away. Between these interviews James Ellroy pops up … to act as the ‘voice of reason'…

“But it's Meade's own penchant for the bizarre here that makes the film stand out. Featured along with the graphic re-enactments of torture and slaughter are musical numbers and staged footage of Berdella just being a fat sick pig.”

Campos concludes that “Bazaar Bizarre” “provides creativity in a genre of film that has long since run dry of imagination.”

The KIFF screening already has sold out. It's the only planned local screening of the film. Meade hopes to see the film accepted at next January's Sundance Film Festival.

Plus: Meade's nonfiction title “Vakvagany” is one of six Sundance Channel movies selected for screening at October's DocuShuk Film Festival in Tel Aviv.

Banff mountain films

The Banff Mountain Film Festival, a collection of the best recent films involving mountain sports, will be screened Friday and Saturday at Liberty Hall in Lawrence.

The festival offers 14 films and benefits the KU Rock Climbing Club and the Kansas City Climbing Club. Tickets cost $7.50 for each night's program.

Among the featured films:

• “Eiger North Face”: Mountaineers Stephen Siegrist and Michal Pitelka tackle the north face of the Eiger using old-time equipment: hob-nail boots, hemp ropes and wooden tools.

• “The Other Final”: The two lowest ranked teams in world soccer square off for a soccer match in the Himalayan capital city of Thimphu. The squads from Montserrat and Bhutan play each other simply for the love of the game on the same day as the 2002 World Cup finals.

• “Wehyakin”: Whitewater paddlers from the United States, Norway and Canada take their kayaks to Norway's fiords for some hair-raising drops.

The show begins at 7 both nights; for more information go to


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