The festival may be landlocked, but the films aren’t.
They’re coming from Argentina, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Haiti, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Spain, Thailand, the Ukraine and all across the United States.
Sixty-one indie films from around the globe — and several from Iowa — are making their way to downtown Iowa City screens for the sixth annual Landlocked Film Festival. The event will be held Oct. 25 to 28 at the Englert Theatre, the Bijou Cinema and the Iowa City Public Library, with a related screening at Gabe’s.
Some films last two minutes, others two hours. They run the gamut from feature-length comedies and dramas to documentaries, animations, short films, student films and music videos. Some are shown free of charge, others have ticket prices from $5 to $7. An all-festival pass is available for $30. For details, go to Landlockedfilmfestival.org
“Our goal is to be very widespread and to look at independent films from everywhere,” says festival president Mary Blackwood of Iowa City. “We want to bring the movies to audiences here.”
Festivals also bring audiences to movies, shining their spotlights on host regions across the country, from Sundance in Utah to Cedar Rapids, Tipton and Iowa City in Eastern Iowa.
The four-day Landlocked festival - which costs about $25,000 to produce and takes at least 40 volunteers to carry out – draws about 10,000 viewers to Iowa City.
- What: Landlocked Film Festival
- When: Oct. 25 to 28, 2012
- Where: Downtown Iowa City venues: the Englert Theatre, Bijou Cinema, Iowa City Public Library, Gabe’s, Sheraton Hotel
- Cost: All-festival pass $30 in advance at Landlockedfilmfestival.org; individual events free to $7 at the door the day of events
- Schedules and information: Landlockedfilmfestival.org
All the filmmakers are invited, too. Some, like John Putch of Los Angeles, will make the trip and participate in free panel discussions and seminars. Others, like Bryce Dallas Howard, send their regrets, but say they’re “thrilled” to have their work reach a wider audience. (Trivia tidbit: Both high-profile actor/directors grew up in the industry. Putch is the son of “All in the Family” actress Jean Stapleton and Howard is the daughter of actor/director Ron Howard.)
“The people who do come from other states, they go back and tell their filmmaker friends to send something to Landlocked,” Blackwood says. She’s heard a variety of glowing comments over the years: “That was a great festival. They took great care of us, they cared about getting an audience, the audiences loved us, they asked good questions and Iowa City — I had no idea it was there.”
“We definitely feel that we’re raising Iowa City’s profile in a new way,” Blackwood says. “There’s a lot of things that happen here, presidential primaries, things like Arts Fest and Jazz Fest, that can be huge events. Landlocked — and all the other film festivals around here, too — can be another way to promote Iowa as a tourism destination. Which is to say that Iowa has more than you ever thought it has in it.”
More than 200 films were submitted for Landlocked consideration this year, so the word is getting out there, whether by reputation or Internet sites like Withoutabox.com that point filmmakers toward festivals.
The 20 members of Landlock’s screening committee viewed the films and helped narrow down the entries.
Audiences this year will see a $4 million big-budget western “Heathens & Thieves,” the zombie-style “Dead Weight,” the German thriller “Schlafende Hunde” and the Danish animated comedy “Ronal the Barbarian.”
Iowa contributions include “The Entertainers,” an old-time piano contest documentary which also was screened at this year’s Hardacre Film Festival in Tipton; “Gridiron Heroes,” a documentary about football helmet safety; and “The Robot and the Butterfly,” a 10-minute piece animated entirely by Iowa City elementary students.
One feature comedy also has an Iowa connection. Putch’s “Route 30 Too!” is a sequel to his 2009 Landlocked entry, “Route 30.” Blackwood calls them “a wacky trip” down the Lincoln Highway, which runs right through Eastern Iowa on its cross-country trek. Part 2, starring Beth Behrs of TV’s “2 Broke Girls,” will be the first of two films shown after the free Green Carpet festivities Oct. 27, in which the public can rub elbows with festival VIPs and take photos outside the Englert, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“Filmmakers and audiences just think it’s fun,” Blackwood says of the gala atmosphere. “Route 30, Too!” begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 27, followed at 9 p.m. by “Bucksville.” Tom Berenger is one of the more high-profile actors in this story about a young man wanting to leave his father’s secret militia. Admission to each is $7.
Leading up to the Green Carpet is a $5 Election Year Special at the Englert, bundling two documentaries from opposing political sides: “Party Crashers” at 3:30 p.m., made by Tea Party supporters, and “As Goes Janesville” at 5 p.m., highlighting working-class struggles in Wisconsin, home of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
“I hope people go to both,” Blackwood says. “We’re right up against the election, so why not get more information?”
Education is an important Landlocked component, with panel discussions ranging from independent film distribution tips to diversity focus. Putch will lead a hands-on workshop on storyboarding — an important visual scene planning technique for directors — from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Johnson Room at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. All these events are free. To reserve a spot for the storyboarding workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Everybody wins with a festival like this, but Landlocked filmmakers also are vying for first- and second-place nods in each category. These honors don’t bring them cash. They bring bragging rights that ramp up their films’ profiles.
“It’s the exposure,” Blackwood says. “It’s important to independent filmmakers to say, ‘Look, my film did well at Landlocked Film Festival and at this fest and that fest,’ because they’re always going to try to seek distribution or attention for their movie.”
(All foreign films are either in English or have English subtitles)
Narrative Feature Dramas
“Bucksville,” 9 p.m. Oct. 27, Englert, $7: Director: Chel White; 1 hour 45 minutes, USA, 2011. In a small, wooded town, a young man struggles to leave a secret militia started by his father.
“Dead Weight,” 8 p.m. Oct. 27, Bijou, $7: Directors: John Pata, Adam Bartlett; 1 hour 30 minutes, USA, 2012. In the wake of an apocalyptic viral outbreak, Charlie must face physical exhaustion, malicious survivors, and perhaps most menacing, his own emotional burdens.
“Heathens & Thieves,” 7 p.m. Oct. 26, Englert, $7: Directors: John Douglas Sinclair, Megan Peterson; 1 hour 50 minutes, USA, 2010. In the Old West, lawmen, drifters and hired guns converge on a ranch, believing its Chinese owners possess stolen gold.
“Schlafende Hunde,” 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26, Bijou, $7: Director: Michael O’Connor; 1 hour 25 minutes, Germany, 2010. In this thriller, a man is haunted by visions of his own violent death and is convinced he doesn’t have long to live. He sets out to reconcile with his son, who isn’t pleased to see his father.
Narrative Feature Comedies
“Ronal the Barbarian,” 9 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, Englert, $7: Directors: Kresten Andersen, Thorbjorn Christoffersen, Philip Lipski; 1 hour 30 minutes, Denmark, 2011. Ronal is the scrawniest, weakest Barbarian, but when his village is attacked, he’s the only one left to rescue everyone else. In English.
“Route 30 Too!” 7 p.m. Oct. 27, Englert, $7: Director: John Putch; 1 hour 30 minutes, USA, 2012. New story, same highway. In 2009, John Putch brought “Route 30″ to Landlocked, and now he’s back with the outrageously wacky sequel, which stars Beth Behrs of the hit television show “2 Broke Girls.”
“As Goes Janesville,” 5 p.m. Oct. 27, Englert, Election Year Special with “Party Crashers,” $5 for both: Director: Brad Lichtenstein; 1 hour 23 minutes, USA, 2012. This documentary catapults viewers to the front lines of America’s debate over the future of our middle class – a debate that has become a pitched battle over unions in the normally tranquil state of Wisconsin.
“The Entertainers,” 7 p.m. Oct. 25, Englert, $7: Directors: Michael Zimmer, Nick Holle; 1 hour 33 minutes, USA, 2012. Six piano players strive to win the World Championship of Old-Time Piano (mostly ragtime). Filled with great music.
“One Tree Three Lives,” 7 p.m. Oct. 28, Bijou, with panel discussion, free: Director: Angie Chen; 1 hour 35 minutes, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA, 2012. An intimate film on the novelist Hualing Nieh Engle, who has been a major influence on generations of writers in the Chinese Diaspora, and beyond. Engle co-founded the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program with her husband, Paul Engle, a Cedar Rapids native.
“Party Crashers,” 3:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Englert, Election Year Special with “As Goes Janesville,” $5 for both: Director: Travis Burroughs; 1 hour 15 minutes, USA, 2012. This chronicle of the rise of The Tea Party, from the movement’s beginnings to the explosive growth of the first conservative protest movement of the Internet age, includes interviews with Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Matt Taibbi and Andrew Breitbart.
“Today We Saw the Face of God,” 7 p.m. Oct. 26, Bijou, $5: Director: Mercedes Kane; 1 hour 8 minutes, Haiti, 2011. A team of medical volunteers from the United States arrives in Haiti right before the devastating earthquake.
“Words of Witness,” 2:30 p.m. Oct. 26, Englert, $5: Director: Mai Iskander; 1 hour 11 minutes, Egypt, 2012. Film follows 22-year-old Heba Afify, a newly-minted journalist navigating historical times in Egypt. Defying cultural norms and family expectations, she takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil.
- Englert Theatre: 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
- Bijou Cinema: Iowa Memorial Union, Madison and Jefferson streets, Iowa City
- Iowa City Public Library: 123 S. Linn St.
- Sheraton Hotel: 210 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
- Gabe’s: 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City