Iowa City’s 7th annual Landlocked Film Festival features two ambassadors from Denmark. One on the Bijou Cinema screen Friday night (8/16) and one who has been a driving force behind bringing international films to the festival the past five years.
“I just think the foreign film has so much to give,” says Birgit Brun Coffman, 78, a retired research scientist who came to the United States in 1957 and to Iowa City 10 years later. She’s made it her mission to bring films like “The Ambassador” to the Landlocked festival, which runs Friday through Sunday (8/16-8/18) at various downtown locales.
Coffman contacts the Danish embassy in Washington each January to get a selection of films from the Danish Film Institute.
“We get first pick on what we can have,” she says. Other foreign films come through the festival’s annual call for entries.
Showing an international array helps build bridges of understanding between cultures.
“Everybody has stereotypes about all kinds of countries, but once you see a film from there, you realize the differences, but you also realize the similarities,” Coffman says. “It is a cheap way to travel. And even if you travel, unless you buy something or you eat something, you have a very hard time being face to face with a native.”
- Landlocked Film Festival
- Friday through Sunday, Aug. 16 to 18
- Downtown Iowa City venues: Englert Theater, Bijou Cinema and Iowa City Public Library
- Tickets: $25 festival passes, individual tickets at the Bijou and Englert; library screenings free
- Parties: Opening night mixer, 8 p.m. Friday at The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., meet the filmmakers, music by Mutiny in the Parlor; Earlybird party, 9:15 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Croncini, 104 S. Linn St.; Night Owl Party, 11 p.m. Saturday at Clinton Street Social Club, 18 1/2 S. Clinton St., top floor
- Details: Landlockedfilmfestival.org
Among the other 20 or so international films being shown this year are “The Reverse Runner” from Australia, “Oros” (“The Coin Bearer”) from the Philippines, “Tu Seras un Homme” (“You’ll Be a Man”) from France, “El Hombre Equivocado” from Spain and “Morfar Och Jag Och Helikoptern Till Himlen” (“Grandpa & Me & the Helicopter to Heaven”) from Sweden.
All of Landlock’s foreign films are in English or have English subtitles, so audiences won’t miss out on the full cinematic experience. “The Ambassador” was filmed in English, but will have subtitles, because the accents might be hard to understand, says festival director Mary Blackwood of Iowa City.
Landlocked accepts a wide variety of films in many genres and many forms, from shorts and features to documentaries and animation, all deemed to have local audience appeal.
“As with anything that comes through the call for entries, we’re looking for high-quality production values so that they’ll be something really enjoyable to watch and not distracting,” says Blackwood, who also dabbles in filmmaking.
Landlocked helps round out Eastern Iowa’s independent film festival niches, with others like the Cedar Rapids festival in April, which focuses on films with Iowa ties, and Tipton’s recent Hardacre festival, which packs a full slate of indie films into a Friday night and all-day Saturday event.
They all offer options moviegoers won’t find at multiscreen cinemas.
“Certainly in Iowa, one of the things we don’t get in the big megaplexes is the international films,” Blackwood says. “We’ve got something from the Philippines called ‘The Coin Bearer.’ It’s about a funeral. It’s dark, it has a really striking ending and it shows you the Manila slums and what they’re really like. But it’s a feature film, so it has a story. That’s something you’re never going to see – or even know it exists – outside of a film festival.”
Festivals also showcase homegrown indie films that wouldn’t find audiences elsewhere, Blackwood says.
“You’re going to see stuff made in America that can’t make it into the megaplex, because who can fight against all those remakes and those superhero things? So you’ll see something that’s got a little more humanity, that has more down-to-earth people, not Iron Man, not Avengers — although sometimes you’ll see a movie that makes fun of that, which is a lot of fun,” she says.
Variety is Landlocked’s hallmark.
“Our vision is just to celebrate as many of the film arts as we can,” Blackwood says. “We believe that every film has an audience somewhere — every good, well-made film or intriguing film – so we’re looking to put those out there and try to get them to the audience so they can come and see just how varied the film world can be.”