eKC feature
September 17, 2009




Reel Life on the Plains
An Overview by Dan Lybarger

Having been born in the Sunflower State, I admit that my home state has a placid, staid reputation. Fortunately, this year's Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF), which runs through Sept. 24, at the Glenwood Arts Theater in Overland Park, includes several offerings that belie this image.

This year's festival gives local fans an early peek at movies that:

Might be up for major awards later this year.
Raise important issues that have been underreported in the mainstream media.
Give local audiences a chance to see films that have been shot in their own neighborhoods.
In addition, some of the people who made the movies will be on hand for question and answer sessions after the screenings.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore's latest dose of humorous outrage concerns last year's economic collapse and how public money was doled out to private hands. It's a safe bet that Moore will attack Wall Street with the same fury he unleashed on the auto industry (in Roger and Me), the American health care system (in Sicko), the George W. Bush administration (in Fahrenheit 9/11) and gun culture (in the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine) Friday, Sept. 18, 8:00 p.m.

Begging for Billionaires: The Attack on Property Rights in America

Michael Moore isn't the only muckraker featured at KIFF. Local filmmaker Philip Klein (not to be confused with the former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline) examines how eminent domain laws have been used by city governments to transfer ordinary citizens' property to developers for projects that aren't in the public good. While Moore won't be in town to plug his movie (he's been in Toronto and Venice), Klein will be on hand to discuss both the film and the issue. Saturday, Sept. 19, 5:30 p.m.

Bright Star

If the idea of watching a period drama about the final years of poet John Keats' life sounds like a dull experience, Oscar-winning writer-director Jane Campion (The Piano) may be able to rectify that. Ben Whisaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) stars as Keats, who is seen from the point of view of Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). She was the inspiration for several of his poems including the one that provides the title for the movie. Saturday, Sept. 19, 8:00 p.m.

The Man with a Movie Camera

Simply by shooting whatever seemed to be around him, Soviet director Dziga Vertov created stunning visuals that eliminated the need to ever take psychedelic drugs. In this 1928 classic, Vertov manages to push silent movie technology past its perceived limits. There's no story here, but the movie is still amazing. Vertov won't be around to present the movie himself because he died in 1954, but the Alloy Orchestra, a three-piece band that specializes in bringing silent movies to life, will be accompanying the film. They creatively combine keyboards, percussion and objects that aren't normally used as musical instruments. Having seen them before, I can guarantee that they can really rock a bedpan. In short, they're the perfect people to accompany this movie. Sunday, Sept. 20, 7:25 p.m

Agent Orange: 30 Years Later

This short but harrowing documentary from John Trinh chronicles the devastating effects of a defoliant that was used during the Vietnam War. By eliminating trees, it was hoped the Viet Cong wouldn't have hiding places under them. Unfortunately, Agent Orange contained dioxin and sickened many people exposed to it (including non-combatants) and later caused severe birth defects. In addition, some American troops who were exposed to it also died prematurely. Agent Orange: 30 Years Later is crudely made but the sobering subject matter, and Trinh's sensitivity for the victims on all sides of the conflict make it worth catching. The director will take part in a Q&A afterwards. Friday, Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Ghosts of Zagreb

This intriguing short documentary features five residents of Croatia's capital city describing their experiences as part of an anti-fascist resistance during World War II. Their tales are graphic and surprisingly lucid considering all the time that has past, but until this film little has been known about them. Director Jadran Boban, who will be coming all the way from Zagreb, will be there to present the film. Thursday, Sept. 24, 5:40 p.m.

Play On

Rugby movies are pretty rare, and rugby movies shot here in Cowtown are even more unusual. The people who made Play On, including local director David Story (a Shawnee Mission East grad), will be on hand for the debut. Australian actor Adam Gray-Hayward stars as a promising young Scottish rugby player named Keir at odds with his old-school father (Gray-Hayward's real dad Chard Hayward). Until recently, the rough sport was strictly an amateur activity, and Kier's desire for cash and fame could be his undoing. Thursday Sept. 24, 7:45 p.m.

Tickets for all shows, except Man with a Movie Camera, are $6.50 for shows before 5 p.m., $6.75 for shows 5 to 6 p.m. and $8.50 evenings ($6.75 seniors over 60). Festival passes are $60. Advance tickets for Man with a Movie Camera are $10 and $12 at the door. For more information, go to www.kansasfilm.com.