A two-year project will come to fruition this week when the inaugural Independence Film, Art and Music Fest starts Thursday on the Independence Square and the Englewood Arts District. Attendees will be treated to a wide range of independent film screenings as well as art displays and musical performances.
Jim Hennequin, who has worked at The Examiner for three years, said the idea of such a festival came to him as he went about his daily work around the Square and Englewood and took note of the availability of movie screening locations, the numerous artists on display and a growing music scene. He also draws on his experience working behind the scenes in the special event industry around KC.
“I don’t look at my job as selling advertising. I look at it as helping business owners draw customers into their location,” Hennequin said. “One day I just put it all together, my desire to help the business owners I serve, my interest in film and music, and the available opportunity.”
The festival runs through Sunday and films will be shown at several locations including the Pharaoh Theatre on the Independence Square, Graceland University, the Truman Library and the Mid-Continent Public Library - North Branch.
“A study of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival claims it had an 80 million dollar positive impact on the economy of the state of Utah,” Hennequin said. “If we can do 10 percent of that after five or 10 years I will consider this a great success.”
Small to medium budget Independent films will be the focus of this event. Many special presentations will also be available. For instance, some film screenings at the Carmichael Auditorium at Graceland University will be followed by live music. The American Jazz Museum will present a collection of rare jazz performance videos from as far back as the 1920s. A small jazz ensemble will perform directly afterward.
A work-in-progress that Hennequin is excited about is Jeff Lujin’s look at the infamous 1974 Ozark Music Festival, a Woodstock-esque event that took place in Lujin’s hometown of Sedalia.
“It’s a forgotten part of rock and roll history, and he is making a documentary about it,” Hennequin said. “He’s doing it right, he’s trying to track down all the original performers for interviews. As you can imagine, that’s a difficult task and it’s not cheap. It’s about half-done, and we’re hoping to bring some attention to it so he can raise the funding needed to finish the film and hopefully get it out on the festival circuit.”
Although the poster states that more than 50 films and 50 artists have been chosen for the festival, those numbers are closer to 60 or 70 each plus the panel discussions and the art and live music. When combined with the dining and shopping choices on the Square, and the historic sites in town, visitors can easily fill a whole day if not the weekend.
Other notable films making their Kansas City debut are a couple of documentaries that will be screened with the director present. Patriot Guard Riders tells the story of a 200,000 strong motorcycle group that formed in reaction to the Westboro Baptist Church protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers. The Patriot Guard Riders form a protective line that separates the funeral procession from the protesting church members holding signs that state God killed their son or daughter because the United States tolerates homosexuality. Director Ellen Fricke will be present to discuss her experience making the film and answer audience questions. TWA Flight 800 is a newly released documentary. It explores the tragic and controversial loss of a commercial airliner over Long Island Sound in 1996, killing all on board. Six of the original investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Bureau are coming forward claiming the conclusions of their investigation are inaccurate with the possibility of a government cover-up. Director Kristina Borjesson will attend the screening of her film as well.
For more information on the Independence Film, Art and Music Fest or to see a schedule of films, visit www.ifamfest.com.