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‘Purple Rain’ set in Niger? In the Tuareg language? See it at Filmslang

“Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai” is a loose remake of Prince’s film “Purple Rain.” It stars guitar player and cellphone music phenom Mdou Moctar.
“Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai” is a loose remake of Prince’s film “Purple Rain.” It stars guitar player and cellphone music phenom Mdou Moctar.

For years, Thomas Southerland has thought that Lexington needed to up its film-festival game. This year, he is part of making that happen.

Filmslang, the annual festival presented by the Lexington Film League and the Lexington Public Library, takes a big step this year toward darkening its dot on the film festival map with its 2016 edition.

“One of the most important parts of growth is going from a curating film festival to taking submissions,” Southerland says. “This year, we opened for submissions from Kentucky and any state that borders Kentucky.”

The result, Southerland says, is that more filmmakers attend the festival and interact with the audience, getting the word out about Filmslang.

“It was a high-quality field of submissions, and even with that, we were only able to accept 20 percent of the films that were submitted. We had to make some tough decisions,” he says.

A total of 33 short and full-length films made the cut, introducing another way the festival is expanding in 2016. With more films to show, Filmslang is using more venues, including the 21c Museum Hotel and the Lyric Theatre, which is scheduled to host Thursday’s opening night screening of “Akounak — Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in it,” a retelling of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” filmed in Niger by director Christopher Kirkley.

The film’s unusual title derives from the fact that there is no word for purple in Tuareg, the language the film was shot in.

The Kentucky Theatre would seem like a logical venue for the festival, but Southerland says the Kentucky doesn’t work because of the theater’s obligation to show feature films it has booked on the weekend.

For its own features, some of them curated, Filmslang has booked several films that come with film-fest credibility. They include “Nuts!” a documentary by director Penny Lane, who worked with Lexington filmmaker Brian L. Frye on the documentary “Our Nixon.” “Nuts” tells the story of a man who created a cure for impotence in the early part of the 20th century using goat testicles and was making $1 million a year during the Great Depression. The film was an award-winner at Sundance, has shown at other festivals and on CNN.

Saturday night’s feature presentation is “Sabbatical,” a drama by Kentucky native and Western Kentucky University alum Brandon Colvin about a professor who returns home to care for his ailing mother and finds relationships with family and friends strained.

Also showing Saturday at 21c is “Elbow of Light,” a 2010 film about the late Lexington writer, photographer and educator James Baker Hall, by Lexington filmmaker Whitney Baker.

A lot of the local flavor in Filmslang comes from films in the shorts collections, of which there are three, each screening twice during the festival. Filmmakers who are present will participate in Q&A sessions after the shorts blocks, which Southerland describes as “mixtapes of movies.

“For young filmmakers, it is crucial to get a sense of your work, to be in a room where your film is showing and see how the room is absorbing your story.”

Southerland says the contiguous-state requirement was in part to keep festival organizers from being overwhelmed by submissions — although that does let in Illinois, which includes Chicago — and to maintain a local character.

And he expects that Filmslang will maintain those parameters for a while, while the festival grows into more of a multi-venue area event. Growth has been modest for the festival since it was introduced as part of the now-defunct Boomslang Festival. But Southerland says its presence is important, and he’s excited for its prospects for growth.

“If just 25 or 30 people come and see a film they would not have seen otherwise, or a filmmaker comes and is encouraged, it is all worth it,” he says.

Rich Copley: 859-231-3217, @LexGoKY

If you go

Filmslang

When: Thursday through Sunday

Venues: Farish Theatre, 140 E. Main St.; 21c Museum Hotel, 167 W. Main St.; Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.

Schedule

Thursday

5:30 p.m.: Shorts Block No. 1: “Emerging Stories,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with attending filmmakers follows screening.

7:30 p.m.: “Akounak — Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red In It,” Lyric Theatre, $5.

9 p.m.: “Nuts!,” Farish Theater, $5.

10:30 p.m.: Post-screening discussion, 21C Museum Hotel.

Friday

Noon: Shorts Block No. 2: “Sound & Visions,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with attending filmmakers follows screening.

2 p.m.: “The Glass House,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with director follows screening.

5:30 p.m.: Shorts Block No. 3: “Family Matters,” Farish Theater, $5.

7:30 p.m.: “Brave New Wild,” Farish Theater, $5.

9 p.m.: “Danny Says,” Farish Theater, $5.

10:30 p.m.: Post-screening discussion, 21C Museum Hotel.

Saturday

Noon: Shorts Block No. 1, “Emerging Stories,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with attending filmmakers follows screening.

2 p.m.: “Harvest,” Farish Theater, $5.

4:30 p.m.: “Nuts!” Farish Theater, $5.

6 p.m.: Shorts Block No. 2: “Sound & Visions,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with attending filmmakers follows screening.

7:30 p.m.: “Elbow of Light,” 21C Museum Hotel.

9 p.m.: “Sabbatical,” Farish Theater, $5. Q&A with director follows screening.

10:30 p.m.: Post-screening discussion, 21C Museum Hotel.

Sunday

1 p.m.: “Synopsis Interkosmos/Chums from Across the Void,” 21C Museum Hotel. Q&A with director follows screening.

1:30 p.m.: Shorts Block No. 3: “Family Matters,” Farish Theater, $5.

3 p.m.: “Brave New Wild,” Farish Theater, $5.

4:30-7 p.m.: Filmslang wrap party and awards ceremony. Open to passholders and filmmakers only, 145 Woodland Ave.

Tickets: Prices as noted. All-festival pass $40.

Online: Filmslang.com

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