Movie News & Reviews

Filmslang film festival expands local and national offerings

Director Robby Henson, actress Patricia Clarkson and Eben Henson, who helped the production in a variety of ways, on the set of Pharaoh's Army near Danville. The film will be featured at the Filmslang Festival Oct. 9 to 11, 2015.
Director Robby Henson, actress Patricia Clarkson and Eben Henson, who helped the production in a variety of ways, on the set of Pharaoh's Army near Danville. The film will be featured at the Filmslang Festival Oct. 9 to 11, 2015.

To Thomas Southerland, the annual Filmslang festival in Lexington is like a baby bird.

"We're not quite ready to fly yet, but we're on the branch," a filmmaker and festival co- organizer says.

In recent years, the festival has attempted to grow from a local film event, presented as part of the now-defunct Boomslang music festival, to a signature film festival with a national reputation.

The event isn't quite ready to accept submissions of films from around the nation, Southerland said. This year's lineup includes several regional premieres that Southerland came across while attending other film fests.

And there are locally produced films past and present.

The centerpiece of the festival will be a Saturday night 20th- anniversary screening of Danville director Robby Henson's Civil War drama Pharaoh's Army, which stars Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper.

It was a first film project for several Kentuckians who eventually went on to become filmmakers in their own rights, including Southerland and Louisville-based producer and director Archie Borders, said co-organizer Lucy Jones.

"It seems like a great way to show people what we're capable of in Kentucky," Jones says. "It was a small-budget film. Robby utilized family and friends. It's quite an undertaking to take on, especially a Civil War period piece, and the fact that he got to do it within the confines of a budget in Kentucky will be inspirational to filmmakers here."

Some of those filmmakers will be represented at a showcase of short films Saturday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon, awards will be presented for best youth film, best local short and best music video from among those films.

When Filmslang started in 2010, it received five submissions and showed all of them, said festival co-director Sarah Wylie VanMeter.

"Now, we can only show 30 to 40 percent of what is submitted, which is really exciting because it shows that people are making the work, know about us, are submitting it and want to see it screened," VanMeter says. "Being able to craft a showcase of local filmmaking is really wonderful, and I think it's the best showcase of local film we've put together."

The offerings include Ed Commons' film about legendary Lexington artist Henry Faulkner, Understanding Henry; shorts from the media program at Elkhorn Crossing School in Georgetown; and Awkward Lung by Dan Howell, an account of his battle with lung cancer.

Also among the offerings will be several regional premieres, including festival opener They Look Like People, a horror film by writer and director Perry Blackshear that was an award-winner at Slamdance Film Festival, and Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll, a documentary that Jones says has a strong following and interest in the area.

She posted the trailer from YouTube on her Facebook page with a question about showing it at the festival and, "the response was really overwhelming," including Institute 193 owner Philip March Jones, who said he knew the filmmakers and had presented it at the New York art gallery he directs.

With five features and a handful of other events, Filmslang is in a good place and on a good pace for growth, festival directors say.

"I think the lineup is just solid, and there really is something for everyone this weekend," Southerland says. "I feel like we've put a nice little eclectic thing together."

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