An independent filmmaker himself, Kristofer Rommel jokes that when he and his wife Ashley co-founded the Derby City Film Festival with its inaugural outing back in 2008, that at the time there just weren’t any venues or events in town where he could show his films. Fast forward just four years (five if you include the thousands of hours of planning) and Louisville’s film scene has come a long way.
Returning to the Clifton Center on Friday, February 17th, this fourth annual iteration of the Derby City Film Festival will feature a dizzying 56 films, with 24 international entries representing 16 different countries and another dozen or so with at least some connection to Kentucky. Having whittled down these features from the event’s largest pool of submissions to date, Rommel asserts that he and his fellow committee members had the unenviable task of sifting through mounds of great material (and of course some not-so-great) and notes that there was at least another festival-worth of accomplished films they just didn’t have room for.
Independent film is arguably a bigger part of the cultural Zeitgeist now than ever, and Rommel hopes that with recent crossover successes like ‘Winter’s Bone’ and ‘The Kids Are All Right’, that the general public has finally been let in on the secret that “indie” doesn’t necessarily mean, “some sort of Andy Warhol-ish, hyper-artistic, ‘watching paint dry’-type affair,” but can instead take advantage of an increased sense of freedom to focus on the basics of great storytelling. Indeed, Rommel admits that contrary to his expectations, that organizing the festival has enabled his own growth as a filmmaker, if only to be pushed creatively by some of the intimidatingly good entrants that have come across his desk.
Despite being a truly international festival, DCFF is more than happy to highlight local and regional talent, but only if it stacks up against other submissions. It’s thus perhaps a greater tribute than any to the upward trajectory of Kentucky filmmakers, that amongst this year’s Awards Finalists are three films with Kentucky ties. Up for three awards in itself, including Best Feature Film and two Best Actor nominations, ‘It’s in the Blood’ is a brooding, through-the-looking-glass exploration of father and son from Louisville natives and Ballard High School graduates Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot, with science fiction legend Lance Henriksen.
The 4th Annual Derby City Film Festival is poised to be a must-see local showcase of film for cinephiles and just about anyone who can appreciate a well-told tale.
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