Wichita's Tallgrass Film Festival Grows in Popularity
Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, KS
The 13th Avenue Warren Theatre in Wichita, KS has a spacious main auditorium that can accommodate for a crowd of over 4,000 for the Tallgrass Film Festival each year.
Two time zones and 1‚300 miles from the million-dollar movie sets of Hollywood‚ independent filmmakers gather in Wichita each October to celebrate the visionary art of filmmaking. Sponsored by the Wichita Association of Motion Picture Arts‚ The Tallgrass Film Festival showcases both feature length and short films covering a variety of genres‚ including narrative fiction‚ documentary‚ animation and experimental‚ at venues throughout the city. “Many of these films would not other wise be screened here‚ so it gives the Wichita community a chance to see the world or subjects through a different and interesting viewpoint‚” says Lee Whitman‚ co-producer and director of marketing for the festival. “I think Wichitans‚ and Americans in general‚ are really hungry for something different from this art form‚ and we provide that.” The weekend-long festival‚ started by the late Timothy Gruver in 2002‚ now draws a crowd of more than 4‚000 locals and tourists. According to Shan Jabara‚ director of programming‚ the popular event also has grown in refinement‚ adopting a “quality over quantity” principal. More than 10 of the festival’s featured films have been nominated for or received Sundance or Independent Spirit Awards‚ while two films featured in 2006 went on to contend for the much-coveted Oscar. Others have earned national distribution and theatrical release‚ or are featured on independent television film channels or programs. The festival has grown in its level of involvement with the community as well. Area non-profits are invited to co-sponsor or introduce films that relate to their mission‚ while programming and events are designed to reflect the region’s diverse audience. Wichita’s 21st century position as a haven for arts and culture has been molded by innovative visual and performing artists driven to create their own scene. “Whereas there has been a world- class symphony in Wichita for many years‚ some other art forms are just now coming into their own‚” Jabara says. “This produces an environment ripe for appreciation of events such as an international film festival like Tallgrass.” Supported by major national sponsors and more than 100 local businesses‚ WAMPA has provided countless film makers a creative outlet since 2002. The 501(c)(3) cinematic arts organization fosters community appreciation by offering art-related programs to showcase the city’s venues‚ cultural attractions and artistic communities. WAMPA also promotes artistic expres sion through a diverse offering of workshops‚ educational film classes‚ lectures and screenings. One of the organization’s most popular events is the Cinema Al Fresco Series‚ which brings weekly outdoor film screenings to the community during summer and fall months. “WAMPA is always looking for new and exciting events to further the art of filmmaking in the greater Wichita area‚” Whitman says. “People are always looking for ways to express themselves and experience other people’s emotions. WAMPA holds these events so people can do that.”