Free State Festival’s first act will feature ‘The 24th,’ ‘Not So Silent Cinema’ and more

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The Free State Festival’s first act will bring a celebration of cinema al fresco to venues across Lawrence the week of June 21-27. 

Its lineup of movies, art, live music and more — announced this week — will take place in safe, open-air environments. 

“The Free State Festival is a much loved city-wide event and this year we are so excited to ‘take it on the road,’” said Marlo Angell, director of new media at the Lawrence Arts Center and director/founder of the festival.

One highlight of the festival will be a screening of University of Kansas film professor and Oscar winner Kevin Willmott’s August 2020 release, “The 24th,” which tells the story of the all-Black 24th United States Infantry Regiment and the Houston Riot of 1917. The infantry rose up against a racist police force in a chapter of history that’s often swept under the rug. 

Other shining stars will be “End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock,” and “Not So Silent Cinema” — an accessible presentation of two short silent films with live interpretive audio description by Audio-Reader and a live score by Alex Kimball Williams and Mike Quillin.

Contributed Marlo Angell

This year’s program will be packed with interactive experiences beyond the screen. Themed goodie bags, art kits from the Spencer Museum of Art, puzzle experiences from Breakout Lawrence, filmmaker Q&A’s, community panels and more will give audiences an immersive and unique experience.

“There is nothing like experiencing a story from start to finish with your neighbors and hearing the laughter, tears, and gasps that come from a collective audience,” Angell said. “Emotions are heightened and barriers crossed in ways that simply cannot be experienced on your couch at home.”

Locations and partners of the event include the Lied Center of Kansas, Theatre Lawrence, the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas Public Radio, Haskell Indian Nations University and more. 

When Lawrencians can safely return to theaters, Act Two of the Free State Festival will return. A full weekend of independent film screenings will be accompanied by headliners Boots Riley, John Waters, and Cameron Esposito. Dates will be announced later this summer. 

Tickets for act one go on sale May 24. Keep an eye on the festival’s website for details.

Free State Festival Act One lineup

with descriptions from the festival’s website:

Monday, June 21: Free State Festival Launch Gathering

7 to 9 p.m. at Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

This come-and-go socially distant event at the Arts Center’s green space gives you an opportunity to say hello, pick up programs, watch movie trailers, engage in art activities, enter to win prizes from Game Nut and more. 

Tuesday, June 22: ‘End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock’

9 to 11 p.m. at Lawrence College and Career Center, 2910 Haskell Ave.
Courtesy of Free State Festival “End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock”

There will be a pre-show virtual panel discussion and post-show podcast by Haskell Indian Nation University’s Hiawatha Center for Justice to provide further engagement.

  • Director: Shannon Kring
  • Running Time: 1 hour 27 minutes
  • This documentary is about a group of Indigenous women who risk their lives to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline construction that desecrated their ancient burial and prayer sites. This pipeline threatens their land, water, and very existence. These women face the personal costs of leadership as their lives and identities are transformed by putting their courage in true historic perspective. 

Wednesday, June 23: One Reel Under the Stars

9 to 10:30 p.m. at Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St.

A one-hour short film program with an eclectic collection of comedies, dramas, and episodic films. Free goodie bags will be available. 

There will be a pre- and post-show experience inside the Cider Gallery. Experience Tonja Torgerson’s Garden of Eden installation with life-size figures grappling with the recognition of their mortality, prompting consideration of the frailty of the body and other uncomfortable truths about life and death.

Film descriptions, from the Free State Festival’s website

  • “The Incredible Brown NDN” – Rodrick Pocowatchit (10 minutes): An ordinary Joe decides to become the world’s first Native American superhero.
  • “I Love You Moocho” – Ermir M.B. (8 minutes): Josie has overstayed her welcome at her brother Nathan’s house and his wife, Heather, has had enough.
  • “From Scratch” – Anthony Almonte (13 minutes): A prison chef discusses his past and perfects an old recipe. 
  • “Dusk Thorns” – Lee Frazier Davis and David Evan Krebs (4 minutes): In this stop-motion music video, a creature constructs itself and explores its world.
  • “Every Quiet Moment” – Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre (9 minutes): When Diana’s best friend invites her ex to the party, she looks for new ways for love.
  • “The Square Root” – Misti Boland and Jeremy Osbern (14 minutes): A short form episodic series exploring memory and the small moments that make us who we are. Each chapter focuses on a different character, and each episode takes place during that split second before a character makes the decision that will change their lives forever. (Adult content advisory)

The following experimental films will be installed in popup cinema locations around Lawrence, with times and locations TBD:

  • “The View” – Elizabeth Stehling (7 minutes): Hypnotic, transient realities continuously fracture with frames of majestic landscapes. As the sands flow and seconds pass, two women fall deeper into a disorienting new space of lost time.
  • “Midden” – Adriana Gramly (4 minutes): Scraps and trash are brought together through animation to realize hidden potential. 
  • “Riptide Rhapsody” – Kenton Brett and David Jarred (7 minutes): Five furry, fluffy and feathered friends are swept out to sea and into an amazing adventure. They encounter sea monsters, robots, and mutants in this stylistically inventive and handmade animation.

Thursday, June 24: ‘Hairspray’ (1988)

8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive

Pageant queens Miss Gay Kansas 2020 Deja Brooks and Miss Kansas 2020 Annika Wooton are teaming up for a pre-show experience with music and speed-painting.

Gates open at 8 p.m.; arrival by 8:30 p.m. is mandatory to secure a spot. Concessions are available on-site with no outside food or drink allowed. However, lawn chairs and blankets are welcomed.

  • Director: John Waters
  • Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes
  • This movie features 1960s Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) who lands her big break on the American Bandstand-inspired Corny Collins Dance Show. Turnblad, a girl of noble ideals, forces the issue of integrated dancing on the previously all-white program, much to the horror of her parents.

Friday, June 25: Tonja Torgerson, Garden of Eden art installation

1 to 5 p.m. at Cider Gallery
Courtesy of Free State Festival “Garden of Eden”
Courtesy of Free State Festival Tonja Torgerson

This exhibit will be open to the public starting June 25, but attendees of the One Reel Under the Stars short film program can have early access on June 23. 

“As part of her project-based residency at the Lawrence Arts Center, Torgerson uses prints, cut paper, and collage to create a fallen Garden of Eden in which life-size figures grapple with the recognition of their mortality. These works provide an intimate pause in which to consider the frailty of the body, allowing us to dwell on uncomfortable truths,” according to the Free State Festival website. 

Torgerson is an artist, printmaker, and professor currently working at Indiana University. Her artwork deals with illness, death, and the impermanent nature of the body.

Friday, June 25: ‘For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close’

8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Lied Center of Kansas, 1600 Stewart Drive
  • Director: Heather Ross
  • Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes
  • Comedy guru Del Close, from Manhattan, Kansas, was a mentor to comedians such as Bill Murray, John Balushi, and Tina Fey. This documentary leads viewers through his journey and talent for making everyone famous but himself. 

Saturday, June 26: ‘The 24th’

9 to 11 p.m. at the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive

There will be a Q&A with director Kevin Willmott.

  • Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes
  • Movie description from the Free State Festival website: “America has just entered the Great War, but is refusing to send Black troops into combat. Instead of heading to the front lines, the Twenty-Fourth Infantry is sent to Houston, Texas to oversee the construction of Camp Logan for the Illinois National Guard. William Boston is forced to choose between his love for a young woman and leading an attack by 156 African American soldiers on a brutal and racist police force. This incident led to what is now called the Houston Riot of 1917.” 

Sunday, June 27: ‘Not So Silent Cinema’

8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St.

The odyssey of audio-visual accessibility will feature two classic films with live music, multilingual audio description, visual art projections, and hands-on activities. 

There will be a pre-show experience with Spencer Projects, a series of popup projections that beam works of art from the Spencer Museum’s collection into the community. The works shown will be prompted by the two featured films and will explore the immigrant experience, romance, dreams, dislocation, and free association. 

A free Spencer Museum Art Cart Kit will be available to create a zoetrope, an early animation toy that creates the illusion of motion, while supplies last. 

“Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)”

  • Director: Luis Buñuel
  • Running time: 21 minutes
  • French translation will be provided by the University of Kansas Department of French and Italian.
  • Live audio description by Audio-Reader
  • This surrealist classic from 1929 will provide a bizarre and unnerving experience. This film, which includes the widely remembered scene of the slicing of a woman’s eye, is still shown in film classrooms and festivals around the world. 

“The Immigrant

  • Director: Charlie Chaplin
  • Running time: 30 minutes
  • Live music by Alex Kimball Williams and Mike Quillin
  • Live French Translation by KU Department of French and Italian
  • Live audio description by Audio-Reader
  • In this film, Chaplin appears in his iconic role of The Little Tramp who is coming to America to seek his fortune. His arrival brings misadventure, satire, and romance. 
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