Free State Festival lineup packed with local and national creatives, wide range of features

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All-access pass sales start Saturday for the 2023 Free State Festival, and this year’s lineup packs locally and nationally known creatives into a weeklong multimedia extravaganza.


Features range from documentaries on changemakers and earthshaking events to comedy, neoclassical piano, a “short film and culinary pairing event,” and a dance performance with choreography inspired by social justice.

The festival is slated for Monday, June 26 through Sunday, July 2.

Here are some of the highlights featuring Lawrence locals:

Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting” screening and Q&A, featuring Haskell Indian Nations University’s Rhonda LeValdo. The award-winning documentary examines the movement to end Native American names and images being used as mascots. Read more about it at this link.

• “No Place Like Home: The Struggle Against Hate in Kansas” screening and Q&A. Directed by Oscar winner and University of Kansas professor Kevin Willmott and inspired by the C.J. Janovy book “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism in LGBT Kansas.” Janovy was previously opinion editor for Kansas Reflector.

• A presentation by photographer Ann Dean on Kansas legend Gordon Parks.

• A conversation on documentary filmmaking by Lawrence Talks!

• 1970s Lawrence Short Film Showcase by the Watkins Museum of History.

More highlights include:

(All information courtesy of a Free State Festival news release and its website)

  • I’m A Virgo screening and conversation with writer/director Boots Riley. This darkly-comedic episodic series by the acclaimed filmmaker from Sorry to Bother You tells the fantastical story of a 13-foot-tall young Black man in Oakland, California.
  • Standup comedy performance by Chris Estrada, co-creator, star, writer and executive producer of the hit Hulu series This Fool based on his upbringing in South Los Angeles.
  • Music performance by neoclassical piano prodigy BLKBOK. BLKBOK’s dexterous arrangements and melodic scores audibly illustrate experience across pivotal moments in American history.
  • Screening of Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple’s The Gumbo Coalition and conversation with Janet Marguía (President of UnidosUS). Presented in partnership with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
  • We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment documentary screening, Q&A and live music performance. Ignited by punk’s invasion of the Great Plains, America’s gawkiest and greatest lost rock band battles conformity in Reagan-era Kansas.
  • Garden City, Kansas documentary screening and Q&A. On the High Plains of the US, a bomb plot led by militant white supremacists threatens a thriving town made up of immigrants from around the world.
  • Oscar Micheaux’s Body and Soul with live score by DJ Spooky. Regarded as a rare work in African American cinematic history, this silent classic boasts biting social commentary on issues of race and gender.
  • Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill screening and tribute concert. Sill combined the electricity of Janis Joplin, soulful poetry of Leonard Cohen, and a complete lack of public recognition for her innovative, brilliant work before her premature death at the age of 35.
  • CONVERGE: Dance Performance. Regina Klenjoski Dance Company and Tristian Griffin Dance Company unite to produce an exciting evening of concert dance by nationally celebrated choreographers making thoughtful work rooted in identity, race, gender, and social justice. 
  • On These Grounds screening and Q&A. Police presence in the classroom turns controversial when a video showing a white officer throwing a black teenager to the ground goes viral.
  • International film selection Leonor Will Never Die. Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay.
  • A short film and culinary pairing event
  • ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ We Will Speak screening and Q&A. With fewer than 2,000 fluent speakers left, a small group of Cherokee activists race to save their language from extinction.

How to get tickets

Free State Film Society members can purchase all-access passes starting Saturday, April 1.

Memberships are still available for $40 per year, which includes free access to some events, discounted tickets, and early access to tickets for big events like the Free State Festival. Find out more about the society and join at this link.

All-access passes go on sale to the general public the following Saturday, April 8, and individual tickets will be available in May.

Visit for the latest festival news including tickets, passes and schedule updates, according to the release.

The Free State Festival is possible with the help of a long list of community partners: The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the Lied Center of Kansas, Liberty Hall, Audio-Reader Network, the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Film and Media Studies, the Watkins Museum of History, the Cider Gallery, Downtown Lawrence Inc., the Lawrence Public Library, the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, Theatre Lawrence and Lawrence Talks.

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