In our second weekend in Lincoln, the Great Plains Film Festival finally got some more coverage in the local papers. The awards ceremony was announced, the winners were listed, and the special guests for the evening were profiled.
(The news headlines were devoted to the man who drove his pickup truck into the Nebraska Bookstore, which is directly across the street from the Ross. He took 20 textbooks and a sign saying “not responsible for stolen items,” and drove off. He was arrested not too far away.)
A weekly independent newspaper from Omaha ran a feature on the festival. The reporter had been in our screening of Dead Man on opening night and remarked how depressingly sparse the crowd had been. I didn’t think it was odd that Omaha might cover Lincoln’s film fest, but I expected more of a rivalry. But when it comes to independent movies, I’m told there is no rivalry.
| Friends of the Ross drive in from Omaha for independent film
One of the “friends of the Ross” I met drives the 50 miles from Omaha to support independent movies in Lincoln because there’s just no indie scene in Omaha. She said there was one art (she used her fingers as quotation marks) theater in Omaha, which she described as a “mall town.”
And the Winners Are...
Although the GPFF runs through August 14, the awards were announced on the 3rd and given out last night, on the 9th. The festival awards a total of $16,000 in prizes, although it’s not clear how that money is split among the 12 winners in 10 categories.
The awards ceremony started a little late to give some extra to some of the winners who were just arriving. One winner said he’d been in Lincoln all of 84 minutes as he accepted his award.
The Smith brothers, who won Best Narrative Feature for The Slaughter Rule , said the prize was the first money they’d seen from their independently produced movie. One of the brothers also complimented GPFF on it regionality. “You can’t fake Montana,” he said.
Megan Berg, winner of one of the Youth Media prizes for Sterilization in America , thanked the festival for providing an outlet here “in the middle of nowhere.” Berg’s frank assessment of Lincoln and the Great Plains was a refreshing dose of candor that coincided with our experience during the week of often having the theater to ourselves.
The grand prize winner was Matthew Testa, who made a movie called Buffalo War , which looks at the U.S. policy of slaughtering Bison who migrate too far outside of Yellowstone, for fear they might transmit a disease called brucellosis to domestic cattle. The winning movie looks at white activists, an Indian pilgrimage, neighboring ranchers, and even a few brief interviews with the front-line enforcers of the controversial policy.
The night also featured a special award given to Omaha film editor Michael Hill, who won an academy award for editing Apollo 13 . After the schmoozing and the Mexican dinner, the Ross capped the evening with a good-looking, great-sounding 35mm print of Apollo 13 , which Hill stayed to watch.
Although he wasn’t scheduled to speak, he agreed to stick around after the movie for an ad hoc Q&A session that summed up the festival nicely. It wasn’t a packed house, but nobody counted empty seats. Instead, the filmmakers seemed happy to have an appreciative crowd that they could connect with personally.