Think of film festivals and youdon’tthink of Hollywood, L.A., or New York. The big ones take place outside of the system, in Cannes, Telluride, and Park City. So although Lincoln, Nebraska, at first seems very un-film-like, it’s probably as good a place as any for a film festival.
The Movie District
| Celebrity judges Farmer, Dworkin, and Gosling confer after the opening-night reception
Rolling into town toward the university’s Ross visual arts center, the idea of a film festival starts to make sense. There seems to be a “movie theater district” in Lincoln. Half a dozen movie theaters pack the streets surrounding the Ross theater. You can’t pass a street corner without seeing a marquee announcingPirates of the Caribbean,Spy Kids 3-D, orSeabiscuit. Instead of one dozen-plex, Lincoln has 6 two- to four-screen theaters. It looks like a thriving moviegoer’s paradise.
When I later remarked on this to someone from the Friends of the Ross, she pointed out that they might as well be a dozen-plex. All the movie theaters in town are owned by one family.
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
"Surely a town with so many theaters supports the Ross," I asked. "Why form a booster club?"
"To help pay the bills," she said.
The most “indie” of the movies showing outside of the Ross areSwimming Pool, (which was apparently forced on the theater by a studio), andBend it Like Beckham, which is about as “indie” as last year’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” ForThe Man without a Past, orThe Man on the Train, the only option is the university’s film program, and even then, the crowds apparently stay home.
I walked into the building that I recognized from the Internet. I didn’t yet have my press pass and was hoping I’d be able to get one — I hadn’t worked out that particular detail beforehand.
The three people in line in front of me all talked their way in. I couldn’t hear for sure, but I think one was an official festival guest and another was a publicist. I assumed I would be issued a press pass, making me wonder if anybody was actually going to buy a ticket to the festival.
The guy behind the till apparently had the same thought. Having just heard three very good stories, he wasn’t buying my press credentials. “Well, I guess I could give you a senior discount,” he offered.
The big opening night event wasDead Man, an 8-year old film starring Johnny Depp. It takes place in an unspecified Western frontier, which more or less fits the “Great Plains” mold. Gary Farmer, who got second billing in the film, is one of the festival’s celebrity judges, and he took Q&A after the movie. Farmer is an Iroquois, his long hair showing as much salt as pepper. He was proud of having gone back to school to learn “his” language, but came across as amiable and shy. He seemed as starstruck by people like Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch as anyone else in the audience would have been, his story of his trip to Cannes sounding as magical and surreal as it probably is for all but the most jaded Hollywood types.
After the Q&A, we retired to a reception hall and the schmoozefest began. The friends of the film program, members of the press, and everyone else with a ticket mingled with the three celebrity judges (Jennifer Dworkin and Maureen Gosling joined Farmer) over gourmet mini sandwiches, iced tea, and lemonade.
Everyone acknowledged that Lincoln, Nebraska, was neither L.A. nor Telluride, but everyone was happy to be here, supporting the movies that don’t happen without booster clubs.