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Published: Tuesday, 10/13/2009

Reprise planned for festival despite bumpy premiere

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

There were plenty of laughs, applause, and drama at The Black Swamp International Film Festival - and not all on the theater screen.

The inaugural three-day festival, which kicked off Friday night at the Valentine Theatre, lost its guest speaker, David Kirchner, associate editor for filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, after he canceled his appearance Saturday morning because of illness.

The event suffered poor attendance through many of its afternoon screenings.

And at the concluding awards ceremony late Sunday afternoon, there was a mix-up for best foreign film. Boxing Day, a comedy-drama about an interracial couple and their effect on a dysfunctional family, took the prize.

Only, it's not a foreign film. It's an American movie, written and directed by Washington filmmaker Francis Abbey, that happens to take place on the British-Canadian holiday.

"I am honored," the 31-year-old Mr. Abbey said of the award. "I think it's kind of funny in the grand scheme of things."

After informing festival Co-chairmen Richard Iott and Cap Averill II of the mistake, Mr. Abbey will keep his award, and the festival also will award a trophy to the foreign-film runner-up.

Despite the problems that often come with a first-time event, the Black Swamp International Film Festival received thumbs-up from many of its about 800 attendees, particularly for its film selection.

"The quality of the films, the production, the depth of the characters and the screenplays is phenomenal," said Charles Valentine, a 48-year-old Toledo resident who had never attended a film festival. "[These films] are not a boxed, canned type of movie you see in theaters. They're very, very impressive."

The festival screened 35 feature-length national and international works, local and animated films, and shorts, with subject matter as varied as a Toledo slacker who's lost his way until he joins a community production of Death of a Salesman (Glass City), to a documentary exploring the lives of lesbians in Lebanon (Le(s)banese).

Sarah MacDonald, 29, whose horror short, Windows of the Soul, screened close to midnight Saturday, flew in from her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to attend the event.

"I wasn't expecting that many people at 11 o'clock, and also for the first year of the festival, but I was pretty impressed with the turnout," she said.

Even before the Black Swamp International Film Festival wrapped, Mr. Iott committed to a second annual event.

"We're certainly pleased with the response to this," he said. "Even if we weren't, I wouldn't want to give up after the first try."

Buckeye CableSystem, meanwhile, is showcasing at no charge almost all of the festival's films, in addition to 20 or so works not screened at the event beginning today and running through Jan. 10 on its Video on Demand service, Channel 1.

Contact Kirk Baird at:

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.



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