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Published: Monday, 9/14/2009

Toledo's Black Swamp International Film Festival debuts

Although it is more cinematic to suggest a god-like voice led local filmmakers Richard Iott and Cap Averill II to create The Black Swamp International Film Festival, the truth is much more practical than fantastic.

It was a need.

“We feel there is a tremendous amount of filmmaking talent in the area that is going undiscovered, or at least unappreciated, outside a small group of filmmakers,” Iott said. “There are also a number of regional filmmakers, actors, producers, editors … who have gone on to be successful in the entertainment industry and we wanted to bring attention to them as well. Lastly, many residents of the area routinely attend the Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Columbus … film festivals. Why not here? Why not bring people to our city rather than sending them to their cities?”

And so Toledo has its first film festival.

The Black Swamp International Film Festival will showcase 45 feature-length films and shorts by local, national, and international filmmakers during its three-day run beginning Oct. 9 at the Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St. Tickets range from $6 to $30. For information, call 419-535-7482.

Although the Black Swamp Festival is not as splashy, as big, or as comprehensive as many movie fests, it is an important beginning.

“I think the first thing that the Black Swamp Festival does is give Toledo a stamp of credibility,” said C.J. Perry, editor-in-chief and co-publisher of Toledofilmmakersmagazine.com Web site. “If like-minded people get together, get some sponsorship and some quality entries, it shows that we're serious. While it may never be Sundance, it can be a positive thing for this area.”

The Black Swamp International Film Festival is a nonprofit entity, and is relying on donations, sponsorships — including The Blade — as well as ticket sales to fund its estimated $100,000 cost.

The reward for the event's patrons is the opportunity to see films and shorts they otherwise would miss, including family films (Call of the Wild), abstract films (Exhibit #9 (Evil Things) ), drama (Fuel, And the Winner is, The Twenty, In/Significant Others, Nothing Happened), animation (Skylight) documentaries (Beyond the Call, If stone could talk, The Spam Job, Abandoned Heroes, A View From the Mountain), and even a musical (It was a Little Bit Crowded).

“At present we are planning eight blocks of approximately one and a half hours each plus the opening-night block,” Iott said. “Blocks will contain anywhere from one feature film to 15 shorts or docs and any combination thereof.”

Like many of its films, The Black Swamp International Film Festival was long in the making.

Averill first began to put together the film festival in 2005, which he called The Midwest Indy Festival.

He had established a reputation for directing and co-writing the drama Out of the Shadows, which won the Hollywood DV/HD Festival 2005 award for Best Narrative Feature, and for the nature documentary, Thunder on the Farm, which aired on PBS.

It was at a meeting with Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's office to discuss a local film festival that Averill met Iott. Iott was executive producer of the family adventure-drama Call of the Wild 3D, starring Christopher Lloyd and Timothy Bottoms, and a Beauty and the Beast remake starring Estella Warren.

Averill and Iott hit it off, and after a second meeting with the mayor, it was suggested they work together to create the city's first film festival.

“I immediately contacted Rich, and we rolled up our sleeves, renamed the festival [to] The Black Swamp International Film Festival, secured The Valentine, and began moving forward,” Averill said.

“We are not looking at this festival as being in competition with others,” he added. “We see this as a festival which will help to promote interest in films and festivals in general.

“We are confident that this festival will become one of Toledo's treasures.”

The festival is also breaking new ground with its partnership with Buckeye CableSystem, owned by Block Communications, Inc., which also owns The Blade, to showcase the films through the cable provider's Video On Demand service for three months following the festival.

A New Orleans film festival attempted something similar, Iott said, but not on such a major scale.

“We're still working out the details, but the plan is that the films will be free or darn close to it,” Iott said. “Viewers will have a chance to watch films they missed at the festival or re-watch films they liked. I can imagine people gathering at a home or at a bar and having their own minifestival. At the end, there will be a People's Choice award based on viewership.”

Shorts from area high school students, as well as from University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University film students also will be screened at the Black Swamp festival.

“When I saw Toledo finally brought a film festival to town, I knew I had to submit this,” said Darin Hohman, a 31-year-old 2001 BGSU graduate, whose short documentary, Veiled Legacy, which examines the BGSU spirit group SICSIC, makes its public debut at the festival. “If there's going to be any draw or appeal to the film, it's really [in] northwest Ohio.”

And don't forget these other area film festivals and programs this fall:

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater at Bowling Green State University, which offers a wide range of classic and current international and national cinema fare: www.bgsu.edu/gish/page29698.html#1

The Detroit Docs International Film Festival, which promises an update soon regarding its 2009 festival schedule: www.detroitfilm.org/detroitdocs/

The University of Toledo, which is serving up a documentary film series: www.utoledo.edu/as/theatrefilm/2009-2010_theatre_season.html

And the Lyric Photoplay Society, which has put together a great selection of old movies for the fourth year in its Classic Film Series at the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd.: www.collingwoodartscenter.org

Contact Kirk Baird at:kbaird@theblade.comor 419-724-6734.



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