Film Festival of Columbus Returns for 8th Year
The Film Festival of Columbus (FFOCOL) returns for its eighth year of celebrating film and filmmakers. Running Wednesday, September 11 through Saturday, September 14 at Gateway Film Center—with a stopover Friday afternoon for the Greater Columbus Film Commission Industry Summit at the Wexner Center for the Arts—the festival boasts exciting premieres, adorable dogs, international shorts, a little horror and some animated Ska. Huh.
Gateway Film Center President and Programmer Chris Hamel believes that keeping it interesting is an exciting and necessary challenge.
“In a city where we have exhibition venues like the Wexner Center for the Arts, Drexel Theatre and Gateway Film Center, we’re a little bit spoiled because there are aspects of a traditional festival that happen each and every day in Columbus,” he says. “While that’s great for festival lovers, it also puts more pressure on our festivals to provide something extraordinary to cinema lovers. We’ve continued to improve and innovate, and you see that even in this year’s program.”
Part of that program this year is a Saturday line up of family fun.
“That was intentional,” Hamel says. The Columbus Film Commission partnered with CCAD to do a children’s screenwriting competition, and the three winning screenwriters had their films made. We wanted to make sure we screened those as part of the festival. So we decided to do a family block, and while we were looking for content we came across the dog film festival.”
The Dog Shorts Block is a series of dog-related short films that play Saturday at noon.
“It’s adorable and really needed to find its way to Columbus, so I’m glad they submitted and I’m glad we get to present it,” Hamel says. Columbus Humane Society will partner with GFC on that screening.
Hamel says he was also pleased to see such volume and variety in documentary submissions this year.
“Documentary films are actually my favorite,” he says. “I get the privilege of seeing all these films and we had a really hard time narrowing the field down. So I’m excited that we’re going to bring all these great documentaries to the city.”
Among his favorites is a hockey flick that drew to mind last season’s Blue Jackets run for glory.
“We have the world premiere of The Fan Connection, about Buffalo sports,” he says. “All I was thinking when I was watching was, holy shit, this could be the Blue Jackets.”
Director Mary Wall is thrilled to be premiering her film at FFOCOL and hopes the story resonates with Ohio moviegoers.
“This was a story about fans of a team that always loses in a city that always loses and how people maintain hope and optimism in all of that,” she says. “I hope people will feel empowered to create positive change in their own lives and communities. I hope people will know there is always more to a person or place than its perception.”
What is she looking forward to in Columbus?
“I’m looking forward to three things,” she says. “Getting to see my movie with an audience for the first time, meeting the other filmmakers and hearing their stories, and seeing lots of great movies!”
Hamel’s eager to share The Fan Connection at the festival, and hopes audiences are as enthralled as he is by an unusual doc with local connections.
“Pick It Up! Ska in the 90s is so weird in its orientation – it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Hamel.
The documentary was animated by Columbus College of Art and Design faculty member Sarah Schmidt, who will be on hand for a Q&A after Thursday’s 9 p.m. screening.
Schmidt is just one of many regional filmmakers celebrated in the 2019 festival.
Anthony Codispoti’s locally made The Baker Brothers, which took home top honors in GFC’s 2019 Show Us Your Shorts competition, plays during one of the festival’s shorts blocks.
To Hamel, giving regional filmmakers the chance to show their work and meet others in the industry is vitally important to the festival.
“It’s essential to the mission,” he says. “The best moments of Film Festival of Columbus are when out of town filmmakers and filmmakers from our region sit down and talk about their successes and their failures and what they’re going to do next. It’s one of the most exciting aspects of having a film festival.”
One hometown filmmaker afforded this opportunity is premiering his documentary Heads-Up: Will We Stop Making Cents? at this year’s festival. Director and Columbus native Zach Edick describes the film as a debate documentary about discontinuing pennies in the U.S.
“The initial seed for the film was learning about the concept of negative seigniorage,” he says. “Seigniorage is the difference between the cost to make something and its value. Pennies and nickels currently cost more to make than they are worth.”
The hometown debut is a long time coming.
“I’ve wanted to make movies ever since I borrowed films from the Worthington Public Library as a kid,” he says. “I’m excited to be premiering Heads-Up: Will We Stop Making Cents? at FFOCOL as a tribute to the community that supported my creativity and steered me toward a filmmaking path.”
Hamel’s glad to have him.
“We want to make sure that Ohio-based filmmakers get to see their films on the big screen, and they get to network with filmmakers from out of town,” he says. “That’s a really great moment for our community.”
In fact, Hamel’s pretty proud of the whole line up.
“We got some really exciting titles and there’s the ever so slight hint of genre titles,” he says. “We got lucky this year because the content’s so amazing. Bliss and Harpoon and Memory: The Origins of Alien and Speed of Life and The Death of Dick Long – those are all screening at FFOCOL this year, so that’s an early appetizer for Nightmares Film Festival, which is still five, six weeks away.”
There’s also a fan favorite screening.
“Since the beginning of FFOCOL, we’ve always hoped to have one or two flashbacks or restorations, but between the Wexner Center and Gateway Film Center, almost all of them have played in Columbus – which is a really awesome problem,” he says. “The Escape from New York restoration, timing-wise, was just perfect for FFOCOL. We get one of the first screenings in America of the 4k restoration.”
All told, Hamel thinks the eighth year may be the festival’s best.
“I’m really proud of the evolution of FFOCOL,” he says. “We’re doing things that are interesting and we’re doing things that are innovative and our audiences continue to grow because of it.”
Check out the FFOCOL website for tickets, schedules and additional information.