When my short film Frame of Mine first received it's acceptance into the 9th annual Flyway Film Festival, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the small festival stretching across four towns along the Mississippi River. Filled with small town nostalgia and Flyway's stellar lineup of independent film, I set off for the weekend to find out just what made it one of the 25 Coolest film festivals in the world according to Moviemaker Magazine.
The festival was already in full swing by the time I arrived at Flyway as I wasted no time heading to my first screening; How to Build a Time Machine a Canadian documentary directed by Jay Cheel. A film I ended up seeing completely on accident since by the time I had arrived the Friday Night Shorts program had been completely sold out, an accident that lead me to seeing what was my favorite film I had seen throughout the entire festival. The film follows the stories of two men who found inspiration H.G. Wells' 1895 Novel The Time Machine and descend down two very different paths of obsession. Animator Rob Niosi spends years working meticulously recreate the time machine prop from the 1960 feature film adaptation, meanwhile theoretical physicist Ron Mallet devouts his lifetime work to discovering a possible means of time travel in order to correct a devastating personal tragedy from his childhood. What made this film so engaging for me was the dichotomy that existed between the way each of the subject's viewed time travel. Rob views time travel with a level of romanticism that comes through in his meticulously and beautifully crafted time machine replica. Rob is more interested in looking forward to the future as it pertains to the possibility of time travel. Meanwhile Ron who's only interest is to go to the past, so that he might rewrite history and prevent the death of his father when he was only ten years old. With each interview Ron's regret oozes forward with each word as his life is consumed with the one singular goal of going back in time to rescue his father. How to Build a Time Machine is an engaging exploration of personal loss, the relationship between time and film and a well balanced investigation on the merits of actual time travel.
The next day was filled with film screenings and taking in the local attractions before my own screening would come later that day. Pepin has bevy of quaint attractions including the beautiful Villa Bellezza Winery, bringing a little bit of European flavor to the shores of the Mississippi river. Pepin Business district perfectly embodied the small town vibe I had been craving, finding myself spending most of my time in between screenings at the 404 Coffee shop, Breakwater wine bar and the Flyway Minema Lounge. Once I finished my delicious mocha at the 404 coffee shop, it was off to the first screening of my film as part of the Student Shorts Program at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, MN. This was my favorite venue of the entire festival a historic 112 year old theatre, now retrofitted with a high quality projector. Of the all the screening venues my film had been to during it's festival run, this was by far the best projection quality I had ever seen my film projected at.
Following the Student Shorts Program was a screening of June Falling Down a mumblecore style feature shot in Door County, Wisconsin. Director Rebecca Weaver also tackles the lead role of June who returns her small hometown for the wedding of her best friend which forces to confront the ghosts of her past and try to move forward with her life, overcoming personal loss and the events of her own life slipping out of her control. Weaver's directorial hand and strong lead performance smooth out a few of the film's rough patches.
Once a day full of screenings ended at flyway, the Filmmaker lounge at Flyway would come to life as both Filmmakers and Festival staffers got treated to homemade meals and free drinks. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of Flyway, being able to interact with other filmmakers from all over the world. For instance I had the pleasure of speaking with Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Cortes Calahorra, whose film Refugios I had seen earlier that day. We talked about everything from the different views on sexuality and violence in European and American culture, the rise of right wing populism across matured western democracies and the role of violence in American films. The festivities waged deep into the night as I was privileged to talk to so many people from different walks of life, until we had all finally drank, eaten and smoked our fill.
I spent my final day at Flyway nursing myself nursing a hangover which was finally cured by a sandwich and cup of coffee from the 404 coffee shop. I attended the last couple of screenings as I eagerly awaited the closing night film American Fable, that of which I had long awaited to see. A 1980's Midwest thriller centered around the farming crisis in the 80's. A young girl named Gitty discovers that her loving father has struck a deal to hold a wealthy man captive in her family's silo. Gitty befriends the trapped man (played by Richard Schiff) struggle's with the decision to free the man or to protect her family from the consequences of the their terrible actions. Where the film truly hits it stride are the scenes between Gitty (Peyton Kennedy) and Jonathan (Richard Schiff) the well crafted scenes filled with best performances in the film that range from playful to intense drama. The film unfolds as a surreal family thriller as Gitty and Jonathan are both tormented by her older brother who has been manipulated by a mysterious older women. At it's heart American Fable is a story about how far people will go and cross their own moral lines in order to protect their family.
As the credits for American Fable began to roll over the screen in the Widespot Performing Arts Center, it marked the end of a memorable Flyway weekend. It was truly an experience that I will not soon forget, and certainly cemented Flyway's Film Festival as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) film festivals.