Tallgrass Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Here are the highlights

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“Four Samosas” follows a demotivated South Asian American rapper who, along with three other rookie thieves, plans a heist at a grocery store owned by his ex-girlfriend’s father. It will be one of the opening night films of the 20th Annual Tallgrass Film Festival.

Courtesy picture

It’s a monumental year for the Tallgrass Film Festival as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

The late Timothy Gruver started the festival in 2001 with ambitious goals. In its early days, many Wichitans didn’t even really know what a film festival was.

But now Tallgrass has become one of Wichita’s big events and a world-class festival. It attracts films and filmmakers from around the world with the “Stubbornly Independent” mantra, coined by the late Jake Euker in 2003.

This year, Tallgrass will screen 53 feature films and 14 short film programs with 195 films in total, from approximately 1,400 submissions.

Tallgrass Executive Director Melanie Addington said: “The films selected this year embrace the same stubbornly independent spirit as Tallgrass, from free speech fighters to near-famous independent musicians.

“The best part is that many directors, actors, documentary participants and musicians will come to Wichita with these films and join incredible movie personalities like Lloyd Kaufman and Kansas favorites like Kevin Wilmott and The Embarrassment.”

The 20th anniversary celebration will also include a return visit and tribute to former Tallgrass Film Festival Executive Director Lela Meadow Conner and film programmer Eric Moore.

Addington says it will be “a real extended birthday bash for moviegoers here in Wichita.”

Organizers say they have several other special events planned for the 20th anniversary festival, in addition to Tallgrass’ regular programming categories. Here’s a preview of what you can expect.

For a full schedule and complete film descriptions, visit tallgrassfilm.org.


“Airplanes, Trains and Automobiles” John Hughes Comedy Classic, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean. Followed by the 20th anniversary gala.

“Four Samosas” A demotivated South Asian American rapper plans a grocery store robbery. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, Orpheum Theater, 200 N. Broadway, followed by Mojo Samosas Gala, 9 p.m., audience at The Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island.

“The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon” Follows The Rise of a Rebel Musician, 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, Regal Warren Old Town, 353 N. Mead, followed by Mojo Samosas Gala, 9 p.m., Public at Brickyard, 129 N. Rock Island.

“We were famous, you don’t remember: the embarrassment” Documentary on a group formed in 1979 in Wichita, Friday, September 30 at 6 p.m., Orpheum Theatre, followed by the Embarrassment gala.

“All Man: The International Male History” A colorful peek behind the pages and personalities of the racy men’s catalog, 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 30, Temple Live, 332 E. First St., followed by the Embarrassment Gala, Orpheum Theater.

“Butterfly in the Sky” This documentary explores the journeys of broadcasters, educators and filmmakers who believed television could inspire a lifelong love of reading, 9 p.m. Saturday, October 1, Orpheum Theatre.

“Always in operation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.” A documentary about how the iconic comedy had a serious message about inequality for women in the office, 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, Orpheum Theater, followed by a closing gala, 9 p.m., Advanced Learning Library, 711 W. Second St.


Features 11 films that have garnered worldwide excitement and attention. Highlights include:

“Death and Bowling” A transgender actor wonders what it means to be seen after the death of his beloved lesbian bowling league captain. 4:30 p.m., Friday, September 30, Temple Live.

Donnie Darko After narrowly escaping a strange accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large bunny costume. 3 p.m., Saturday, October 1, Orpheum Theatre.

“No Place Like Home: The Fight Against Hate in Kansas” This in-progress documentary by Oscar winner Kevin Willmott from Kansan examines people who have found themselves in a battle for LGBTQ rights in rural areas such as Trego County, Salina and Topeka. 2 p.m. Sunday, October 2, Orpheum Theatre.


Named after the late, longtime Tallgrass volunteer, this juried category sponsored by The Cotillion highlights six domestic narrative films with budgets under $750,000. The winner will receive $5,000.

Films include “Attack, Decay, Release,” a sci-fi musical chronicling human migration following the decimation of a pandemic, and the just-released “East Bay,” which features the star of “Crazy, Rich Asians” Constance Wu in her first film role.


This juried competition sponsored by Fidelity Bank includes five narrative and documentary films. The winner will receive $5,000.

Films include “A Place In The Field,” which follows a veteran who keeps a promise made to a friend during a fight, “God Save the Queens,” about four drag queens finding common ground during a therapeutic retreat , and “Shelter”. which looks at a white nationalist leader and former veteran who is forced to confront his hatred.


This program celebrates the legacy of famed Kansan Gordon Parks by highlighting six films directed by African Americans in this Cargill-sponsored juried competition. The winner will receive $5,000.

Films include ‘Amansa Tiafi (Public Toilet Africa)’, which follows a woman’s quest to pay off an old debt by returning to where it was gifted to a white art collector as a little girl , and “Black Daddy: The Movie”. a look at the experience of fatherhood by black men.


These five films in this City Arts-sponsored juried competition were made by Kansans or made in Kansas.

Films include “It Started With a Horse,” a biographical documentary by legendary Western Kansas folk artist MT Liggett, and “PPP Loan Gone,” about how the recent pandemic has caused many small businesses to struggle to keep their open doors.


Features two films: “That Thing | That Sound,” a steel guitar love letter, and “The Pez Outlaw,” about a Michigan country man who spent 10 years smuggling Pez dispensers into the United States from the United States. ‘Eastern Europe.


Features five films including “Shall I Compare You To A Summer’s Day,” a contemporary queer musical taking Arabic folktales as formal reference, and “Quantum Cowboys,” a rotoscoped time-travel western.


The festival’s annual honorary award this year goes to Lloyd Kaufman, who directed cult classics such as ‘Poultrygeist: Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘The Toxic Avenger’. Both films will be screened in addition to an awards ceremony.


Inspired by Joan Miro’s “Bird Figures” mural at Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art, this program aims to highlight the connection between Kansas and Miro’s home country of Spain, through its unique works.

Films include “Home Owners,” about a young couple who find their dream home, and “Finlandia,” about Muxes (so-called third-gender people) whose lives change after a devastating earthquake in Oaxaca.


Programs include a comedy program, documentaries, drama, horror, identity, music and dance, the Timothy Gruver Spotlight on Kansas Shorts, the Joel Fein Spotlight on Filmmakers emerging and more.


The festival offers free panels and film conversations throughout the weekend, which are open to the public.


Events and screenings take place at various locations in downtown Wichita. Ticket and package prices vary. For more information, visit www.tallgrassfilm.org.

Contact Rod Pocowatchit at [email protected]

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