Tryon, North Carolina. Not your typical place for a film festival but when I was asked to participate as a Judge for the inaugural year I jumped at the opportunity. Having been the Program Director of the Gwinnett Center Int’l Film Festival for the last three years I now have a new outlook on independent films and the film makers that make them. Tryon would be my first film festival as a Judge hired to evaluate films based on my history not only as a Festival Director but as a film maker as well.
Tryon is a small equestrian town dedicated to the history of equestrian arts (not to mention the arts in general). The town is small but their roots run deep in the arts as they have various equestrian statues that greet you when you drive into town. The poster for the event adorns a horse celebrating one of the city’s greatest assets. Their other asset is the fact that it is the birth place of celebrated musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone, who also has a statue located in the center of the park with her namesake also in the center of the town. These are the images that greet you when you enter into Tryon, NC and then you come to wonder why it took so long for a film festival to arrive to begin with.
The film festival was started by the Polk County Film Initiative (PCFI) who wanted to expand the film arts and they’ve done a fantastic job in their first year. In addition to screening two films that demonstrate the heart and soul of the city – The Amazing Nina Simone and Harry & Snowman (an equestrian documentary) there was plenty of shorts and features on display from all genres. There were also many panel discussions (I went to the Student Actor and Cinematography ones) and there were plenty of film maker after parties each night.
I didn’t see many films on the first night as I decided to focus on panel discussions but one of the highlights for me on the second day was Dig Two Graves, which took home the award for Best Feature. This is a suspense thriller starring Ted Levine (of The Silence of the Lambs and Monk) as a small town cop whose past comes back for revenge on him and his family. This is a dark yet poignant film from Hunter Adams and Jon Parker and I hope it finds the right distributor for a wider release as it is well worth it. This is a film that will appease the horror fans who crave a thought provoking thriller with a touch of Winter’s Bone and television’s Justified thrown in.
This is not the only highlight of the festival as the much talked about Riingata from Napal filmmaker Nischal Poudyal, took home the 2015 Tryon International Festival Award for Excellence in Film-Making. I, unfortunately, missed this film but I talked with the filmmaker all weekend about his film and wished that I hadn’t.
I must acknowledge the achievements of directors Jessica Lawson and Stephen Sherwood whose short films Canine Interpretations: Hello, Who Are You? and The King’s Guitar, respectfully, were Official Selections of this event after screening at my film festival earlier this year. I talked with the film makers about the success of their films and hope they continue to have a successful film festival life.
Other highlights that I happened to see were the short films Daily (Dir: Florian Genal), Beverly (Dir: Alexander Thomas), Quitter (Dir: Melanie Star Scot), and Sangria Lift (Dir: Melanie Star Scot) and the feature films Whatever Comes Next (Dir: Hildegard Elisabeth Keller) and Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till (Dir: Rob Underhill). This is but a small sampling of the films that were screened but I couldn’t watch everything since there were so many other things to do during the event.
The most important thing that I should note about the event is my participation as the Judge for the Student Film category. There were five films in the Official Selection which included Afterlight (Dir: Tom Jones), Bananafish (Dir: Jake B & Anna Les), Race to Sunset Beach (Dir: David Randolph), Small Beginnings (Dir: Joshua A. Foster) and Tension (Dir: Oliver Marsden). The thing I love about this category is just how different each film was to the next in terms of story and execution and genre and style. Small Beginnings ended up taking home the award for Best Student Short but all the films were a showcase for up and coming film makers and I was proud to have been chosen to Judge over them.
I enjoyed this year’s event as I’m sure all of the patrons and visiting film makers and look forward to next year’s event. Tryon is a great location for an event that supports the arts with a community of people who do so as well and I’m just glad I was invited to the party. If you missed any of these films or want to know more about them and where they might be screening next you can visit the festival’s official website at http://tryoninternationalfilmfestival2015.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/2015-Tryon-International-Film-Festival-1609237092676335/timeline/
You can view pictures of the event on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/kevinlpowers/tryon-international-film-festival/ and on Instagram @TryonInternationalFilmFestival