Sixth Annual Landlocked Film Festival to showcase independent films all weekend


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It’s all about balls, babes, and muscles in the animated feature Ronal the Barbarian.

This comedic film from Denmark drops around 50 F-bombs and is one of the 60-plus movies that will be shown at this years’ Landlocked Film Festival.

Screenings will begin at 5 p.m. today in Iowa City Public Library Room A, 123 S. Linn St., and 7 p.m. at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St. Screenings will continue through Oct. 28 at various locations. Admission for most films is free unless specified; tickets may range from $3 to $7.

Mary Blackwood, an administrator in the University of Iowa Division of Sponsored Programs, started the event in August 2007 because Iowa City lacked a festival of this caliber.

“There are many filmmakers in Iowa, but when I looked around, the city only had music and art festivals; there wasn’t an all-around film festival that took every kind of movie,” she said.

In celebration of its sixth anniversary, Blackwood said, this year, the festival is showing some of the highest quality films and the selection-team members were more particular than they have been.

“We have things that you can’t find on television or online because it’s not from the Hollywood filmmaking machine,” Blackwood said. “We look for films that have a compelling story, great acting, and diverse topics that appeal to everyone.”

This year, the selection team also strongly considered films that dealt directly with Iowa City.

One example of this is director Angie Chen’s film One Tree Three Lives, which will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday at the Bijou. Admission is free.

The inspirational documentary follows the story of Chinese writer Hualing Nieh Engle, a cofounder of the UI International Writing Program.

In the production of the film, Chen followed Nieh Engle for almost three years as she traveled the globe.

“I wanted to present Nieh’s multiple roles — as a novelist, mentor, and a cofounder of the writing program; as a woman, mother, grandmother and wife; as a mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and an American; and as a pacifist who loves to laugh,” Chen said.

Chen has known Nieh Engle for more than 40 years, and they are so close that she even calls her Auntie Nieh. In this film, Chen wanted to show the world what she sees in this woman.

“I see her charisma and her understatements; I see a woman who has overcome obstacles and hardships, yet never cowered or became bitter,” Chen said. “I see a generous friend who is frugal with herself, and I see a tree but also a person who has always seen herself as an outsider — in Wuhan, Taipei, and Iowa.”

John Putch, an independent filmmaker and recent director of the television sitcom “Cougar Town,” took a more comedic approach to his film.

His feature Route 30, Too! will première at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Englert. Admission is $7.

The film encompasses stories from Putch’s hometown in Pennsylvania and all the “backwoods humor that occurs there.” He describes the film as “X Files” meets Dumb and Dumber.

After the film, audience members will have the chance to attend a panel discussion in which they can ask Putch questions — which the director loves being a part of.

“The best part is engaging with the audience,” Putch said. “It’s more satisfying, really, because you get to hear people’s reactions, and I get to explain things and thank them for coming.”

This is Putch’s second time at the festival; he enjoys coming to Iowa because he believes his films cater to the city’s audience.

“The films at the festival don’t have an air of snobbery, and when I see the programs, they are real honest to me, and I love that,” he said.

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