Tipton holds independent film fest, Hardacre


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A two-day, independent- and art-house-film festival, housed in an historic and prestigious old movie theater. An event such as this is bread and butter for the Iowa City arts community.

But this festival isn’t taking place in Iowa City. It’s in Tipton.

“A group of people in Tipton in 1996 just got together and said, ‘Let’s have a film festival,’ ” said Will Valet, a University of Iowa cinema alumnus and the current director of the Hardacre Film Festival. “We have a unique venue, and that has allowed us to slowly build a world-class festival in a small town.”

The Hardacre Festival will take place today and Friday at the gorgeous Hardacre Theater in downtown Tipton. Admission is $8 for each of three film sessions on Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday evening, or $20 for the entire festival.

“The Hardacre Film Festival was the first competitive independent film festival in Iowa and one of the longest running in the Midwest,” wrote Abby Kisling, the Tipton community-development director, in an email. The festival is the longest-running film festival in the state of Iowa.

Hardacre also coincides with Tipton’s Ridiculous Days, the community’s annual sidewalk sale, which allows the festival to have a very strong economic effect on the town.

“The festival leverages a considerable amount of event-related tourism-dollar spending by the audience, including restaurants, lodging, and shopping,” Kisling said.

The 2013 festival will screen six feature-length movies and 13 short films, shown back to back throughout the two days of the event. Nine of the films will be represented by the directors themselves, who will be available to talk about their work with audience members.

“We never set out to pick films with particular themes, but they always tend to form,” Valet said. “This year, we have a lot of films, such as The Elders and World Fair, that are about nostalgia … We’ve had a lot of films this year that look back.”

Another short-film screening at the festival this year is Gun. The movie, shot in a stark, minimalist style, tells the story of a family who decide to purchase a handgun for protection after a break-in.

“The film follows our obsessions with guns and the power that comes with it when we carry them,” said writer and director Spencer Gillis. The filmmaker and camera operator is also an alumnus of the UI’s cinema program.

He is adamant about the power of independent-film festivals such as Hardacre.

“You walk out of those big Hollywood films, and it’s something very forgettable,” he said. “It’s fun, and you get to see a lot of money thrown up on screen, but it’s not something that you can relate to.”
The human element, Gillis said, sets festivals such as the Hardacre apart.

“There’s a huge world of people out there who want to tell human stories and have human conversations through film,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing here.”

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