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Documentaries with KC ties set for FilmFest screens: Here’s when you can see these gripping films in local theaters

By Channa Steinmetz,


S treaming services might have become the standard since the COVID-19 pandemic drove more people to entertain themselves from home, but filmmakers and film enthusiasts are encouraging the community to gather at theaters for the 27th annual Kansas City FilmFest International.

“What’s so great about film festivals is that you’re able to see these films months before they make it to theater, or streaming nowadays,” said Dennis Fallon, who serves on the board of directors of Kansas City FilmFest International .

“To keep this thing going, we need the support from the people — we need people getting out to have this wonderful experience,” he continued. “Because it’s more than just going to the movies; it’s the experience of connecting with others, of hearing the behind-the-film stories and asking questions during the Q&As.”

KC FilmFest International begins Sunday, March 26 and runs until Wednesday, March 29. The festival includes 130 narrative and documentary films from local, national and international filmmakers. The showings are set to take place at AMC Ward Parkway.

Click here to check out the full film guide for Kansas City FilmFest International 2023.

Bob Hurst — the director of “Garden City, KS” and Film and Media Studies professor at the University of Kansas — will be showing his first feature documentary at KC FilmFest. “Garden City, KS” follows the community of immigrants in Southwest Kansas who were the target of a white nationalists group’s conspiracy to bomb an apartment complex that housed primarily Muslim immigrants.

Still image from “Garden City, KS”

“In the fall of 2016, there was a general election; and in the fall of that general election, these three men were arrested in Garden City, Kansas and later charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction,” Hurst explained. “… This film is still very relevant. The environment that existed in 2016 is just even more enhanced now politically and socially.”

The documentary weaves together interviews from Garden City’s diverse community members with animation of courtroom testimonies.

“We spoke extensively with Dan Day, who was the informant for the FBI who helped bust this conspiracy,” Hurst said. “He declined to be interviewed on camera for the film, but we knew he was an important part of the story. So, we decided to instead rely on court records and attended the trial of the three conspirators and then used the testimony of Dan Day and other witnesses.”

The filmmaker used animation to visually illustrate that section of the movie.

“Frankly, it’s hard to do dramatic reenactments,” he said. “People seem to have enjoyed the animation part of the story.”

Bob Hurst, director of “Garden City, KS”

From working on the film, Hurst discovered the importance of immigration in small towns, he shared — noting that with rural populations declining, immigrants allow for communities to stay alive and vibrant.

“Hopefully people take away that this country is a country of ideas, and it’s based on this concept of pluralism,” Hurst said. “We don’t all have to agree with each other, but we really need to get along. The people in this film understand how much work that is, but we can’t give up. We have to keep working on this country.”

“Garden City, KS” is set to show at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, at AMC Ward Parkway Theater 2.

Filmmaker Bradley Berman, right, interviews Jennifer Cariño, who was married to Jack Tuller from before his first diagnosis in 1994 until after his passing 25 years later; photo by Chloe Aftel

Chris Metzler, producer of “Jack Has a Plan”

Chris Metzler, the producer of “Jack Has a Plan”, grew up in Independence, Missouri, before heading West to grow his film career, he shared. Metzler is returning to Kansas City this Sunday for the showing of his feature documentary.

The documentary follows Jack Tuller, who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and given six months to live. When Tuller’s brain tumor comes back aggressive and inoperable, he decides to end his life through Death with Dignity. Director Bradley Bergman, who also was Tuller’s best friend, documents his three-year quest to die a happy man, culminating in a permanent going-away party.

“So often in life, we don’t talk about death,” Metzler said. “Working on this made us see life and death in a different way than when we had started. Jack underwent assisted suicide in California several years ago, right before the pandemic. We were sitting with all this footage, and it was a very cathartic film to make — both out of Brad’s friendship with Jack and through the pandemic, it allowed us to exercise some of those emotions.”

Jack Tuller smiles after his second brain surgery in 2014; photo by Bradley Berman

Jack Tuller speaks during his 58th birthday party in a scene documented in “Jack Has A Plan”; photo by Jonathan Lemon

“Jack Has A Plan” movie poster

Viewers can expect to learn about Tuller’s curiosity in life, as well as his love of absurdity, Metzler shared.

“So much of living life isn’t just about the seriousness and sadness — but also the humor,” Metzler said. “Jack lived the life he wanted to live. It probably wasn’t the one he dreamed up when he was 20 something years old, but he didn’t let the tumor stop him from doing the things he wanted. He was still embracing the simple things in life. I would love for people to take away that it’s OK to be silly when times are tough.”

“Jack Has a Plan” is set to show at 3:55 p.m. Sunday, March 26 at AMC Ward Parkway Theater 4.

KC FilmFest International is a unique opportunity to be exposed to a diverse set of voices, Metzler said, encouraging the community to purchase a ticket to films that pique their interest.

“You’ll hear from people who you don’t necessarily get to interact with on a regular basis,” he noted. “It’s this chance to experience the rest of the world. When I grew up in Kansas City, I’d go to film festivals and be inspired to make my own stories. I made films in Kansas City before I started making them anywhere else, and filmmaking is such an interesting art form to reflect upon your community.”

Although Midwestern filmmakers are often overlooked, festivals provide the platform for filmmakers to showcase their work to local audiences and beyond, Hurst added.

“We have a lot of talent in the Midwest,” he said. “In this festival, we have Sharon Liese who is a Kansas City filmmaker, and she’s showing her film that premiered at Sundance this year. … There’s a lot of great work happening here.”

RELATED: What’s in a name? KC filmmakers’ documentary short finds ‘Black joy,’ Sundance premiere in reclaiming a family name

Jackson Montemayor, Samantha Hake, Adolphus Parker III, Funmi Ogunro, Catherine Hoffman, Sharon Liese, Matthew Parker, Sedoria Parker, Katrina Parker, Ashleigh Parker and Cameron Parker of “Parker” attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Program 1 at Prospector Square Theatre Jan. 19 in Park City, Utah; photo by Jim Bennett, Getty Images

KC FilmFest International 2023 is expected to see thousands of viewers come through local theaters, with some shows already selling out. Hurst hopes that as much of the community as possible can be a part of the experience, he shared.

“I understand, personally, that after the pandemic, it’s hard to get your own habits back and leave home to go see movies,” Hurst said. “But everybody should make an effort to do that because it’s rewarding to see movies in the theater and do so with other people.”

Individual tickets are $10 a showing, and an unlimited Gold Pass costs $45. Click here to purchase tickets and passes.

The post Documentaries with KC ties set for FilmFest screens: Here’s when you can see these gripping films in local theaters appeared first on Startland News .

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