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Kansas City Filmfest 2009
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Reviewed on 2009-04-21

Article by: Keith Cohen, The Movie Guy

Movie lovers throughout Kansas City should make an effort April 22-26 to attend the Kansas City FilmFest at its new home at the state-of-the-art, all-digital, six-screen AMC Mainstreet, 1400 Main St., in the heart of the Power & Light District.

This nationally registered historic landmark originally opened in October 1921 as a vaudeville theatre and later as a movie house formerly known as the Empire Theater. The film festival represents the merger of FilmFest Kansas City, the oldest ongoing festival in the area, and the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee.

This year’s juried festival will be unspooling full-length independent feature films, documentaries and shorts from more than 20 countries. Audiences will have the chance to see nearly 40 films including nominated, pre-released and Sundance fan favorites as well as entries from up and coming local talent. Filmmakers will be in attendance to host question-and-answer sessions following the presentation of their movie. Seminars will be held with noted writers, directors and actors including Kansas City’s own Jeff Goldsmith, a director and senior editor of Creative Screenwriting Magazine.

Local filmmaker Ty Jones will host the world premiere screening of his supernatural thriller “Last Breath” at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Jones and Mandy Bannon portray a couple with a young son whose marriage is built on shifting sand. They find themselves imprisoned by a sadistic killer and forced to make choices that will ultimately determine their family’s survival or demise. Playing the “sadistic killer” is KC native Aaron Laue, who also produced the film.

“‘Last Breath’ is a grand debut, a new beginning for a vibrant Kansas City filmmaking scene,” said Jerry Rapp, award-winning screenwriter/producer. “Ty Jones’ taut, suspenseful and intelligent thriller features top-drawer production values, writing and performances, and is sure to succeed on an international level. It sets a new bar for home-grown, independent cinema.”

This is Jones’ first feature – he also wrote it – after having written, directed and worked on more than 100 short films over eight years. An award-winning short film director, Jones made the leap to features and partnered with Laue in 2006 to film his own movie. Laue has acted in more than 20 films, and before producing “Last Breath,” he had produced five short films. As a team, the two put together a Kansas City-area cast and crew with ties to Hollywood and Sundance.

The Sundance hit “The Brothers Bloom” starring Academy Award winner Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”), Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”) and Mark Ruffalo (“You Can Count on Me” and “13 Going on 30”) will be shown at 7:30 p.m. April 24 prior to its May 29 nationwide release. It is a globe-trotting romantic comedy about the last great adventure of the world’s two best con men. Writer-director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) will attend the screening.

Other standout titles include:

* “The Only Good Indian” directed by KU professor Kevin Willmott (“C.S.A.,” “Ninth Street” and “Bunker Hill”) and starring Wes Studi, who will attend the 7 p.m. opening night presentation on April 22. This Kansas-lensed drama set in the early 1900s about an Indian boy who runs away from a government-operated school premiered earlier this year at Sundance;

* “The Garden,” an Oscar-nominated documentary featuring a lush 14-acre community garden in South Central established in the aftermath of the 1992 riots. Bulldozers threaten its future when the city issues an eviction notice;

* “The Narrows,” a compelling drama based on Tim McLoughlin’s novel “Heart of the Old Country” featuring performances by Vincent D’Onofrio and Sofia Bush; and

* “Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies,” a documentary that traces the life and work of the legendary silent film star, pioneer and businesswoman. Kansas City resident Nicholas Eliopoulos produced, directed and edited this comprehensive study of the first Hollywood movie star. Actor Michael York serves as the narrator. It will be shown in conjunction with the newly restored silent film “My Best Girl” starring Pickford and husband-to-be Buddy Rogers of Olathe, Kan.

Full festival passes are $50 per person and individual tickets are $8. Parking is $2 with validation at nearby KC Live lots and garages. Tickets may be purchased at the theater on opening day or online at

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