Free State Festival began seven years ago. It was the seedling of an idea that has since fought to put down roots, gain some footing, and offer a space in the community to recognize ideas, film, music and art. The festival scaled back last year after issues with funding made it almost impossible to put on, but if this year’s line-up is any indication, they are giving a name to the phrase “back and better than ever.” Read on to discover events, closing ceremonies, and a few film highlights you will definitely want to check out during the week-long event this September 17th-23rd.
I was seriously impressed with not only the films, but the wide variety of events, art installations, live music events, and discussions and talks that are slated to take place during the event. There are question and answer sessions that take place after their respective screenings with directors, producers, activists and actors that facilitate communication. There is an art talk with Cheech Marin and book signings and research being presented by KU professors. The Watkins History Museum is having a birthday party-130 years young is something to celebrate! There will be a panel discussing the films from this year’s program (with a cranberry theme to the cocktails and finger foods, apparently).
Did I mention there is also art and music? Yeah, there’s art and music. South Park will act as a canvas for a huge public installation of lights and live music, the culmination of a summer-long campaign and the official ending ceremony of this year’s Festival on September 23rd. And you know what they say-it’s not Lawrence if there’s no after party. Right? JC Brooks will be rounding out the night with what is sure to be a rousing performance of energetic, post-punk soul. I’m not kidding when I say this man’s voice will truly transport you to a different time.
To say there is a lot going on is an understatement. This Free State Festival is jam-packed with artistic expression of all kinds-it’s truly a testament to contemporary creativity and one of the most well-rounded programs in the history of the event. I love seeing homegrown ideas take root and thrive here in Lawrence, and there is no better way to support your community and these artists from across the nation by showing up. Tickets are on sale now, and many of the screenings and events are free. Trying to decide what highlights you definitely shouldn’t miss as far as film goes?
Here’s what you should see if you love:
Art and Culture…
The Price of Everything
September 21 at 5:00pm-7:00pm
This film takes you into the modern art scene and shows you, as Variety magazine says, “how the art world got converted into a money market.” If you are interested in a look at the meaning and cost of art and how society places monetary value on such, then this is the film for you.
Meow Wolf: Origin Story
September 20th at 8:00pm-10:00pm
Art in motion! Well, kind of. More like art in action. Meow Wolf is as close to a literal escape from reality as you can get. Walk through the doors of this lifesize and interactive art exhibit and you will be transported to a place full of whimsy and bizarre. This origin story follows the collective from its inception to its construction, including George R. R. Martin’s active interest in the incredible exhibition.
Alcohol (and history)…
Agave: Spirit of a Nation
September 17th at 5:00pm-7:00pm
This documentary takes you through Mexico, from Jalisco to Oaxaca, following the phenomenon of Tequila and Mezcal and three producers working hard to preserve their family history and capitalize on the opportunity for success. History and culture weave a tale of modern romance between a nation and its spirits.
Strong, Independent Women…
September 19th at 6:00pm-8:00pm
This documentary is about women’s fight for indigenous rights in the American Indian Movement in the 1970’s. Indigenous and women’s rights activist Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter Marcella are highlighted in the inspiring film. There will be a Q&A session with Director/Producer Elizabeth Castle and Madonna Thunder Hawk herself.
September 22nd at 12:00pm-2:00pm
Sadie is a 13-year old girl who is not afraid to speak her mind and stick to her guns. Her mother starts dating another man while her father is away serving repeated tours in the military, so Sadie does what she believes is necessary to keep her family intact. There will be a Q&A with actress Sophia Mitri-Schloss after the screening.
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales
September 22nd at 10:00am-12:00pm
Director Benjamin Renner and Patrick Embert have adapted Renner’s graphic novel into a heartwarming film full of animal misfits, slapstick funnies and relatable, sensitive moments.
Journalism, Kansas history, politics…
William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas?
September 22nd at 2:30-4:30pm
William Allen White was known as the editor of the Emporia Gazette and for his progressive political views. This piece explores White’s stance against the Ku Klux Klan and the words that drove the group out of Kansas, and the responsibility journalists bear today.
Kate is a recent KU graduate and perpetual lover of words, details, and Jayhawk basketball. She is using her English degree to write both creatively and strategically. You can find more of her work on her blog, A Story By Me.