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Tallgrass Film Festival Makes The Most Of Forced Innovation


I mentioned a few weeks back how much fun it was to actually have access to far-away film festivals, since nearly everyone has gone to some form of a virtual festival for obvious reasons. And now, our own Tallgrass Film Festival is here—and with the stipulation that everything is better in a theater, and there’s something special about overextending yourself trying to pack everything in over a few days when things are normal, I have to say, the setup this year is… kind of great.


The festival began last Friday, and the timeline has doubled this year, to 10 days. A certain number of movies become available each day of the festival, but, thankfully, nearly everything then remains available through the end on Sunday. What this means is that we have more time to watch what we want, and there’s no such thing as a conflicting schedule—every year, I miss a couple movies I was dying to see, because they’re only playing at the same time as another movie I’m dying to see. This time, the only scheduling problems are of your own making.


I haven’t had a chance to watch a ton of stuff yet from this year’s lineup, but I will give a little attention to a movie called Materna, which won this year’s “Stubbornly Independent” award, given to movies made for less than $500,000.


It’s a series of vignettes based around four women in New York and related, in some way, to motherhood, or their experiences with their own mothers. But that description is a massive simplification of their complex and diverse stories—very little falls into cliché, the direction and pacing are extremely confident, and almost nothing is sensationalized. Almost nothing, except the event that connects all the women, something that feels shoehorned in and is wholly unnecessary to telling their stories. But that this is basically my only complaint about Materna hopefully says something.


We can all agree it would have been better if film festivals hadn’t been forced to get innovative this year, but the way Tallgrass has set things up, I gotta say, I pretty much love it. 

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.