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Archive for Monday, September 26, 2005

Shorter film festival planned after founder’s death

September 26, 2005

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— The Tallgrass Film Festival will be shortened this year but will go on, despite the death of founder and executive director Timothy Gruver.

"It was important for us to continue in some form to keep from dropping off Wichita's radar screen," said Tallgrass board member Emily Bonavia. "We didn't want to lose momentum."

Gruver, 33, collapsed on the street near his home July 27 and died at a hospital. An autopsy could not determine the cause of death.

Randy Phillips, Tallgrass board president, said a shorter festival this year will allow it to come back in full force next year.

"We looked at trying to pick up the pieces after Tim's passing and do a full festival," Phillips said. "But, quite honestly, that would probably have been a formula for failure. Tim had so many of the plans still in his head. It would have been worse for us to try."

The festival will begin with a fund-raiser the evening of Oct. 21, followed by a full day of screenings and discussions with filmmakers from Los Angeles and New York on Saturday, Oct. 22. Past festivals have gone four days.

The minifest, dubbed "Shortgrass" by Lela Mezdow of Chicago, who has produced the festival since the beginning, will also feature a brunch with filmmakers, presentation of the Ad Astra Award and a closing gala.

"So many people enjoyed them before that we feel that the community deserves to have a film festival, even if it is short," she said.

The minifest will also pay tribute to Gruver, who grew up in Wichita, became an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles and returned in 2002 to found the Tallgrass Film Festival.

Despite widespread skepticism, Gruver put together the first festival in nine months. For last year's festival, he brought in such celebrities as Oscar winner Cloris Leachman and Oscar nominee Gary Busey.

The schedule of films and visiting filmmakers will be announced Oct. 7. Tickets will be $7 per movie; $5 for students and seniors.

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