I guess I’m not through huffing and puffing about this. Here’s my blog post about Warrensburg. The films were good despite the kerfuffle. Winter’s Bone was the featured film and therefore not in competition. But I got a standing ovation, twice, and was sent home with a basket of wine, two lovely wine glasses and chocolate, none of which was paid for with ARRA funds.
Just returned from a weekend in Warrensburg, Mo., where a new film festival featuring films on a Sociall Justice theme seems to have become a target for over-zealous lawmakers.
Fact #1: The festival, created by a year of hard work on the part of the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, was funded by ARRA (stimulus) funds.
Fact #2: These funds were made available a year ago after a meticulous application was made for them. The application was carefully crafted, suggesting that the agency knew what the regulations required.
Fact #3: Area businesses, mainly from the agribusiness sector, donated food, wine and made space for a pre-festival dinner for filmmakers and attendees, specifically so ARRA funds would not be spent inappropriately.
Fact #4: The director of the Department of Social Services, apparently catching wind of the dinner but not checking all the facts, announced the day before the festival that the funds had been spent inappropriately and would have to be returned. The story was picked up by the Kansas City Star (the major metropolitan newspaper closest to Warrensburg), which published it without calling the agency to ask if the allegations had any merit. As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the agency had not received any inquiries from anyone about how the money was spent except from the local Warrensburg paper.
It would seem to this observer that the timing of the announcement, coupled with the one-sidedness of the coverage, amounts to just another snake oil show designed to put a damper on discussions about social justice while taking a left-handed swipe at the program. My understanding is that some lawmakers are still sore the money went to the festival instead of a statewide bicycle race that some have supported heavily.
Nasty, this world of politics. But we managed to convert it into art, when the festival’s top speaker, Dee Wallace (she was the mom in E.T.) got fired up about the unfair hit the festival was taking and teamed with filmmaker Ky Dickens to produce a video that let the filmmakers and other guests express their opinions about the whole thing. Artists at their best, getting together to Make Something. It’s in production now but should be showing up soon. Watch for it on YouTube.
And did I say the festival was absolutely delicious, from “Fish Out of Water” to “Streetball,” to “Small Town Culture War,” and with some special applause to an extraordinary documentary about a homeless community, “17 Degrees Ain’t Nuthiin'” Find ’em. Watch ’em. You’ll be glad.