The Rising Tide of Kansas City Film

Kevin Bryce

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The Kansas City Urban Film Festival showcased 10 films this past weekend at the Screenland Theatres in the crossroads. It’s only in its second year, but with posters, video promos and even a red carpet, the festival gives the vibe that it’s here to stay.

“Sundance started with Robert Redford showing movies in his home,” festival organizer Sean Edwards said. “We want to be the go-to film festival for future film makers.”

Being a small up-and-coming festival, it really gives a chance to local independent filmmakers to showcase their work.

“That’s the thing about the festival; we want to give everybody a shot. This is a platform that provides people an audience that wouldn’t typically get a chance to show their work at a festival,” Edwards said. “It was rough for me when I was getting started, so if I can make it easier for somebody else then that’s a good thing.”

Former UMKC student Michelle Davidson-Bratcher, had a film showcased and appreciates Edwards efforts.

“I know Sean Edwards through the film community in Kansas City and this is the very first place we’ve screened this film. It was great to see it on the big screen,” Bratcher said.

The festival kicked off Friday by showcasing the films of local Kansas City women filmmakers.

“[Friday] is all about female filmmakers. All the movies were written, produced and directed by women,” Edwards said.

The first film Barren showcased in the festival was written, produced, and starring Bratcher. Starting out in journalism, Bratcher credits a lot of her writing ability to UMKC and her script writing professor.

“I was a journalist and a writer before but I didn’t even know how to format a screenplay,” Bratcher said. “Taking a class at UMKC and [Professor] Mitch Brian helped me do that.”

But it’s from her previous career that she gains her inspiration.

“As a journalist I’m always inspired by real events and that’s how [Barren] came about,” Bratcher said.

Barren is a short film about a woman who goes to great lengths to have a child of her own.

From female filmmakers on Friday, the showcase moved into two other themes on Saturday and Sunday.

“Saturday was all about romance. And Sunday is more of a hip hop day. It’s hip hop cinema,” Edwards said.

On Saturday, there were five films based around romance themes,

“Saturday is definitely an orchestrated effort,” Edwards said, laughing.

But with a Tech N9NE concert film being shown Saturday night, it was really the hip-hop theme that excited Edwards the most.

“Hip-hop cinema is sort of like the new exploding frontier,” Edwards said. “It’s the next genre that’s gonna really blow up because you have all these guys who come out of quote un-quote the hood who have stories to tell.”

Now, with the newfound availability of equipment, urban filmmakers are coming out of the woodwork.

“What hip-hop was like 20 years ago is like what the urban film movement is like today,” Edwards said.

Edwards and the Urban Film Festival are riding the waves of the movement and hoping it will take them to the big time.

“We want to grow,” Edwards said. “We want to put the Kansas City film industry on the map. We want them to say ‘you gotta have your film screened at the Kansas City Urban Film Festival.”

With the rise of up-and-coming film makers in Kansas City, and the increase in availability and affordability of equipment, that just might happen.

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