Kansas City Connection: Movies with local ties front and center at KC Film Fest

Given its growth over the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kansas City Film Fest eventually became one of the nation’s more popular cinema events. For now, the size is just right — there are plenty of interesting feature films and shorts to choose from, yet the festival is still affordable and accessible to fans of all interest levels.

Taking place from now through Sunday, the KC Film Fest includes about 170 films, shorts, documentaries, animations and showcases at two area theaters, Cinemark Palace on the Country Club Plaza, 526 Nichols Road, and the Alamo Drafthouse downtown, 1400 Main St.

Many of the films have local ties, such as “Rich Hill,” a documentary about three teenage boys growing up in a now blighted small town 70 miles south of Kansas City. The film, which won a Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, plays at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cinemark. A special screening will also take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Alamo, with co-director Tracy Droz Tragos in attendance.  

“Kansas City Stories,” a showcase of short films about area history, landmarks and people, will be screened at 8 p.m. Thursday at Cinemark. “Photos in the Wind: A Joplin Tornado Story,” is a 17-minute film by Abbey Hoekzema that tells the story of the preservation of more than 38,000 photographs scattered by the storm. The short will screen at Cinemark along with several other short documentaries at 7 p.m. Friday.

One of the fest’s organizers urged me to see “Ping Pong Summer,” the story of a teenage boy’s summer vacation in 1985 that pays tribute to hip-hop, ping pong and everything eighties. “Ping Pong Summer” shows at Cinemark at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Wadjda,” a film made entirely in Saudi Arabia by female writer/director Haifaa al-Mansour (no small feat), will be featured in a special event Friday, with a catered reception at 5:30 p.m. and a screening at 6:30, followed by a panel discussion. Tickets are $22, with $20 of each ticket going to benefit area women and girls. Also of note is “Stripped,” an extensively researched documentary about newspaper comic strips and the explosion of comics on the Web, showing at 3 p.m. Sunday at Cinemark.

Tickets to individual films cost $10 apiece. A gold pass, which includes all-you-can-watch movies, is by far the best deal at $55 (that price jumps to $65 after Monday). A silver pass ($25) includes admission to three films, panels or seminars. Tickets, passes and an entire schedule of events can be found at kcfilmfest.org.

Ethnic Festival

Last summer I dedicated a column to the annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Swope Park, which brings together dozens of food vendors, information booths and performers representing cultures from around the world. While that event won’t take place until late in the summer, a smaller event at Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave., this Saturday aims to create a similar environment of intercultural harmony.

The Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival will feature representatives from 75 different countries, ethnicities and local organizations with information tables, crafts and snacks.

Brazilian, Greek and Italian food is being prepared by students and staff at the college’s culinary arts program, and separate vendors will be selling Kenyan, Peruvian, Latin American and West African cuisine.

The entertainment schedule includes Croatian folk music, drumming and dance of Barbados, Israeli dance, Italian folk music, Lithuanian dance, American hip-hop and several other performances.

Admission to the WYCO Ethnic Fest is free, as is parking. For a full schedule of events, visit freewebs.com/wycoethnicfestival.

Second Best Coffee

One of my new favorite coffee shops, Second Best Coffee, located in a south Kansas City, Mo., strip mall at 328 W. 85th St., is a great place to stop for a gourmet cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast burritos featuring pork from Local Pig.

The coffee shop features the only Slayer espresso machine in the area (I hadn’t heard of it either, but the results were delicious) and a sampling of coffees from several different boutique roasters.

The name is a nod to Midwestern modesty, and even though you’ll find the same stainless steel and reclaimed wood decor of big-city coffee joints, there were nothing but friendly faces when I visited. Second Best Coffee is open from 6:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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