It may not have the same name recognition as Sundance, but the return of this weekend’s Ogden Film Festival promises to again offer a wide selection of short movies created by local and national directors.
The Ogden Film Festival will take place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 8-9, at Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden. The festival, now in its third year, will feature screenings of about 30 shorter films, with the occasional filmmaker on hand to talk about his or her work and answer questions from the audience.
“It originally came about to kind of fill the void of the Sundance Film Festival leaving Peery’s Egyptian Theater,” said festival co-founder Kasey LaRose. “I feel like we’ve moved past that — we were never really bitter about it — but the festival has now grown into a way for Ogden to celebrate local and independent film.”
LaRose said they’ve had a pretty good turnout the past two years — about 500 people each — and they’re hoping they can maintain that interest in the festival as it expands. The event itself has continued to grow each year; for 2019 they’ve added more screenings, as well as a second day.
“We’re hoping there’s a need and desire for a second day,” he said. “The first two years it was just one night with two screenings. This year we’ve got two screenings Friday night, and we added four additional screenings on Saturday.”
LaRose says the main event will be the headlining screening of “The Last Honey Hunter” at 7 p.m. Saturday. The festival is bringing in filmmaker Ben Knight, from Telluride, Colorado, to share a few of his films — including the 36-minute “Honey Hunter” film.
“He’ll be sharing stories and four or five short films he’s done,” LaRose said. “Mostly, he does documentary outdoor stuff.”
“The Last Honey Hunter” chronicles the tale of a man named Mauli Dhan Rai in Nepal’s Hongu River valley, who climbs rope ladders attached to sheer cliffs and cuts down honeycombs made by the world’s largest honeybees.
“‘The Last Honey Hunter’ is an Oscar-qualifying short,” LaRose said. “It could be in contention for an Oscar, so I think that’s a very real possibility that we could see an Oscar contender at this year’s festival.”
On Friday evening, at 9:30 p.m., the festival’s “After Dark: Best of Short Films for Ages 17+” will be held. LaRose said everything else in the festival is family-friendly, but the “After Dark” session allows things like “swearing and gore.”
At 11 a.m. Saturday morning, a new feature — a Children’s Film Screening — will be held.
“It’s like a children’s cartoon thing, with a dry cereal bar,” LaRose said. “It’s free for kids age 12 and younger.”
The first year of the Ogden Film Festival featured about eight films; last year’s event screened about 17 films. This year, the festival has again almost doubled in size.
“This year, there will be more than 30 films at the festival — most are short, we’ll have no feature-length films,” LaRose said.
And those 30-plus films were curated from a field of about 70 submissions to this year’s festival. With that many films to choose from, LaRose said he feels like they have a strong lineup of films for 2019.
The Ogden Film Festival is about the filmmaker and the experience, according to LaRose.
“We don’t just want to show a film and leave,” he said. “Often, the filmmakers are in attendance, and we give them the opportunity to tell behind-the-scenes stories and answer questions.”
LaRose says this year’s two-day event will be the test to see if the community is ready for a multi-day film festival.
“I could see it becoming more of a multi-day event in the future,” he said. “Maybe three to five days. I could see next year as a three-day event, and then growing it from there.”