Creativity in Crisis

World-class film event weathers worldwide challenges

When they first launched the Tryon International Film Festival five years ago, Beau Menetre and Kirk Gollwitzer aimed to make it a world-class event. In 2019, TIFF screened more than 60 films over three days at seven downtown locations, with a roster including independent films, Hollywood productions, and documentaries. 

This year has, however, brought historic challenges. With theaters closed and inside gatherings limited to very small numbers, Menetre and Gollwitzer knew they had to get creative and go online to keep the festival alive.  

They made plans to roll out the virtual event from October 9-11 and make the films themselves available for a full eight days (October 12-19) after the close of the festival. 

“We struck a balance between safety, logistics, celebration, and the creativity of emerging cinema,” says Menetre. In 2020, TIFF will offer more than eight films in categories including Full-Length Feature, Short Dramatic Film, Full-Length Documentary, and Student Film. Additionally, TIFF has established a special category, “Human Rights and Dignity,” designed to highlight the challenges faced globally by oppressed and marginalized populations. 

The latest festival will screen Mary Sue Connolly’s Overdosed, a raw, unflinching documentary following the tragic cost of the opioid epidemic on a small West Virginia town. This particular crisis is of special importance to Menetre, who lost his own daughter, Sabian, to a drug overdose just last year.

“I am dedicating 2020’s Tryon International Film Festival to my daughter’s memory,” says Menetre. “It’s my hope that this year’s films will shed light on personal loss, drugs, and coping.”

TIFF’s Documentary category this year will also feature Coup 53, a film described as “powerful and authoritative” by The Guardian, from Iranian director Taghi Amirani. Coup 53 explores how the US and UK governments deposed the Iranian Prime Minister in the early 1950s and replaced him with the Shah of Iran. Academy Award-winning actor Ralph Fiennes plays MI6 Agent Norman Derbyshire in a dramatic reconstruction of events.

Though the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way TIFF will operate this fall, Gollwitzer points out the positives. With “nearly every aspect of the festival funneling through the website,” he says, “not just audiences, but also the filmmakers, will be able to invite their friends and family from all over the world to participate.” (A series of director interviews, conducted by veteran journalist and actor Diana DeRosa, will accompany many of the films.)

“It has been a bad year for the world,” says Menetre, “but a good year for creativity in the cinematic arts. When creative people are isolated, they find new ways to express themselves, and I certainly see that being true for filmmakers.”

The 6th Annual Tryon International Film Festival runs online Friday, Oct. 9-Sunday, Oct. 11. Films will be available for streaming for eight days, through Oct. 19. For information about ticket prices, special events, and to get an “All Access” online pass, see tryoninternationalfilmfestival.com.

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