Epic Entertainment

It took three years for American Epic's creators, American Duke Erikson, and Britishers Allison McGourty and Bernard MacMahon, to make the series. Credit (C) 2015 Lo-Max Films Ltd.

It took three years for American Epic’s creators, American Duke Erikson, and Britishers Allison McGourty and Bernard MacMahon, to make the series.
Credit (C) 2015 Lo-Max Films Ltd.

When a small town sponsors its first film festival and creates an international event for two days in the peak of the fall tourist season … what could it possibly do for an encore?

That’s easy. Make the next festival even bigger.

“More films, more filmmakers, more categories,” boasts Kirk Gollwitzer, co-founder of the Tryon International Film Festival. Two red-carpet galas and several surprising Hollywood connections cinch the success.

The major presentation is a brilliant documentary, American Epic, a three-part history of early American music (uncovering some Asheville roots) that focuses on an early wax device in the 1920s that captured hundreds of largely unknown musicians in field recordings. The companion feature-length film, American Epic Sessions, includes footage of contemporary musicians using a meticulously revived version of the device. The films were executive-produced by music powerhouse T Bone Burnett, eight-time Grammy-winning musician Jack White, and Sundance creator/actor Robert Redford.

“This is America’s greatest untold story,” claims Redford. The first part of American Epic — slated for PBS later this year — opens the Tryon event, complete with a ticketed red-carpet gala on Friday. In attendance will be British filmmakers Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty, who spent three years making their masterpiece, and perhaps some of the Sessions musicians.

Meanwhile, Redford’s daughter, actress Amy Redford, appears in a feature film shot in Louisiana. Hate Crime, starring John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard), is the gritty story of how two families react to the horrifying incident referenced in the title.

Another Hollywood daughter, Cecilia Peck (her dad was Gregory), is the director/producer of an incredible documentary. In 1998, 18-year-old Miss Israel, Linor Abargil, was brutally raped. Six weeks later, she was crowned Miss World. The film Brave Miss World shows Abargil’s personal search for justice and her attempt to raise global awareness of unreported violent crimes against women.

At press time, more than 60 films from around the world were submitted to the festival. Of the final picks (selected by Gollwitzer and other festival founder Beau Menetre), more than 20 were from countries other than the U.S., including four from Iran. Several films are from local filmmakers, such as David Weintraub’s excellent story of the 1916 Western North Carolina flood, Come Hell or High Water. “Only in an international film festival like this one,” says Gollwitzer, “could you ever see so many films in one short weekend. The world becomes smaller. You’re connected to people and things you never heard of before.”

Family dynamics is the most common topic, woven through war stories, sci-fi, humor, history, film noir, fantasy, and music. Four of the categories are typical of most film festivals: Feature Films, Documentaries, Short Films, and Student Films. “What’s new this year,” says Gollwitzer, “is the category we call Human Rights and Human Dignity, a topic that has brought some unprecedented courageous film work to the festival” — including Abargil’s story, personal tales of refugees, nuclear fallout, and other human-rights issues.

Filmmakers enter festivals hoping to create career-enhancing buzz around their projects, and to find film distributors. Last year, the “Audience Favorite” award was won by Nepali filmmaker Nischal Poudyal. Home in Kathmandu, he was applauded as a hero and given grants to make more films. He’s back in Tryon this month with several Nepali filmmakers and his new work Lama La, a beautifully filmed tale about a Buddhist monk and a rebel solder who change places during the country’s terrible civil war. The film will make its world premiere at the gala event on Saturday evening. To honor all things Nepalese, Asheville’s Kathmandu restaurant is catering the event — the first time the small restaurant has cooked for such a large group.

The festival’s lifeblood is the help of more sponsors, as well as community groups and volunteers. New this year, the Tryon International Equestrian Center will offer its vans to transport festival viewers to and from the different venues. Appropriately, next year the film festival will add a category that’s close to home: Equestrian Films.
“This,” says Gollwitzer, “is perfect for Tryon.”

Second Annual Tryon International Film Festival
When: Friday, October 8, Saturday, October 9
Where: Tryon Fine Arts Center, Tryon Theatre, Tryon Depot Room
Admission: One-day pass: $20. Two-day pass: $35. (Student ticket with valid student ID: $15)
Friday-night red-carpet gala for American Epic: $35
Saturday-night red-carpet gala for Lama La: $25
Tickets: All tickets are sold by Tryon Fine Arts Center. Call 828-859-8322 or visit www.tryonarts.org.
Festival Schedule will be announced in early October. Online info at Polk County Film Initiative, pcfilmnc.com. Also check out the Tryon International Film Festival page on Facebook.

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