“There is definitely a case study for small villages and towns that have very reputable and wonderful film festivals, and I feel like Yellow Springs is one of those types of towns,” says festival founder and programmer Eric Mahoney. “Yellow Springs has a rich history in the arts and social activism, and a lot of people here really value that. And the type of programming we’re bringing also reflects the town’s values and interests. Having newly joined the Yellow Springs community, I felt like I could contribute to the arts scene, bringing some projects, filmmakers and events to town that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to come.”
Mahoney grew up in Dayton and returned to the Miami Valley during the coronavirus pandemic to be closer to his family. He previously spent over 15 years working as a filmmaker in Brooklyn, New York, building a resume that includes producing the global anthology film “Madly” and documentaries such as “North Dixie Drive” and “Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero,” which premiered at the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival.
Aided by Ian Jacobs, who serves as the festival’s creative director, Mahoney admits he has a lot of interests, fueling the variety within his curation. After researching lineups from South by Southwest and Sundance along with the Tribeca Film Festival, he’s confident the movies he assembled will be a good fit for the community.
“We lean into music a lot because I was a former musician and have always done a lot of music-based projects and events,” he says. “But I’m also a documentary filmmaker and love non-fiction storytelling, especially stories that can make an impact on people and be a catalyst for discourse and conversation.”
The festival’s signature opening event is the Midwest premiere of the documentary short “Taking Back the Groove.” The 40-minute film spotlights disco legend Richie Weeks’ battle to reclaim the rights to his music and restore his legacy in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. The creative team includes director Celia Aniskovich (“Call Me Miss Cleo”) and executive producers Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan and comedian Russell Peters. A post-screening panel discussion with Weeks, Aniskovich and Raekwon will be moderated by Mahoney.
“I love this film and it’s going to be a really great event,” says Mahoney. “Before the film there will be an open bar and free food for an hour including a DJ.”
Equally notable on Friday is the appearance of Emmy Award nominee Fred Armisen. A comedian, actor and musician best known for “Saturday Night Live” and “Portlandia,” Armisen will deliver Comedy For Musicians But Everyone Is Welcome from 4 to 6 p.m. prior to the “Taking Back the Groove” festivities beginning at 7 p.m. He’ll also appear Saturday at 5 p.m. leading a conversation about music and comedy.
“I’m a huge fan of comedy and I’ve always admired Fred’s work,” says Mahoney. “I think he’s hilarious. He’s also a very talented musician. I thought he would be a great match for Yellow Springs and there’s a lot of enthusiasm about him coming here.”
Emmy Award nominee Steve Zahn (“The White Lotus”) is also heading to Yellow Springs to present the world premiere of his short film “Lynn’s Fire,” set for 11 a.m. Sunday. His credits include “Happy, Texas,” “Rescue Dawn,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Treme” and “The Righteous Gemstones.”
His directorial debut concerns Lynn, a Kentucky mechanic fond of telling stories around a bonfire.
“Lynn is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever met in my life — I love him to death,” says Zahn. “He’s a true storyteller. I’ve never met anybody in my life that can tell a story like him. It’s a beautiful look at this amazing man. It’s country fun. Telling stories is essential to life.”
Mahoney also enjoyed the film’s engaging storytelling.
“I absolutely loved it,” he says. “It’s a very unique and funny character study. It’s very entertaining.”
Due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, Zahn isn’t in London filming his next project so he’s eager to support “Lynn’s Fire” in-person.
“I love small film festivals,” he says. “It’s going to be so much fun for me to share this experience and be around other filmmakers with the subject of my film. This film festival is a great idea. I’m happy to help out and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
Additional short films screening at the festival include works by Academy Award-winning director Steven Bognar of Yellow Springs along with Charlotte Ercoli, Adam Meeks, Stephen Michael Simon, Max Cohn and Ellie Sachs.
The lineup also includes the following documentary features: “The Cave of Adullam” by Laura Checkoway; “Rather” by Frank Marshall; “Citizen Sleuth” by Chris Kasick; “We Are Fugazi From Washington DC” by Joe Gross, Joseph Pattisall and Jeff Krulik; and “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” by Roddy Bogawa and Storm Thorgerson.
Narrative features include: “Fancy Dance” by Erica Tremblay; “The Secret Art of Human Flight” by H.P Mendoza; “Madly” by Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Anurag Kashyap, Sebastián Silva, Sion Sono, and Bat for Lashes; and a 10-year anniversary screening of “Only Lovers Left Alive” by Jim Jarmusch.
Special events include: the immersive documentary experience “32 Sounds,” with the director Sam Green and Bognar in conversation following the screening; and a 40-year retrospective of the band Guided By Voices featuring their seminal documentary “Watch Me Jumpstart” by Banks Tarver.
The festival will notably present a retrospective of the impactful career of longtime Yellow Springs resident and Academy Award-winning director Julia Reichert featuring film posters, interviews and excerpts of her work.
Reichert died Dec. 1, 2022 at age 76 having battled a rare form of terminal cancer for 4½ years. For 50 years, along with longtime collaborators Steven Bognar and Jim Klein, she illuminated humanity, particularly America’s working-class, across compelling themes of feminism, family, politics and economics. She was also a Wright State University professor of film production for 28 years.
“Julia was a trailblazer,” says Mahoney. “It would be a massive oversight if we didn’t honor Julia’s legacy.”
Bognar, Reichert’s husband, is also pleased the festival will honor her throughout the weekend.
“I’m really grateful to Eric for including a tribute to Julia,” says Bognar. “It’s going to be a wonderful, interactive gallery including slide shows and clips. It’s going to be a very special space to celebrate her.”
‘There is buzz and momentum’
All films and events will take place within Yellow Springs at the historic Little Art Theatre, The Foundry Theater at Antioch College and Crome Architecture.
Bognar says he’s noticed the community supporting the festival in a positive way, particularly in terms of volunteerism.
“There is buzz and momentum,” he says. “And I’m very impressed with how this festival is coming together. Eric has programmed it with a sense of fun as well. There are a lot of fun events and fun guests. I hope this festival becomes another great cultural event Yellow Springs can offer annually.”
Mahoney also sees the value of having this festival thrive not only productively but emotionally.
“I hope people come and are blown away by the types of films and events we’re having,” he says. “I hope people have a deep, fun and meaningful experience.”
Looking ahead, he also believes additional collaborations and partnerships have the potential to stretch the festival beyond the borders of Yellow Springs.
“My hope is this festival expands and becomes bigger,” says Mahoney. “I would love for this event to bleed over into the Miami Valley and utilize other theaters and creative spaces. I see a lot of opportunity for expansion in the years to come.”
HOW TO GO
What: Yellow Springs Film Festival
When: Oct. 6-8
Where: Foundry Theater, 920 Corry St.; Little Art Theatre, 247 Xenia Ave.; and Crome Architecture, 604 Xenia Ave.
Tickets: Opening night: $50; Film badge: $55; Special events: $20-$30; Films: $15; Julia Reichert Retrospective: Free
More info: ysfilmfest.com
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday, Oct. 6
4 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Fred Armisen LIVE: Comedy for Musicians But Everyone Is Welcome (Doors open at 4 p.m. Show begins at 5 p.m.)
7 p.m. to 11 p.m.: “Taking Back the Groove”
Saturday, Oct. 7
Little Art Theatre
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd”
1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: “Rather”
4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.: “Only Lovers Left Alive: 10-Year Anniversary”
8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: “32 Sounds”
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: “Madly”
1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: “Fancy Dance”
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Fred Armisen LIVE: A Conversation About Music And Comedy (Doors open at 4 p.m.)
8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: Guided By Voices: A 40-Year Retrospective On The Big Screen
12 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Julia Reichert Retrospective Exhibit
Sunday, Oct. 8
Little Art Theare
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Short Films Program
1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: “We Are Fugazi From Washington DC”
4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: “Citizen Sleuth”
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: “Secret Art of Human Flight:
1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.: “The Cave of Adullam”
4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: “32 Sounds”
12 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Julia Reichert Retrospective Exhibit
Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP
Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP