Though many organizations have canceled events – including film festivals across the world – or moved them to virtual presentations, Hobnobben Film Festival takes place this weekend with in-person viewing and panel discussions.
Co-chairs Amanda Hille, Christie Hille and Alix R. Watson worked through the summer to make sure the fifth-annual film festival happened. That included looking at a variety of venues for Hobnobben while Cinema Center is still closed.
“We looked into a lot of different options to see how we could host Hobnobben in a socially distanced way, and we were super lucky to get in contact with Embassy,” Amanda Hille says. “They've been a really great partner to allow us to have an in-person festival that is socially distanced.”
The festival runs today through Sunday at Embassy Theatre.
The Hobnobben chairs say they don't expect as many filmmakers at the festival this year because of travel concerns related to the pandemic, but filmmakers have been able to submit videos to introduce their works.
Many of this year's selections are shorts, which allows a higher number of movies to be seen on the Embassy's single screen. More movies also means more diverse experiences and stories can be shown.
Hobnobben accepted 65 films this year, up from 62 last year when it had two screens at Cinema Center. There were 167 submissions this year.
A large slate of short films is normal for film festivals, Watson says. She hopes to see an audience full of local movie lovers, some of whom maybe haven't experienced what a festival has to offer.
“I think that's why people who aren't in filmmaking need to come to these film festivals,” she says. “You're seeing a whole other world of filmmaking that you don't necessarily get to in the mainstream streaming platforms or the mainstream movie theaters.
“These short films are really good and they're made by super-talented filmmakers, and you don't get to see them anywhere else.”
Though there are some groupings such as one for Hoosier stories today, movies for this year's festival have been scheduled in blocks according to themes and content for an experience that showcases all types of film, Christie Hille says.
There are seven panel discussions featuring local experts on subjects such as sex trafficking. That panel will be paired with a screening of Sunday's closing night film “Lost Girls,” about a 16-year-old facing the challenges of finding her self-worth while under threats from traffickers to her loved ones and herself.
Movies in the festival span genres and range from serious to irreverent. Blocks include a pairing of films this afternoon about how environmental problems affect small creatures and Saturday night's group of shorts creatively titled “Let's Forget about the World being on Actual Fire and Watch Some Murderous Puppets, Clowns, and Rainbows.”
Hobnobben's focus has always been on storytelling not big names or flashy techniques, Watson says.
“What really matters is that story being told,” she says. “All those technical elements are in service of that story being told, and it is that story and the quality of that story and the relevance of that story that we care about.”
Though the movies weren't necessarily filmed in 2020, many speak to current events with subjects such as racial injustice and conservation efforts. Opening night film “Ms. Diagnosed” is a documentary exploring the world of medicine as it follows three women who were misdiagnosed in a system designed by men.
About 30 volunteers watch the submissions and rate them. The top-rated titles go to the selection committee, which decides which films make it into the festival.
There wasn't a specific goal during the selection process to pick films tied to current events, but the chairs are happy with the result.
“A lot of the programming we have this year is reflective of 2020, but we're also really proud of that because that means people can come together and experience that film and learn a little bit more and really understand our current situation and what that means for us moving forward,” Christie Hille says.
She says the films sparked a lot of conversations among the jury, which made judging a fun process to observe. Award winners will be announced starting at 6:15 tonight.
Members of the jury this year are Danee Pye, owner of Common People United and director of member experience for Sky's the Limit, a mentoring platform for underrepresented entrepreneurs; Fredrick McKissack Jr., associate editor at Fort Wayne Magazine and managing editor of Fort Wayne Ink Spot; Stephanie Young, a feminist scholar at University of Southern Indiana and co-host of the “Pop Culture Pizza Party” podcast; and Paul Porter, director of diversity and inclusion at University of Saint Francis.
Tickets for the festival include day passes and three-day passes. To help limit the spread of COVID-19, ticket holders are assigned a seat in the theater for the duration of their pass.
The festival's section on Cinema Center's website also includes donation links and Hobnobben merchandise available for purchase. The festival is the downtown theater's largest fundraiser.
While its screens have been dark during the pandemic, Cinema Center has been operating as a digital multiplex with films available to rent and stream through its website.