Film fest trying to bring communities together
On Wednesday night, the Beloit International Film Festival held a reveal party at Kutter Harley-Davidson in Janes-ville. At the event, organizers released the program book with the listing of films and events.
This year's festival runs from Jan. 17 to 20 and features 150 films at 10 venues.
It's the third year for the festival, but it's the first time that a reveal party has been held in Janesville.
"We're especially excited that we're having a … party in Janesville," said Rod Beaudoin, executive director of the festival. "We want the city to be involved."
Beaudoin and other community leaders from Janesville and Beloit have acknowledged that the two cities seem to be separated from each other, as though they are hundreds of miles apart instead of just down the road from each other.
Some residents from Janesville haven't been to Beloit in years and aren't aware of the changes in the downtown and the vibrant arts scene.
It works the other way, too.
"I've heard it described as a glass wall," Beaudoin said. "Well, let's shatter it."
Jackie Wood, a Janesville businesswoman who is active in the arts, said she often travels back and forth between the two communities. The question of the "great divide" between the two cities has perplexed her.
"I am absolutely tickled that they are having this party here," Wood said.
She sees it as a small step toward bridging the gap between the communities.
Several people pointed to Joanna Kutter, owner of Kutter Harley-Davidson, as a good model of a citizen with connections in several communities.
Kutter, who also is an artist, lives near Edgerton, has a business in Janesville and is strongly connected to the Beloit arts community. She has worked with the festival since its inception.
Tom McBride, a Beloit College professor and consultant on the film "Rapping with Shakespeare," acknowledged that events such as the reveal party help dissolve the division.
Practical realities, however, might help more.
"It's a symptom of the future," McBride said. "Janesville and Beloit are growing together. People's ideas about commuting have changed, too."
The festival might take another step toward bridging the gap.
"People have talked about having a film venue in Janesville," Beaudoin said. "It could take place as early as next year."
IF YOU GO
What: Beloit International Film Festival.
When: Jan. 17 to 20.
Where: 10 different venues in Beloit.
Cost: Tickets are $7 apiece, but multi-ticket, reduced price packages are available. Special events cost more.
For more information: See today's kicks section.