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Beloit International Film Festival a break from Hollywood’s flash

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Ted Sullivan
February 23, 2009
— Steve McEveety has produced hits such as “Passion of the Christ” and “Braveheart.”

He has joined Hollywood’s elite at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.


But this past weekend, he wasn’t skiing in Utah’s quaint mountain village or shopping in Toronto’s elite Yorkville neighborhood.


Instead, McEveety was in one of the last places you might expect to find a Hollywood producer: Beloit.


He left his Los Angeles home to rub elbows with young filmmakers at Café Belwah, The Rock Bar & Grill and La Casa Grande during the Beloit International Film Festival.


Sure, Beloit’s February temperatures and Rock River weren’t quite southern California’s sunshine and ocean beaches, but McEveety was exactly where he wanted to be.


“It feels like America,” he said. “I feel like I traveled halfway across the United States to find America.”


Indeed, the land of beer, cheese and the Packers is pure Americana. And McEveety makes films for folks such as those living in southern Wisconsin.


“I don’t make movies for New York, L.A. or Paris,” he said. “My audience is here.”


Maybe that is why Beloit’s film festival has grown in popularity. Filmmakers from across the world continue to come here to screen and promote their movies.


Attendance was up at this year’s festival, despite the down economy, Executive Director Rod Beaudoin told WCLO Radio, and Beaudoin said planning has started for next year’s festival, scheduled for Feb. 18-21, 2010.


Although the festival remains young, it has potential.


“I think people are just discovering it. I think it’s going to find itself, and people will find it,” McEveety said. “We have some great films coming out of Beloit.”


One such film is “Bookie,” about a man risking it all for a waitress down on her luck. The movie won the festival’s Best Short Film Award.


Tran Quoc Bao, a Seattle resident, wrote and directed the movie.


He has been to numerous film festivals, but he enjoyed Beloit’s small-town vibe and college scene.


“You don’t get lost in the whole corporate festival,” he said.


Jack Bennett, a Seattle resident, is from Shopiere. He made the film “A Fond Farewell,” about how several people cope with an attempted suicide.


After living in Los Angeles and Seattle, Bennett was proud to be back near his hometown.


He has traveled to film festivals across the country, and he’s impressed Beloit has such a high-caliber festival with small-town charm.


“Never turn into Cannes or Sundance. Always remain accessible,” Bennett said. “This is such a different personality right here.”



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