Beloit International Film Festival spreading its wings
At a reveal party Thursday night at Olde Towne Mall in downtown Janesville, founders and financial backers unveiled the itinerary for the upcoming festival Feb. 17–20, talking about plans to expand the festival and giving details about the choice to host film showings this year at the Metropolitan, a restaurant in downtown Janesville.
Beloit International Film Festival Executive Director Rod Beaudoin said organizers added a venue in Janesville to broaden the festival’s base and offer it to a larger and more diverse group of people.
Beaudoin said that many of the festival’s attendants in past years have driven from Janesville to various locations in Beloit, where films were shown. He said those attendants’ interest made Janesville seem like a natural fit for festival’s first ever non-Beloit venue.
“Clearly, there’s a market and interest up here (in Janesville) that’s legitimate for a film festival,” Beaudoin said.
Festival co-founder Ron Nief said organizers chose to have showings at the Metropolitan, which is at 12 S. Main St., because its size, ambience and location were ideal.
Diane Hendricks, Rock County 5.0 co-chair and festival supporter, said she views the festival expansion as a chance for the cities of Janesville and Beloit to work and play together but also as an opportunity to offer Janesville residents a new experience.
“This is the best possible way to introduce people to this film festival, to actually have a venue in their city. It’s brilliant,” she said.
Festival co-founder Becky Rogers said she hopes the added venue in Janesville will broaden the appeal of the festival, helping continue a growth trend interrupted last year by a slide in ticket sales.
Rogers said attendance of the festival has doubled since its start six years ago. The festival, which is in its sixth year, will feature more than 100 films produced in 30 different countries, some of which were shot regionally and even locally.
Rogers said the festival will include features, documentaries and short subjects, with the widest variety and the greatest overall quality in films organizers have seen yet.
The Metropolitan will host about 10 film showings, Nief said. If the venue proves successful, festival organizers will consider adding even more venues in Janesville next year.
One possible location could be Janesville’s Rotary Gardens, he said. He added that the festival plans to add a venue next year in Rockford, Ill.
“This is a logical step for us,” Nief said. “People give lip service to regionalization, but this (festival expansion) could really become a model for others.”
Georges Hanna, owner of the Metropolitan, said he is honored to have his restaurant chosen as Janesville’s first venue for the festival.
Hanna, who is originally from the south of France, said he used to attend France’s Cannes Film Festival every year.
“Right away I felt that flashback memory to where I grew up,” Hanna said. “Having a piece of that here, how great. I just hope we can keep it going in Janesville.”