After 13 movies and a handful of other events, my time at the inaugural Hobnobben Film Festival came to a close Sunday evening. It was a long, full weekend made enjoyable by a bustling and energetic community of film lovers coming together to champion a shared passion for the movies. Cinema Center Executive Director Jonah Crismore noted “how far along we’ve come” on opening night. I couldn’t agree more. Independent theaters across the country are on a steep decline, but if you managed to make it out to Hobnobben this past weekend, you’d see that’s not the case in Fort Wayne.
Before Thursday night’s showing, Bill Brown, President of the Downtown Improvement District, addressed the sold-out crowd. Brown talked about Cinema Center’s role in the resurgence of the area, as well as the importance of continued support for the city’s only locally run movie house. On his involvement with Hobnobben Brown said, “[Crismore] had me with Film Festival,” followed by the applause of everyone in the theater. You could hear and feel the outpouring of support.
As is the case for any inaugural event, Hobnobben had a few minor hiccups that were swiftly and carefully fixed along the way. The voting process was incredibly awkward for passholders like myself during the first two days. Rather than cast a silent ballot, I was asked if I’d like to vote for each film upon exiting. Saying “no thanks” or “yes please” felt out-of-place. My biggest issue came down to the steep $200 price tag for festival passes (which granted access to any and all events). General admission tickets were $10 and the awards ceremony was $15. I saw as many films as time afforded me, but when you do the math, I basically paid an extra $55 to get into movies 20 minutes early even though that never mattered. Had I attended the most events possible over the course of the four days, the numbers still don’t add up.
I was happy to pay though, especially considering the surprising quality of movies the Cinema Center was able to schedule through partnerships and outside sponsors. Crismore mentioned that he and his staff had traveled to other established festivals across the country to help build Hobnobben, particularly drawing inspiration from Michigan’s Traverse City Film Festival. What I think worked best about Fort Wayne’s first film festival is that it urged moviegoers to stay downtown and walk around. You could swing by the block party and try Mad Anthony Brewing’s very own Hobnobben Shandy (a welcome cool down in the weekend’s blistering heat). Friday night found moviegoers pulling up chairs at the Arts United Plaza for a free outdoor screening of the 1993 classic Dazed and Confused. After parties took place at Pedal City and Rudy’s, with some attendees managing to carry the night even later to other destinations. Hobnobben brought people together.
The festival could only be as good as the movies it showed, and boy did some of them impress. I primarily stuck to the festival’s “Vanguard series,” which were the bigger films the Cinema Center courted in hopes of acquiring the rights to screen them. Some of the highlights included the refugee drama Dheepan, the cancer comedy Other People, and the remarkable indie The Fits. Those three are only a small sampling of what Hobnobben offered. Here are the festival winners:
Viewers Choice: Other People, Chris Kelly
Best Narrative Feature: Dheepan, Jacques Audiard
Hoosier Spirit Award: Skate or Don’t, Rio De Santo
The Philo Award: Mythplaced, Daumoun Khakpour and Travis Pulchinski
Best Short: The Rain Collector, Bella Wing-Davey
Best Documentary: Nuts!, Penny Lane
Best Student Work: The Roses, Lillianna Craighead
Some of the feature-length films will be returning to the Cinema Center in the coming months, so feel free to visit my site LoganBushey.com for full reviews on a number of the movies. Lastly, I’d like to say that this wasn’t just any film festival. Hobnobben was a celebration of our storied city, and if the considerable crowds were any indication, there are more chapters yet to be written. I look forward to next year.