Yellow Springs Film Festival to debut this fall
- Published: August 15, 2023
UPDATE: All tickets to the special event featuring Fred Armisen, mentioned below, are now sold out.
This fall, Yellow Springs film enthusiasts won’t have to go far to catch some of the season’s film fest favorites — they won’t even need to leave town.
The Yellow Springs Film Festival will debut Oct. 6–8, with film screenings at the Little Art Theatre and special events at the Foundry Theater and Crome Architecture.
The lineup for the inaugural festival will include documentaries, full-length narrative films and a collection of shorts, as well as an appearance by comedian, musician and actor Fred Armisen and a retrospective of the work of the late local filmmaker Julia Reichert.
The Yellow Springs Film Festival is the brainchild of Eric Mahoney, a film director and producer originally from Dayton, who after nearly two decades living in Brooklyn, New York, moved to Yellow Springs two years ago.
Mahoney’s own work as a filmmaker has often centered his hometown: In 2011, he directed his first film, the documentary “North Dixie Drive,” a colorful snapshot of life in Dayton’s Northridge community; and his 2019 “Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero” chronicled the story of Dayton-based rock band Brainiac, which was on its way to stardom in the 1990s when frontman Tim Taylor died in a car accident days before the band signed with a major label.
Mahoney told the News in a recent interview that his connections to the Miami Valley — both personal and professional — were part of the impetus behind the formation of the Yellow Springs Film Festival.
“I’ve always had kind of a foot still here in terms of art projects, because I’ve always been very proud of where I’m from,” he said. “So I’ve been trying to figure out ways to either add to the art scene or bring something new to the area.”
He added: “This village has a rich history of championing the arts, so it occurred to me that it would be a really good, ideal place to launch a film festival.”
Having spent time on the film festival circuit over the years, Mahoney said he’s observed that festivals in smaller locales are often well-attended. They also, he added, sometimes become “some of the more influential film festivals on the circuit” — the Sundance Film Festival, to name a popular example, is held annually in Park City, Utah, which has a population of around 8,500.
“All of which is to say, it seems like the infrastructure is here,” Mahoney said. “We have this beautiful, historic theater here that can be kind of a focal point, we have the college, and in the future we’ll have the new WYSO building that’s coming, the comedy club. … All the pieces kind of clicked.”
The inaugural lineup
Mahoney said he chose to curate the films in the first iteration of the YS Film Festival himself, rather than accept submissions, for a few reasons — with the first being that, at least this year, the festival’s staff is small.
“I don’t think I have the bandwidth to go through [submissions], because we have like, a staff of two,” he said with a laugh.
Another reason, he said, is he feels the YS Film Festival needs to prove its mettle before opening itself up to filmmakers who might entrust the event with their work.
“Once we’re established and up and running, we can kind of open it up — I’d love to do that,” he said.
For this year’s lineup — which includes 11 feature works and a selection of shorts — Mahoney said he combed through films he saw recently on the festival circuit or was connected to in some capacity. Most of the films on the roster are still on the festival circuit or not yet available for streaming.
One such offering is the documentary “Citizen Sleuth,” which debuted at SXSW this year and follows Emily Nestor, host of true crime podcast “Mile Marker 181.” While making her podcast, which ran from 2018 to 2020, amateur sleuth Nestor sought to find the truth behind the 2011 death of a West Virginia woman, Jaleayah Davis.
Though Davis’ death was ruled as being the result of a car crash, the puzzling details of that death drove Nestor to speculate and theorize darker motives — even conspiracy. As Nestor’s true crime star rose, however, she learned new information that conflicted with her own theories — and that dissonance, Mahoney said, makes for a documentary that aims to dissect the nature of true crime itself.
“It’s just such a cool, interesting take on the true crime genre — it kind of puts [the genre] on its head a little bit,” Mahoney said. “There’s a morality component to it — the question of, ‘What’s [Nestor’s] responsibility once she knows she’s wrong?’”
The lineup also features a few films from past years with which Mahoney has a professional connection. One of those films is “Madly,” a 2016 anthology film produced by Mahoney, which meditates on themes of love; it features an international cast and crew, including directors Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska and Bat For Lashes.
Another is Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 fantasy comedy-drama “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Mahoney began his film career by interning for Jarmusch, who later gave Mahoney’s debut film, “North Dixie Drive,” a glowing review. “Only Lovers Left Alive” stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as Eve and Adam, respectively — two vampires married for hundreds of years dealing with the unique challenges of being undead in the 21st century and battling the ennui of eternal life.
The festival’s lineup features several special events, including Sam Green’s 2022 “32 Sounds,” described by the filmmaker as an “immersive documentary” that “explores the elemental phenomenon of sound.” Attendees at the event will experience the work wearing headphones, and following the screening, local filmmaker Steve Bognar will conduct a conversation with Green.
“[‘32 Sounds’] is sort of a guided meditation on human beings’ relationship with sound — it’s really beautiful,” Mahoney said.
Other special events include an evening with Fred Armisen, whom Mahoney originally met when interviewing the comedian, actor and musician for “Brainiac”; and a film retrospective of the career of Dayton-based band Guided By Voices.
Yellow Springs itself will appear on the big screen at the Little Art during the shorts program, which features Bognar’s “small town ohio.” The film, originally screened for locals in 2021, was shot over the course of six years and follows the cycle of village life through the four seasons.
The festival will also feature an exhibition dedicated to the work of the late villager Julia Reichert, whose award-winning documentary career spanned more than 50 years, and who died last December at age 76. Mahoney said the exhibition, to be hosted at Crome Architecture, will feature film posters, stills and photos and dedicated stations where attendees can view a montage of selections from some of Reichert’s work. The exhibition will be free and open-house style.
“I just thought that was a very appropriate thing to do, given her legacy in this community and being such a powerhouse in film,” Mahoney said.
The inaugural Yellow Springs Film Festival will be held Friday–Sunday, Oct. 6–8. Other titles included in the lineup are “The Cave of Adullam,” Rather,” “Have You Got It Yet?,” “The Secret Art of Human Flight,” “We Are Fugazi from Washington, DC” and “Fancy Dance.”
YSFF badges are $55 and give access to all film screenings at the Little Art; special events are not included in access and cost $20–$30. Individual screenings are $15 each.
For a full schedule of events and ticket information, go to http://www.ysfilmfest.com.