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Highway 5 Film Festival Recap

by Jessie Sasser Daniel

A host of Atlanta independent film makers had a chance to see their work on the big screen recently as they took part in the first annual Highway 5 Film Festival in Marietta on Feb. 17 and 24, 2006. The festival, brainchild of native Atlanta filmmaker Marian Wagner, included a selection of films by local auteurs such as Sasquatch B, Illustrated films, Taj Turner, Gary Lynch, Scott Stamper, Illustrated Films, and Christopher Thomas. Admission (and submission) to the festival was free.

Also on hand for the festival was a team of Art Institute of Atlanta film students producing a documentary about the festival. The students had been working on the documentary for five weeks leading up to the festival, researching and interviewing key players. When completed they hope to screen the documentary at the Mireles.

The midnight screenings were held at El Cine Mireles in the Blackwell shopping center on Canton Rd. Many in the film community are familiar with this location as the site of the old "Blackwell Theater" popular in the 1970s and 80s. The Mireles is also home to the "Friday Night Indies" series, a weekly screening of independent shorts and features organized by Barry King of Dept. 13 productions in Marietta. Theater owner Laura Mireles has been a great friend to the independent film community since purchasing and renovating the theater in 2005.

"I'm just really frustrated with the lack of quality product coming out of Hollywood; independent film is so refreshing," said Mireles. The theater provides an affordable venue for locally produced material to screen and was a natural choice for the festival.

Feb 17
Stealing Babette
Guest Check
No More
The Bargain
Friendly Box
Prequel Apology Syndrome
Cold Cuts
A Tale of the Ragged Mountains

Festival director Marian Wagner's film, Guest Check, was one of the ten films screened on the first weekend of the festival. This pet project was her initial inspiration for the festival.

"I really just wanted the cast and crew of Guest Check to have a chance to see their work in a theater, that's where the idea for the festival came from."

The festival also gave second life to films produced for competitions such as the 48 Hour Film Festival and the National Film Challenge. Filmmakers continue working on these projects long after the original screenings for the competitions are over, re-cutting, color correcting, and sweetening the audio. Small, local festivals provide a much needed outlet to screen the finished product again.

Originally planned as a one night only event, the festival expanded to two consecutive weekends due to the number of submissions.

" I was initially hoping to get nine other shorts to screen with mine. Instead, I got 19!" Wagner said enthusiastically.

When asked her final thoughts on the festival, Wagner was all smiles "I couldn't be happier. The turnout was great, people came out, they were happy, I'm totally thrilled." When asked if she planned on organizing and directing a second Highway 5 Film Festival Wagner stated that she wishes to remain involved but that she was ready to hand the festival off to someone else. "Several people have approached me about taking the festival over next year, so hopefully there will be another."