Fest for film lovers

New Derby City Film Festival
aims to set Guinness record

President Lincoln look-a-likes
invited to take part in opener

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (October 2008) – This city will come alive with creative spirit showcased on the silver screen when the inaugural Derby City Film Festival opens Oct. 8 at the Louisville Memorial Auditorium.

Kris & Ashley Rommel

Photo provided

Kris Rommel and his wife, Ashley,
have organized the inaugural film
festival in Louisville. It is set
for Oct. 8-12 at Louisville
Memorial Auditorium.

The opening film, “Being Lincoln-Men with Hats,” will debut for first-time director and producer Elvis Wilson, who says of his project, “I wanted to do something with substance.”
Wilson said the documentary format of “Being Lincoln” is an excellent way to produce his first feature film. “I love filmmaking. I’ve always wanted to make a feature film,” said this Nashville, Tenn., native.
The climax of the film, along with several interviews, was shot in Hodgenville, Ky. Other filming locations include Washington, D.C., Cincin-nati, Illinois and Iowa.
The documentary is about the trek of a new Lincoln and his quest to be a Lincoln look-alike, said Wilson. It is also based in part on a book, “Meeting Mr. Lincoln,” written by Wilson’s wife, Victoria Radford. The book contains first-hand accounts of people who had met Lincoln.
There were people who did not like Lincoln before ever having met him. But once they did meet him, they came away liking him, said Wilson. This change of mindset prompted him to make a documentary about the 16th president of the United States. The film was recently screened on the lawn of Knox College, the historic location a Lincoln-Douglass debate.
“Being Lincoln-Men with Hats” will be shown at 7 p.m. at the auditorium. The festival is scheduled to run from Oct. 8-12, with films shown from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. All screenings will be held at the Louisville Memorial Auditorium.
To mark the opening of the festival, the Derby City Film Festival will play host to a “Guinness Book of World Records” attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as Abraham Lincoln. This event is scheduled for 6 p.m., prior to the documentary showing, said festival organizer Kris Rommel.
A second film, “If You Could Say it in Words,” by Nicholas Gray, will make its world premier. A selection of short films will end the day’s screenings.
This latter film is one of more than 10 films making a world premier.
“We are very excited about the films we selected for this year’s festival,” said Rommel’s wife, Ashley, in a press release. “We have several world premiers, foreign films, national films, and above all, we have 19 films from right here in Louisville. It is going to be a great festival!”
Filmmakers are allowed to set up a table in the lobby of the auditorium to greet the audience before and after their film screening, sell merchandise and give away promotional materials if they choose to do so. Round Table Panel Discussions and Filmmaker Q&A sessions are planned.
With this being the first year for this festival, Rommel was not sure what kind of response to expect. He was hopeful and optimistic due to the pledges of support he has received, but he has no way of knowing the outcome of the festival.
After viewing Wilson’s film, Rommel contacted Guinness and learned that no current record existed for the largest gathering of people dressed as the famous president.
“There are strict regulations,” said Rommel. “Two hundred people are needed to set a record. They have to be fully dressed and will recite the opening to the Gettysburg Address simultaneously to get into the spirit of things.”
But this is just a precursor to what the film festival is really about. As a filmmaker in the Louisville area, Rommel had searched for a way to get his films noticed. When he and his wife decided to stage the festival, Rommel said it did not seem right to him to exclude other films.
The festival was officially announced in the middle of June – 100 days before it would actually take place. Since then, the couple has put in hundreds of hours of their own time to make sure it will be successful.
For the local audience it “is a great experience for letting people in the community and city see what type of quality films are being made,” said Rommel. “It will alert the local public as to what regional films are produced right here.”
On a national level, winning any film festival is great for a film and the festival itself, he said. It brings better recognition for the festival.
The festival will not be juried by a panel of judges, but winners will be determined from audience vote for an Awards Competition in the categories of Best Documentary, Best Short Film, Best Feature Film and Best of Fest. Each winner will receive a statuette with their name and the name of their film engraved on it.
The festival’s opening will coincide with the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, but it is sure to set some remarkable feats on its own.
“Kris and Ashley Rommel are so ambitious,” said Wilson, who has worked with the Nashville Film Festival. He is amazed that they would contact Guinness and go the extra mile to promote this festival, an undertaking not all first-time festival organizers would consider.
Louisville has a strong theater presence, Wilson said. “This could be such an opportunity for Louisville if the public embraces it.”

• For a complete list of films, ticket pricing, directions, and general information, visit: www.derbycityfilmfest.com. Kris Rommel can be reached at (502) 724-6332.

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