HANFORD — The bright lights of Tinsel Town lit up Hanford’s cold and dreary Saturday evening.
Hundreds of film makers and movie fans braved the stormy weather Saturday evening to attend the first-ever Hanford Independent Film Festival at the Fox Theatre.
“I’m surprised by the quality of films we received. Especially considering most of them came from students,” festival organizer and local teacher George Miller said.
Before the film started rolling, a long line had formed in the rain outside the Fox’s box office.
Miller was hopeful that a large enough crowd would attend the event and bring enthusiasm with them to ensure a second film fest again next year.
“The Hanford community has embraced the event,” he said.
Many local spots and businesses could be seen in the various films. The Kings Fair was the setting of documentary, “This Little Piggy Went to the Market,” a documentary directed by Jeanine Fiser about a local FFA student’s triumphs while raising a hog. Travis Mattos’ “Dollar Bill” takes place at One Eleven Coffee and details the inner monologue of a customer debating whether or not to pick up an abandoned dollar. In other films, Hanford High School, the LT Sue Co. Tea Room, Laton High School and various downtown Hanford locales could be seen.
While most of the films shared the Central Valley as a background, the 16 films screened shared little thematically, Miller said.
“They’re as diverse as their personalities,” he said. “We were looking for local talent first and primarily looking for people who were bringing something fresh, creative and unique.”
All genres of film were represented. Alec Cano’s war drama, “Zenaida” kicked the night off. Comedic crime thriller “The Uber Driver” earned perhaps the biggest crowd response of the night. Nando Carter’s Post-apocalyptic “Scavenger” was a beautifully shot look at what life could be like were the Valley to permanently run out of water. Comedies “Moonlight,” “The Essay,” “Stardom” and “Mid-life Brunch” had the crowd giggling with approval.
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SoCal-based director Kellen Gibbs screened his newest short, “In the Mind’s Eye” for just the second time publicly Saturday night. The film premiered at the North Hollywood CineFest in March. Gibbs’ brother, who lives in Kings County, suggested that the film maker submit his work to the Hanford Film Festival.
Gibbs, whose previous work has earned multiple awards and nominations at festivals, said that he’ll soon be submitted “In the Mind’s Eye” to other fests.
“This is kind of a preliminary screening to jump off into those bigger [festivals],” he said.
The psychological thriller about a woman who can steal other peoples’ memories, which stars Sarah Navratil of the television show “Stargate Origins” and Richard Neil, who has appeared in hit shows like “Veronica Mars,” “Entourage” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
And while some are using the film festival as launch pad for their Hollywood aspirations, others were just happy to try something new.
After being cast by his teacher, Alfred Barriga acted for the first time ever in Miller’s “The King of Courtyard Square.”
“I just want to see myself on screen and see how I did,” Barriga said before the show.
Director and Hanford native David Dibble’s award-winning “Adonis” closed the show. The film won the prize for best Emerging Filmmaker Short Film at the Cannes International Film Festival in France in 2013.
Having now been seen, the films will be judged by members of the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. The decisions will be announced later this week.