The Kansas City FilmFest – A Short Viewing Guide

by Trey Hock on April 9, 2014

in Features

The 2014 Kansas City FilmFest is underway, and this years line up of films and events is the strongest it’s been in years. Check out just a few of the things you can attend this year. Film titles are active links that will take you to screening times and ticket information. For festival passes and a full schedule of events, go to

Ralph Bakshi and Bill Plympton

Things get more adult-oriented later in the week as animation legend Ralph Bakshi is spotlighted. In addition to showing his 1970s cult classics Wizards and Heavy Traffic, Bakshi himself will be streamed in via the Internet for a live video Q&A following Coonskin, his most controversial film, on April 12 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton will appear live in person the same day to hold an Animation Master Class, as well as premiere his newest hand-drawn feature film, called Cheatin’. – Eric Melin, via

Ping Pong Summer

If you love coming of age films from the 1980s, the ones where the fashion was delightfully misguided and the obstacles were so simple – standing up to the mean kid, talking to a girl or boy, making friends – then you must check out Ping Pong Summer. Part homage, part satire, Ping Pong Summer follows Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) as he spends the summer with his family in a beach town on the East Coast. When he finds himself on the wrong side of the town bully, Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry), Rad must rise to the occasion and face Lyle in a ping-pong match to end them all.

Documentary Films

Those seeking some truth in their films will be excited about the documentaries that fill this year’s festival lineup.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia plays like a rich character study of a fascinating and controversial figure in American TV, literature, politics and popular culture. A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times is a must see for anyone with an interest in journalism. Jayson Blair is probably one of the more high-profile plagiarists in recent memory, and the extent of his intellectual theft is jaw dropping. This documentary explores the man and possible motives.

Inventor Dean Kamen is the focus of Slingshot, which follows not only the process of invention, but Kamen’s passion for tackling the world’s water crisis. The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden features small town drama at its weirdest. In the 1930s, a group of European discontents leave society and strike out on their own in the sparsely populated Galapagos Islands. Problems follow, from rude neighbors to community politics, to mysterious disappearances and murder.

Rich Hill, recently picked up by PBS’ Independent Lens and the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at Sundance this year, screens Monday April 7. The film’s co-director Tracy Droz Tragos will hold a Q&A and panel discussion following the movie, which follows the lives of three poverty-stricken teens growing up in Rich Hill, Missouri. – Eric Melin, via

Local, National and International Films

The Cinemark Palace on the Plaza is hosting locally produced feature films such as Blake Robbins’ The Sublime and the Beautiful and Bryce Young’s shorts series Withered World, as well as a full selection of Heartland Narrative Shorts and Kansas City Stories. High profile indie and foreign releases include the feature Wadjda, about a girl struggling with strict cultural mores in modern Saudi Arabia and the not-quite-apocalypse horror comedy Doomsdays. – Eric Melin, via

Obviously there are a ton of incredible events to attend and films to see. Make sure to get out to Cinemark on the Plaza and Alamo Drafthouse, and support the 2014 Kansas City FilmFest.

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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