Every year, it feels this way. Like the last day of summer camp, or the final curtain call of a play in which you had a small, but treasured, part. You’re wiped out – physically and emotionally – so there’s an element of relief. You’ve made all these new friends in a very short time – amazing people you may never see again – so there’s grief. You’ve spent three days living in a magic bubble – neglecting everything in your life that’s not bubble-related – so, hovering just past the edge of your immediate thoughts, there’s dread. But mostly, there’s this overwhelming sense of wondrous gratitude.
I’m talking, of course, about the morning after BIFF.
Last night, while hugging BIFF’s fearless leader Ron Tucker goodbye at the Saltus after party, I whispered, “Well, you did it again, my friend.” He replied, “I really think this was the best festival yet.” I laughed. Ron says that every year. The thing is . . . every year, it’s true. Every year, the films get a little better and the festival gets a little bigger. As far as I’m concerned, it can stop growing now! If we lose that feeling of “small and intimate,” we lose a great part of what makes BIFF so special. The challenge, of course, is to grow the festival while maintaining that spirit. I’m glad that challenge is on Ron and Rebecca’s shoulders, not mine!
It may not be as hard as it sounds, though, because this year’s BIFF, while bigger than ever, felt more personal than ever, too. Ron commented last night, and I concur, that this was “the most emotional awards ceremony” in BIFF history. From the beautiful tribute to Chris Brinker – who died suddenly at the age of 42, a week before he was to receive the inaugural Robert Smalls Indie Vision award – to Angela Alford’s touching acceptance of the Audience Choice Award for “Granny’s Got Game,” to sportswriter Gary Smith’s heartfelt introduction of his friend, director Mike Tollin, to Tollin’s moving words about filmmaking . . . there were so many reasons to thank God for waterproof mascara last night.
But the whole festival was like that, really. There’s something about short, independent films – and their makers – that just gets to me. As I said in a previous blog, the short film is a stripped-down art form that hits you fast and hard and deep. And the people who create these films do it for love, certainly not money, which – for better and worse – makes them kindred spirits of mine. I suppose that’s why I fall in love with them every year. And why I feel such bittersweet sorrow – and joy – the morning after BIFF.
So, goodbye BIFF 2013. Goodbye VW Scheich and your gorgeous film “Wallenda” (and your darling wife!)… Goodbye Victor and Christine Romero (I know “Besa: The Promise” will keep moving audiences around the world)… Goodbye, you adorable boys from the University of North Carolina School for the Arts (I’ll never forget “Sergeant Townsend”)… Goodbye Margaret Ford Rogers, you fabulous dame (with a creepy screenplay!)… Goodbye to impossibly nice Gary Weeks (I’ll find you on episode six of “Nashville”!) and to equally nice Chad Mathews (keep ‘em laughing, and good luck with your festival in Fredericksburg!)… and to all the other filmmakers and film lovers who made BIFF 2013 “the best festival yet.” I love you all, and will be stalking each and every one of you on Facebook. Thanks for letting this small town journalist live in your magic bubble for a few unforgettable days.
And thanks to Ron and Rebecca for… well, everything. Just everything. I hope you’re sleeping in today.
- Margaret Evans