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Hobnobben film festival spreads its wings at the Embassy

Hobnobben comes roaring back after 2020


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 6, 2021

The Hobnobben Film Festival migrated from Cinema Center to the Embassy Theatre last year to help make it happen at a time when public events were hampered by pandemic protocols.

The festival was so successful in that venue that it will return this year, starting Oct. 15.

Strictures on such events have eased considerably. Hence, the organizers of Hobnobben were allowed to add elements to the festival that were verboten last year.

Taking Full Advantage of the Setting

For example, there will be an opening night reception in the Indiana Hotel Lobby. There is no Indiana Hotel anymore, of course, and no reservation desk where an amateur detective can bribe a desk clerk to tell him which room the disgraced politician is hiding in under an assumed name. The hotel was converted into a grand ballroom. But the lobby endures as a place where sophisticates can mingle and sip cocktails.

Also on Friday night, there will be four short films devoted to expressing “your beautiful self,” followed by some beautiful live expression. The stars of one of those films, South Bend-based burlesque troupe The DisDress Dolls, will perform after the screenings.

“One of the wonderful things about kind of being out of this pandemic is that we are bringing live performances back as part of Hobnobben,” said festival co-chair Amanda Hille.

Fort Wayne Dance Collective will also perform at some point during the festival and co-chair Alix Watson said she is trying to line up more performers for the reception.

Films in Person and Online

But the big news about Hobnobben 2021 isn’t limited to the things that will happen live and on site.

The films and ceremonies of Hobnobben will be available to watch online as well.

“The virtual option will go live on October 15, the same time the festival goes live” Watson said. “But the virtual option will be available longer, until October 24.”

People who choose the streaming option can watch the films at their leisure. They don’t have to watch them when attendees are watching them at the Embassy.

The films are grouped by theme again this year rather than by length or cinematic classification. Headings include athletic triumphs, difficult family relationships, music and dance, animals and pets, art and creation, science fiction and fantasy, pursuing normalcy in extreme circumstances, the Holocaust, inequality and other hardships in the United States, self-discovery and self-acceptance, love, and “favorite things” (in The Sound of Music sense and perhaps not quite in The Sound of Music sense).

Quarantine films will get their own block and menstruation will be explored by way of two films and a panel discussion.

Hobnobben is rare among film festivals in that it is entirely organized and operated by women, Amanda Hille said. Amanda’s sister Christi is another co-chair.

“So we were excited to see Bleeding Free get submitted into the festival,” she said.

Bleeding Free is a recent Scottish documentary about how poverty and cultural conventions can complicate menstruation in the United Kingdom and Africa.

“We’re accepting menstruation products at the festival which we will donate to local organizations to help period poverty in Fort Wayne,” Amanda Hille said. “And we’re also going to get a group of people who are familiar with this topic to come up and discuss period poverty in Fort Wayne.”

Getting Spooky, Too

Saturday at this year’s festival coincides with a series of Halloween-themed downtown events grouped under the Fright Night rubric, so there will be two blocks of horror films that evening starting at 8:45.

Three films will receive their own showcase screenings: Greyland, a documentary about poverty and redemption in Youngstown, Ohio; Six Angry Women, a documentary about six women who took justice into their own hands after a rape in New Zealand; and Butterfly, Lost, a British film about an autistic man trying to cope after his sister’s death.

The opening night film, Natyam, is a rare treat. It is a Telegu language film from the southern Indian film industry known as Tollywood. There is a lot more to Indian cinema than “Bollywood,” the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.

The pandemic has cast an enormous shadow this year over film production and exhibition throughout India.

Hobnobben will screen Natyam a week before it opens in its home country. It’s about a dancer who tries to recreate a “lost” piece of choreography and learns a lot about herself and about classical Indian dance.

“It’s just delightful,” Amanda Hille said. “Happy music, a love story. It’s really nice to have a feel-good movie after the year that everyone has gone through.”

Watson said the festival will give out a new award this year. It honors LGBTQIA+ representation and was named for Jennifer Fray and Lynn Serstad, two local Hobnobben boosters and Cinema Center devotees.

In related news, Cinema Center is set to reopen soon, Watson said, although she doesn’t have an exact date.

Submissions to the festival increased by more than 50 percent this year, Watson said, and that will likely mean that Hobnobben will have to return to a multi-venue format in the future to accommodate all the entries.

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