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Hobnobben open to all, not just cinephiles

Independent film fest at Cinema Center to show record 128 movies

"Grace" is one of 128 films that will be shown during this year's Hobnobben Film Festival.

Olivia Hennessey

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 5, 2022

Fort Wayne’s only independent film festival, Hobnobben, is back and bigger than ever. 

Returning to Cinema Center, you can experience a record-breaking 128 films during the four-day event. Or, if you’d rather, you can stay home and view the films through an online portal. Regardless, the in-person event will be held Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 13-16.

Established in 2015, Hobnobben serves as Cinema Center’s primary fundraising event. But it’s so much more than that, according to the festival’s three co-chairs: Alix Watson, Amanda Hille, and Christi Hille. 

“We want Hobnobben to be a place where you can be seen, and see yourself, on screen,” Amanda Hille said.

Held at Cinema Center, films will be shown in the Main Theater, Spectator Lounge, and Fort Wayne Dance Collective Studio, with prices being $10 per film. Or, you can buy day passes for $15 on Thursday or $30 for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. A complete festival pass is also available for $60.

Elaborate process

The festival begins Thursday with an opening ceremony, followed by three days of screenings and panel discussions. This year boasts the most films selected in the festival’s seven-year history, meaning the festival’s co-chairs, as well as a large pool of volunteers, had to critically evaluate a wide variety of submissions. 

“We have multiple rounds of judging where each film is then viewed at least two times, if not more,” Watson said. 

The process might be long, but necessary, according to Watson.

“We have an epically long meeting, where we go over everything we’ve watched, because we really want to make sure that we honor the work and the effort that these filmmakers have put into their films,” she said.

An important deciding factor in which films are selected has to do with what is represented on screen. 

“There are certain problematic tropes that we won’t allow to be shown in our festival,” Watson said. “We pay attention very carefully to those problematic representations in film, because we’re not going to be part of perpetuating that.”

A focus on diversity

According to the co-chairs, Hobnobben has adopted a mission of showcasing diverse, human stories. One way this is achieved is through the festival’s blocks, which categorize the films based on common themes, genres, and styles.

“We do that because it helps contextualize the film that our audience is watching in a way that’s not jarring,” Christi Hille said. “It also allows us to have panel discussions after certain blocks, so that we can further understand what’s happening with the films and gain a deeper understanding, pull in community members, and really engage people on a different level.”

In addition to the blocks, the co-chairs are aiming to reframe the meaning of Hobnobben to be less about gatekeeping and elitism and more about making film more accessible.

“When the festival started back in 2015, it was introduced as a place where film lovers could rub elbows with the filmmakers,” Amanda Hille said. “Playing off the idea of hobnobbing, which is to interact and connect with people who are part of a more ‘highbrow’ society.”

This is no longer the goal. 

“We have changed the overall direction of the festival,” Christi Hille said. “We really focus on championing filmmakers who have been excluded historically from filmmaking and the film industry as a whole.” 

You can see this play out in the names and descriptions of the festival’s blocks, which cover topics like aging, female empowerment, sexuality, and Black motherhood.

The festival also includes a block dedicated to Burmese films, with two films that touch upon the recent coup in Myanmar. 

“One of the reasons we’re honored to host the Burmese films that we have is that Fort Wayne has the second-largest Burmese population outside of that country,” Watson said. “So that’s kind of important context as to why we’re highlighting those films.” 

The block, which will close out the festival, will be followed by a panel discussion in conjunction with Fort Wayne Sister Cities. 

“We’re very excited to be partnering with Fort Wayne Sister Cities to provide content and education, as well as to allow people from the Burmese community to see themselves on screen in a movie theater setting,” Amanda Hille said.

The co-chairs emphasized that they want the festival to be inclusive and thought-provoking, but they also want it to be fun. 

“We incorporate fun, quirky, campy films,” Amanda Hille said.

Salute to Indiana

Hobnobben includes international representation, but it also finds ways to honor Indiana and its home of Fort Wayne. 

“About 25 percent of our films actually have an Indiana connection, and it may even be more than that,” Watson said. 

This connection could be a producer from Fort Wayne or a storyline that encompasses what it’s like to live in the Hoosier State. Films like this reside in the Indiana Shorts block, which will be on opening night.

“If you’re not from Fort Wayne, there might be certain assumptions that Fort Wayne isn’t as prolific in their artists as what we are, but we are a huge art hub in the Midwest,” Amanda Hille said. “And I think it’s amazing that we provide an opportunity to really celebrate the artists who have stayed here, or who come from Fort Wayne.” 

With that, it’s clear Hobnobben is not shying away from its roots. 

“We are a Fort Wayne, Indiana, film festival,” Christi Hille said. 

One-time experience

Watson, Amanda Hille, and Christi Hille wanted to highlight why those interested should give Hobnobben a chance. 

“I would just like to encourage everyone to try out independent film,” Amanda Hille said. “Peruse the website and the guidebook and try to find something that (you) might be interested in. Just take a chance to watch the films.”

Not only do they want to convey that independent film is for everyone, but that it also has the power to change you. 

“Watching all of the films in the past four years has made me a more open, caring, and considerate person,” Christi Hille said about Hobnobben’s diverse content. “I’m a theater person, too, so that performative aspect, that this one screening only happens at one time in the world, and then it’s gone, that’s kind of what we’re doing at Hobnobben.” 

Never again will all 128 films be grouped together and shown collectively. 

“It’s really a unique and singular experience,” Christi Hille said.

For complete information on showtimes, films, and purchasing options, go online and visit hobnobben.org.

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