BELOIT - For 10 days, people from many different places will flock to Beloit to celebrate filmmaking.
The Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) is returning for its 13th year, and the event lineup is bigger and better than ever.
"Education is really key this year... we have Kids at BIFF where we teach fifth graders critical viewing skills," said BIFF Executive Director Max Maiken. "We also added another event called the Help Yourself Film Program."
Fun activities will begin on Feb. 23 and run through March 4 at several venues around Beloit. Favorites like the Silent Film Showcase, Sing-A-Long, and Radio Drama will all return. There also will be new things happening, like BIFF appointing its very first Artist-in-Residence, Damien Patrick, who will speak twice to area youth during the festival.
Tickets to regularly scheduled BIFF films are $9 if purchased online or $10 at the door ($5 for students). Admission to the Sing-A-long is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Tickets for the Silent Film Showcase are $20 for adults and $5 for students.
"It's an electric time in Beloit when BIFF is happening," Maiken said. "People should come for the entertainment, but also stay for the conversation after films... we're discussing these topics that maybe we wouldn't have otherwise thought of."
Opening day, Feb. 23, will have a full schedule of film screenings and special events, too. This year's Radio Drama performance of "All about Eve" will begin at 5:30 p.m. at La Casa Grande, 618 Fourth St. The vintage radio play is being put on by the Stage One Theatre Company and will also be broadcast live on WCLO 1230 AM. The performance is free.
For those who would like to take in Beloit's nightlife after the vintage radio play, BIFF After Dark will be returning from 7-9 p.m. at Grand Avenue Pub, 132 W. Grand Ave. The special event celebrates local music and includes drink specials. There is no cover charge.
This year's BIFF Sing-A-Long is sure to be a hit, as it will feature Walt Disney's 2013 blockbuster movie "Frozen." The Sing-A-Long will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Schubert's Luxury 10 Theatre, 2799 Cranston Road, Beloit. For those who don't know the songs, lyrics will be shown on the screen. Everybody is invited to dress up. There will be free pop and popcorn available.
"Frozen is going to be something that hits young and old alike, because the kids, the parents and grandparents all like the movie," Maiken said.
A variety of fantastic films from many genres will be shown Feb. 25-28 and March 1-2 at Bagels & More, Bushel & Peck's, Domenicos, Hendricks Art Center and La Casa Grande. Special events will return on March 3 with the Silent Film Showcase.
The silent film, with score provided by talented local musicians, is always a favorite. This year BIFF will join forces with the Beloit Memorial High School Jazz Orchestra for "The Cameraman" starring Buster Keaton. The show will take place at 7 p.m. March 3 at Beloit Memorial High School, 1225 Fourth St. Tickets should be purchased in advance.
"I'm an alum of the high school band, so it is so cool to see the level the Jazz Orchestra is at now," Maiken said. "They're one of the best high school jazz bands in the country, and I give it up to Chris Behrens to develop the program into the powerhouse it is."
On closing day, March 4, all can enjoy seeing a free classic film as BIFF hosts "The Sting" at Schubert's Luxury 10 Theatre. The show will be starting at 2:30 p.m. The film, set in 1930s Chicago, features Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Schubert's Luxury 10 management will be providing free pop and popcorn for the enjoyment of guests.
After its wonderful 10-day run, BIFF will present its BIFFY Awards for the films and documentaries during a ceremony at La Casa Grande. The free event will start at 5:15 p.m. March 4.
For more information on BIFF and a full schedule of its many events, including the Wisconsin/Illinois Showdown, see www.beloitfilmfest.org or call the box office at 608-466-9693.