BELOIT—The first weekend of the Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) was a success as film fans filled the streets of Beloit and film showings were sold out.

“Our numbers are up over last year,” said BIFF Executive Director Greg Gerard. “We had a few sell-outs.”

One sold-out showing was the Saturday showing of “The Six Triple Eight,” which included the return to Beloit by retired Major General Marcia Anderson.

Anderson appears in the documentary film, which highlights the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, which was made up of 855 African American women who were sent to England and France during World War II to clear the backlog of mail to the troops.

Anderson, who was born in Beloit and was the first African American woman to reach the rank of general in the U.S. Army Reserve in 2011, was contacted by the film’s director James William Theres. One of the producers for the film, Edna Cummings, told Theres about Anderson.

“I had written the forward for a book about the battalion,” Anderson recalled.

“She happened to be in Washington, where I live, and I asked if she would do something for the film,”

Anderson currently lives in Verona, Wisconsin. She retired from military service in 2016 and now is clerk of courts for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. She attended the film showing with her parents, Gladys and Rudy Mahan.

The film festival action continued through the weekend with plenty to do.

Saturday night was a night for fun and song as the BIFF Sing-A-Long, featuring “The Blues Brothers,” was at The Castle.

A band played live before the film showing and fans had the opportunity to don dark glasses and fedoras to get their pictures taken next to a poster showing Jake and Elwood Blues (aka John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd).

Alex Gutierrez said he was a fan of the Blues Brothers since his high school days.

“I saw it in high school. It was one of the music films we studied,” he said.

Gerard pointed out a few other films of interest shown over the weekend, including, “No Small Matter,” which deals with early childhood development, and “This is My Home,” a film featuring The Black Donnellys, a pair of Irish immigrant musicians who played in venues across the United States.

Films will continue to be shown this week at Domenico’s and the Hendricks Center for the Arts. Then, some big draw showings for the coming weekend will be the Silent Movie Showcase, featuring Buster Keaton in “Steamboat Bill Jr.” The film will be shown at Beloit Memorial High School at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Beloit Memorial High School Jazz Orchestra will provide the musical accompaniment.

Then the BIFF Classic Movie sponsored by First National Bank and Trust will feature “The Princess Bride,” set for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 at the Eclipse Center.

“We’re expecting a big crowd for the classic movie, and it’s being shown at the Eclipse Center, so we’re going back to the days when BIFF showings were at the Eclipse Center,” Gerard said.