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All Man: The International Male Story
All Man: The International Male Story

The Tallgrass Film Festival announced a preview of gala film selections and special presentations for this year’s 20th Anniversary edition of the popular film festival, taking place September 28-October 2. Troma Films legend Lloyd Kaufman will be a recipient of the festival’s Ad Astra Award, and the all-documentary gala presentations will include the world premiere of Daniel Fetherston and Danny Szlauderbach’s documentary, We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment, Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed’s All Man: The International Male Story, Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s Tribeca hit, Butterfly in the Sky, and Camille Hardman and Gary Lane’s Still Working 9 to 5.

Tallgrass FF program director Andre Seward, said, “The 20th anniversary of Tallgrass Film Festival will be a celebration of the best cinema from the past and today. These titles are just a taste of the incredible films that will be available during the festival. We have a truly great lineup for you this year. The Stubbornly Independent spirit is alive and well.”

Ad Astra Award honoree Lloyd Kaufman co-founded the cult horror studio Troma Entertainment and has served as the face of the company and brand for decades. Kaufman fell into low-budget filmmaking in the late 1960s while attending Yale University, where he directed an experimental student film called The Girl Who Returned. Upon graduation, he began working for the low-budget studio Cannon Films, where he worked on respected indie hits like John G. Avildsen’s hippie-murder drama, Joe while writing, producing, directing, and starring in his own independent films. Kaufman and creative partner Michael Herz founded Troma Entertainment in 1974, specializing at first in grindhouse sex comedies, but in the mid-1980s, satiric horror movies with deliberately outrageous gross-out shocks and a defiantly low-budget became Troma’s identity, resulting in Kaufman-directed underground hits like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. Later notable films include Troma’s War and Tromeo and Juliet, which apply the same sardonic aesthetic to different film genres.

As part of its salute to Kaufman and Troma, Along with the film festival’s traditional “Conversation on Film” it hosts with Ad Astra honorees, Tallgrass will be screening his cult classic, The Toxic Avenger (1984),Poultrygeist (2006), as well as his latest film, #ShakespearesShitstorm (2020) which naturally involves a mad scientist and his blind daughter on the run from evil pharmaceutical execs, and how he seeks to wreck vengeance upon them by feeding mass amounts of laxatives to whales, among other things.

Friday, September 30, Tallgrass will host a Double Gala event with Daniel Fetherston and Danny Szlauderbach’s documentary We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment making its world premiere at the Orpheum Theatre (200 N. Broadway), while Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed’s documentary All Man: The International Male Story screens next door at the Temple Live (Wichita Scottish Rite Center) 332 E. 1st Street. We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment is the highly anticipated film about the Kansas band The Embarrassment, which scored an intensely loyal following in Wichita and beyond while not quite courting mainstream success. The presentation of the film will include a reunion of the band’s members and certainly be a post-punk event to remember. All Man: The International Male Story revisits the influential catalog’s three decade-long history and its unlikely but lasting impact on fashion, masculinity, and sexuality in America.

Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s Butterfly in the Sky will be the Centerpiece Gala selection, screening on Saturday, October 1 at the Orpheum Theatre, and Camille Hardman and Gary Lane’s Still Working 9 to 5 will screen in the Orpheum following the Filmmaker Awards presentations on Sunday, October 2. Butterfly in the Sky looks at the history and influence of the beloved “Reading Rainbow!” series one of the most adored television hosts of all time, LeVar Burton. Camille Hardman and Gary Lane’s Still Working 9 to 5 focuses on the cultural zeitgeist that also happened to be one of the highest grossing comedies of all time, 9 to 5.

Two cinema classics will get the big screen treatment with John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) leads the way during Tallgrass FF’s celebration of its 20th Anniversary on Wednesday, September 28, and a 35mm print of Richard Kelly’s mind-bending classic Donnie Darko (2001) will screen at the Orpheum on Saturday, October 1.

2022 Tallgrass Film Festival Official Selections Preview

Lloyd Kaufman/Troma Films Salute
Poultreygeist (2006)
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Country: USA, Running Time: 102 min
When the American Chicken Bunker, a military themed fast-food restaurant, builds its latest chain restaurant on the site of a Native American burial ground, the displaced spirits take revenge on the unsuspecting diners and transform them into chicken zombies. Now, it’s up to a dimwitted counter boy, his collegiate lesbian ex-girlfriend and a burqa-wearing fry cook to put an end to the foul feathered menace once and for all.

#ShakespearesShitstorm (2020)
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Country: Albania, USA; Running Time: 94 min
Mad scientist Prospero runs away with his blind daughter Miranda to Tromaville, hiding from evil pharmaceutical execs, including his own sister Antoinette who ruined his career after he found the cure for opioid addiction. With the help of a handicapped crack-whore, he releases a massive amount of laxative to whales, while his enemies are on a cruise ship to North Korea. A humongous shitstorm washes the boat away and brings them to Tromaville, where Prospero can now fully realize his ultimate vengeance.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Directors: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Country: USA; Running Time: 82 min
Tromaville has a monstrous new hero. The Toxic Avenger is born when meek mop boy Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste. Now evildoers will have a lot to lose.

Friday Double Gala Selections
All Man: The International Male Story
Directors: Bryan Darling, Jesse Finley Reed
Country: USA; Running Time: 83 min
All Man: The International Male Story journeys across three decades of the catalog’s unlikely but lasting impact on fashion, masculinity, and sexuality in America. Gene Burkard, a once-closeted Midwesterner, and GI found freedom in San Diego, where he transformed men’s fashion into something cosmopolitan, carefree, and trend-setting International Male reached gay and straight customers alike as it redefined images of masculinity in popular culture, generating revenue and circulation in the millions. This character-driven documentary crafts a portrait of a band of outsiders who changed the way men would look – at themselves, at each other, and how the world would look at them.

We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment World Premiere
Directors: Daniel Fetherston, Danny Szlauderbach
Country: USA; Running Time: 103 min
It was the end of the seventies. Surrounded by wheat fields, cowboys, and cars, four bespectacled misfits in Kansas — Bill Goffrier, Brent Giessmann, John Nichols, and Ron Klaus — grabbed instruments and blasted out “a ravenous strain of rock ‘n’ roll” as tuneful, brainy, and enthralling as anything coming from the coasts. They worshipped the Stooges and witnessed the Sex Pistols bring punk to the Great Plains, igniting within them an uncontrolled prairie fire to do-it-themselves. As the Embarrassment, they threw a house-wrecking party and invited “a thousand loving friends” into their secret world of “weirdo new wave freaks” in Wichita and beyond. They played Chicago, D.C., and New York, drawing the attention of influential figures like Allen Ginsberg, John Cale, and Jonathan Demme — but their independence and refusal to sell out sparked tension within the group and kept mainstream success at bay. Through original interviews, restored concert footage, and appearances by fans including Evan Dando, Freedy Johnston, Grant Hart, and Thomas Frank, this documentary shows how the Embarrassment rose out of nowhere to become a post-punk legend that’s almost been forgotten — until now.

Saturday Centerpiece Gala Selection
Butterfly in the Sky
Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
Country: USA; Running Time: 87 min
Two seconds into the bubbling synth sounds of its theme song will have a child of the 1980s or ‘90s exclaiming “Reading Rainbow!” Such is the beloved and ubiquitous nature of the classic children’s literary television show that introduced millions of kids to the wonder and importance of books. Not only did the series insist on having kids speak to kids about their favorite stories, but Reading Rainbow introduced the world to one of the most adored television hosts of all time in LeVar Burton. Thanks to his direct, non-patronizing, and, most importantly, kind delivery, Burton became a conduit to learning for children of every background—an entrancing guide to subjects unknown.

Sunday Closing Night Gala Selection
Still Working 9 to 5
Directors: Camille Hardman, Gary Lane
Country: USA, Running Time: 96 min
When the highest grossing comedy of 1980, 9 to 5 (starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman) exploded on to cinema screens, the laughs hid a serious message about women’s inequality in the office.

Special Presentations
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Director: John Hughes
Country: USA; Running Time: 93 min
A Chicago advertising man must struggle to travel home from New York for Thanksgiving, with a lovable oaf of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion.

Donnie Darko (2001)
Director: Richard Kelly
Country: USA; Running Time: 113 min
After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.

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