VAN WERT - A new event is about to begin in Van Wert and it has drawn attention from around the world. 

The Van Wert Independent Film Festival will take place from Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10 with 23 films being shown in the first two days. These include both shorts and feature-length productions with other events including breakfast sessions with two guest speakers, the premiere of one movie and a landing party where film goers will get to meet some of the directors and producers of the films.

"It's basically the full gamut," said Len Archibald, Executive Director of the VWIFF. "We're showing shorts and feature films and high school student films throughout the festival. We're treating it basically as a smaller version of a Sundance, just trying to show some of the best independent films from around the world."

Independent films are categorized as productions that are made with a majority of their funding coming from outside a major Hollywood studio. Some of them may have been made on budgets of several million dollars while others may have cost only a few thousand dollars. Many have entire casts made up of actors that very few in the movie-going public have ever heard of while some do have big names attached because they were attracted by the subject matter, director or other reasons. In many cases, well-known directors and producers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese began their careers by making short, independent films. Robert Redford felt so passionately about independent films that in 1978 his production company began the predecessor to the Sundance Film Festival which has now grown into the premiere event in the industry.

When Archibald talks about "the best independent films from around the world," he is not joking. Much like its larger and more famous cousins, the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, the VWIFF will put on display films from six different countries and multiple U.S. states. From several hundred entries, Archibald and his committees were able to narrow down the selections with outside judges choosing award winners.

The whole event begins Friday morning as Colorado independent filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz speaks at a 9 a.m. breakfast symposium at The Pitt Stop on S. Shannon St. in Van Wert. Berggoetz will talk about how he was able to sell his films for distribution and some of the pitfalls he ran into while making his movies. 

Beginning at 6:30 that night, the viewing begins at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center with a "Celebration of Shorts: The Outstanding Films." These productions are 30 minutes or less in run time and will feature five films. They range from the story of a young girl on a sheep farm dealing with her mother's cancer to the true story of how a Canadian man was saved during World War II by chickens, to a homeless man's struggle to survive while a killer preys on a city's downtrodden.

At 9 p.m., Wapakoneta native Theodore James will show his film, "Superheroes," which was a selection of the Sundance Film Festival. It is the story of real people across the U.S. who put on capes and masks in order to fight injustice.

To cap off the first day, the final event will move to the Van Wert Civic Theatre where Berggoetz's film, "The Worst Movie EVER!," will make its debut. The movie is a parody of science fiction movies from the 1950's, the golden age for filmmakers like Edward Wood. This is a free admission event.

Saturday morning starts bright and early with "Superheroes" writer and producer James with an 8 a.m. breakfast and talk at The Pitt Stop. He will talk about his success with the movie, what it took to find the characters and answer questions.

The feature film portion of the VWIFF starts in earnest at 8:30 at the NPAC. Three films will be shown in succession and all are nominated for the Grand Prix Award as the outstanding feature of the event. "Mortem" is a psychological thriller from France and will be shown first. At 10:20, "Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone" will detail the rise of the South Central Los Angeles band, Fishbone. This film is narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the actor most well-known for his current role on the television show, "CSI," and for the "Matrix" movies. Finally, "Table at Luigi's" begins at 12:25 and is about a chef who realizes that his is shutting himself off from the world by staying in his restaurant.

"A Celebration of Shorts: Selected Films" begins at 2:15 p.m. and includes seven short films. These include an eclectic group of productions including shorts from Thailand, Spain, and Iran as well as America. 

At 5:30, the feature films begin again with "Centre Place," a film from Australia. It examines the life of Lizzie, a woman who must learn to take control of her own life after a series of disappointments and confrontations threaten to crush her. "Paradise Recovered" follows a woman as she begins to question her fundamentalist upbringing. Finally, "A Lonely Place for Dying" takes to the screen at 9:15 p.m. This film is a CIA spy thriller that takes place in 1972. James Cromwell of "Babe" and "L.A. Confidential" is one of the members of the cast. 

Throughout the entire weekend, student short films will be shown among the other presentations.

Saturday ends with an After-Party event at The Pitt Stop at 11 p.m. People are invited to mingle with writers, directors and producers of the films at the VWIFF and learn more about what it takes to make an independent film. 

The whole event wraps up on Sunday with an Awards Gala and Brunch at the Van Wert Banquet Hall in S. Shannon St. 

(To see more information or a complete VWIFF schedule, please go to their website at www.vwiff.com. To watch an interview with Len Archibald about the VWIFF, please go to www.timesbulletin.com and click on this article.)