The stories of a young girl who toils away in a Roanoke, Virginia, cotton mill in 1912 and a teenager in Appalachia who protects her younger siblings from their drug-addicted mother will be among those told at the fifth annual PUSH! Film Festival on Oct. 12.
This year’s festival is set to take place from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol. It will include a filmmaking seminar; screenings of short films split into blocks for Virginia and Tennessee films; an award ceremony; and screening of two feature films, “Blaze” a biopic about outlaw country songsmith Blaze Foley, and “Labyrinth” a 1980s cult classic starring David Bowie.
There are a couple of changes this year, and one of the biggest is a focus on films and filmmakers from Tennessee and Virginia.
Briana Fillers, a founding team member of the festival, said they’ve come a long way since the crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that launched the festival. She said they started out casting a wide net as an international film festival, but they’ve finally found its identity is to celebrate and create a conversation around locally and regionally focused art.
“Local filmmakers want to support us, and we are passionate and proud of the opportunity to share their work,” Fillers said.
Some films set to be screened are even specifically focused on subjects within the Tri-Cities.
One of the short films, “Work Sticks” is a documentary about artist Patrick Dougherty and the community members who built the “That Old-Time Religion” stick statues alongside him in Johnson City. It was directed by Shara Lange, an associate professor of media and communication at East Tennessee State University.
Another new feature this year is InstaFilm Bristol, a four-hour workshop and competition from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be hosted by Josh Mancuso, a Johnson City-based director, actor, filmmaker, cinematographer, screenwriter and comedian. Attendees will learn a little about filmmaking and storytelling before producing short films solely through Instagram Stories. The best short film will be screened at the award ceremony.
A lot of work and planning by a small and dedicated team goes into making the daylong event happen. Almost immediately after one festival ends, planning for the next one begins with a festival team meeting to discuss what worked and what can be improved next year. They regroup in January to begin the work, but things really ramp up in June once film submissions start coming in.
Maggie Elliot, executive director of Believe in Bristol, said capacity for the screenings is limited to 100 seats, and doors will open at 2:30 p.m. so festival-goers should show up early to get a seat.