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That’s a Wrap! 5th Anniversary of the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival is a Smashing Success

By: Hollywood Times | Original Article Here

What a difference a year (or five) makes. The Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival unspooled its 5th Anniversary edition last month, concluding a weekend of eleven feature films and twenty-one short, student, and animated films from around the world at venues across Waco, Texas, including Art Center Waco, Bear Ridge Golf Club, the Cambria Hotel, the Pavilion at the Carleen Bright Arboretum, the historic Hippodrome Theatre, Leo Lockwood Theater, Marie’s Wine Bar, and the Waco Civic Theater.

For its two recent years, Texas’ famously capricious weather dogged the Festival; with snow and rain in 2022 cancelling the golf tournament and freezing rain forcing postponement of Ozomatli’s show in 2023. Festival Founder and Executive Director Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren of organizer the GB Lindsey Family Charitable Fund took Mother Nature’s hint and pushed the Festival back two weeks into mid-February, and the 2024 edition dawned with temperatures headed toward the mid 70’s.

Tyrha Lindsey Warren At Podium

“WE DID IT!!!! We have had a tremendously successful 5th Anniversary film festival,” beamed Lindsey-Warren. “I am Uber proud of my  film festival team and our ability to present high-quality and high-touch film festivals over the past five years. Through the global pandemic, snow, and ice storms, we have stayed true to our mission of being “dedicated to EMPOWERING the creative spirit, SERVING with heart, and CELEBRATING all!” The Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, and its sister festivals in Nigeria, Florida and HBCU educational institutions, are truly making an impact in Waco and around the world! And, I am so proud!”

The festival kicked off with the swanky black-tie Champions Awards Gala in the brand spanking new Cambria Hotel Riverfront, so new the rooms smelled of building materials, the swimming pools weren’t filled, and one wing wasn’t yet open. But the staff were on point, the Blvd Steakhouse was open, and the conference center bustled with activity.

In addition to honoring past awards recipients, host Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules fame) helped Lindsey-Warren hand out awards to Geena Davis (accepted by her production company executive Madeline Dinono); The Lion King on Broadway star Alton Fitzgerald White; New York Times bestselling authors Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry; radio host Reverend Carl Stimpson; and TFNB Your Bank for Life SVP Jason Lavender.

L-R Authors Donna Grant And Virginia DeBerry

Broadway star Carter Calvert sang “Simply the Best” from the Tina Turner Musical and “Beautiful” from the Carole King Broadway show, Beautiful. Lindsey-Warren, not to be outdone, broke out into song herself, performing “He Lives In You” from The Lion King and as a tribute to 2024 Champions Award Recipient and Lion King Broadway star, Alton Fitzgerald White. The evening also introduced the organization’s first class of “Community Champions,” which are nonprofit organizations that are doing outstanding work and include-the Family & Faith Worship Center, Da Shack Farmer’s Market, Project Lifeforce, and Grassroots Community Development. The gala concluded with an impromptu fashion show by Waco High School students and teachers who served as models.

L-R Kevin Sorbo And Tyrha Lindsey Warren

Friday, it was time to hit the links. Texans like golf almost as much as they like football. Sidney Warren, Dr. Lindsey-Warren’s husband, co-founder of festival presenter the GB Lindsey Family Charitable Fund, and self-styled “Minister of Fun,” led three dozen golfers—including Cincinnati Bengals alums Ickey Woods and Joe Kelly, and former MLB player Eric Davis, actor Kevin Sorbo, along with a few filmmakers–for a shotgun start to the 4th annual Celebrity Golf Classic.  Sponsor Greg May Honda’s foursome carried the day in the better ball foursome and won the event, with the Stay Waco team a close second, under cloudy skies and balmy 75-degree temperatures.

Later, the opening night film, Bobby Farrelly’s heartwarming basketball dramedy starring Woody Harrelson, CHAMPIONS, filled the historic downtown Waco Hippodrome Theater with several hundred guests—along with guests of honor, the actual basketball team from the movie: Bradley Edens, Casey Metcalf, James Day Keith, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, and Alex Hintz. The team got a standing ovation from the crowd before doing the Q&A with Dr. Lindsey-Warren.

L-R Bradley Edens, Casey Metcalf, James Day Keith, Kevin Iannucci, Tyrha Lindsey Warren, Ashton Gunning, Alex Hintz Loswer Res

After the screening, most of the screening guests went across Austin Avenue to Marie’s Wine Bar, where they were treated to a reprise tasting from historic—yet upstart—brand Uncle Nearest and dozens of wines, charcuterie and cheese. “The Best Whiskey Maker the World Never Knew” was a Black man, Nathan “Nearest” Green, and he can rightly claim to be the godfather of Tennessee Whiskey.  Guests sampled their 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey, their 100-proof 1884 Small Batch Bourbon, and their Straight Rye.

Saturday, movie screenings at theaters across Waco competed with a free, mid-day seminar series, “The Business of Hollywood: Filmmaker Educational Workshops,” at Marie’s Wine Bar. Tea, coffee and donuts replaced whiskey, smoked meats and cheese for three sessions: the PitchFest, “How to Turn Your Idea Into A Film, TV, or Streaming Series,” led by LostNThought Productions President and Senior Executive Consulting Producer of Development and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for A+E Factual Studios Courtney Parker; “It’s All About Animation!,” with The Proud Family creator Bruce Smith; and “It’s Not Show Business, It’s Business Show!,” with media executives Endyia Kinney-Sterns and John Vilade. Regardless of the hour, some guests wielded their digital wine cards for Maria’s self-service Cruvinet wine dispensers anyway.

Films screening through the day included: Matthey Mishory’s family history documentary FIORETTA and Jillian Speece’s STATE OF THE UNITY, which was followed by a live performance by the band The Bergamot. Short film highlights included: HBCU FirstLOOK Film Festival Challenge winner SINCERELY, JONAH; HBCU FirstLOOK Film Festival Challenge finalist INTERCEPTION: JAYNE KENNEDY AMERICAN SPORTSCASTER; and the animated MOSQUITO FISH, from 12-year-old attending filmmaker Bryn Wright.

Later Saturday night—after an impromptu first birthday party for Tyrha and Sidney’s daughter Kennedy in the Cambria lobby—guests decamped to the gorgeous Pavilion at the Carleen Bright Arboretum in suburban Woodway, where Lindsey-Warren handed out the film awards. Winners were as follows:

The Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film (U.S. and International) went to Running the Bases (USA), Marty Roberts and Jimmy Womble’s story of a small-town baseball coach who gets the offer of a lifetime from a larger school, but faces opposition to his coaching methods from the school superintendent.

Grand Jury Prize for Best Animation Film (U.S. and International) was conferred upon Riley and the Wooden Sword (Sri Lanka), an award-winning, heartwarming, and inspiring animated tale brought to life by the amazing talent of four junior animators at Mogo Studios in Sri Lanka.

Waco awarded Let’s Talk (Israel) the Grand Jury Prize for Best Student Film (U.S. and International).

Elad Mukades’ film is about making choices—in this case between lead character Ori’s newly religious soldier brother who is planning to make shabbat in a deserted place, and going to be with his sick mother.

Willows (USA) claimed the Grand Prize Jury for Best Short Film (U.S. and International). Willows was in-person guest Alicia Raymond’s story of two sisters in the 1950’s  who must each find a way to let go of feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal that all began with a traumatic event many years ago.

Awards out of the way, the crowd got rocking to the sounds of genre-bending Southern California multi-instrumentalists, the Latin Grammy Awardâ-winning band Ozomatli,  Ozomatli performed for 90 minutes, playing “Saturday Night,” “Cumbia De Los Muertos,” “After Party,”  and cuts from their latest album Marching On, as guests danced and munched jerk chicken and donuts from the food trucks outside. Their encore, which included snippets of The Hokey Pokey, was captured by Crescent Vale’s Matthew McGuire here.

The Festival closed with a local performance of the Off-Broadway play An Adam Experiment at Waco Civic Theater. An Adam Experiment stars Michael Chenevert living a day in the life of former Harlem Congressional Representative and civil rights crusader Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

“As we close the books on our 5th Anniversary, we’re committed to the movie business—and the business of movies—here in Waco. We feel our film festival brings first-rate and inspired programming to the city, amplifies under-represented voices, AND helps build our budding film and TV community.” Lindsey-Warren can claim one significant victory; she introduced filmmakers Victor Hawks and Malcolm Goodwin to Waco; their Vision Vehicle Studios moved to Waco August 2020 and have shot three Waco-based films since 2021. “We’ll see all y’all here next year!”


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