FilmScene’s first Refocus Film Festival to take over Iowa City

FilmScene will premiere its Refocus Film Festival on Oct. 6. The movie event will focus on a seven-decade history of film adaptations and alternative ways to view films.


Matt Sindt

Film Scene is seen in downtown Iowa City on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022.

Mark Fortunato, Arts Reporter

As the weather begins to cool and autumn starts to breeze in, FilmScene is preparing for its inaugural Refocus Film Festival. A community of film lovers gets ready to fill the seats of FilmScene’s Chauncey theater, equipped with popcorn and excitement. 

With the height of the pandemic in the rearview, festivals like Refocus can bring Johnson County residents together once again. 

Executive Director and Co-founder of FilmScene Andrew Sherburne noted his enthusiasm toward the project. 

“I am most excited to bring a festival to this community. We haven’t had one for quite some time,” Sherburne said. “Festivals like this are as much about the community as they are about the films, so there’s a reason it’s a film festival.”

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The festival aims to assemble the Iowa City residents to appreciate films both new and old. It will be hosted within three locations: the Englert Theatre and both FilmScene locations in the Iowa City Hotel Chauncey building and the Ped Mall. 

Viewers will be able to go and watch a film, take a break and eat at a local restaurant, and get right back to watching with ease. 

Refocus events 

The opening night will be hosted at the Englert. An early showing of the yet-to-be-released “Bones and All,” starring Timothée Chalamet — written by a screenwriting alum from the University of Iowa, David Kajganich — will kick off the weekend. 

Focusing on film adaptations of novels, 26 different films will play at the festival, some from as early as the 1950s, and others released as recent as this year. 

While a handful of the movies are directed by Iowa-based artists, some were also filmed and produced in Europe.

FilmScene programing designer Ben Delgado said there are a few unique aspects of the festival this year.  

“We will have a mix of musicians, poets, visual artists, and more sharing their work to the audience before they take in the films they’re watching,” Delgado said.  

Unlike large blockbuster movies, most of these films will be shorter, with some running less than an hour. 

Marvel’s 2018 “Black Panther will be screened, but in a reimagined fashion. The event, Black Panther Remix: Wakanda Now, will feature Tracie Morris, an Iowa City based artist and UI Professor who will perform a multi-voiced reading to accompany the film screening.

Although Morris planned on developing the sound-altered version film in 2020, the pandemic and death of Chadwick Boseman made them rethink their idea. 

“One of the things I was thinking was to make it more about the community and less of me as a solo artist,” Morris said.  

The festival will offer a new type of viewing as well — Virtual Reality (VR) Film for three different screenings of the films “A Couple,” “Framing Agnes” and “The Afterlight.” 

“Sometimes VR films are intended to reorient how we see the world, and that’s how this film was working,” Sherburne said. 

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