The Wolf Tree Film Festival, showing on January 23, 2021 at 6:00pm ET, will showcase nine short films set in the Great Lakes region or by filmmakers who reside in or grew up in the Great Lakes region.

Hosted by the Franke Center for the Arts and Marshall’s Youngish Professionals Committee, the Wolf Tree film festival in past years has been held at Franke Center, an arts complex that is the proud home of world-class concerts, inspiring theater, and award-winning movies.  The festival this year will be fully virtual and will include screenings of each selected film and an awards presentation.

The event will feature one of the stars of CBS’s Young Sheldon, Lance Barber. Lance has appeared in numerous shows on the small screen as well as feature films. An alumnus of Chicago’s Second City, he played the role of Paulie G on HBO’s critically acclaimed The Comeback, which The New York Times described as “among the great villains of television comedy.”

Lance Barber-Franke Center
Lance Barber-Franke Center

Lance will emcee the event and do a private filmmaker’s Q&A session with the selected filmmakers.  Barber was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan. He began acting with his Pennfield High School Drama Club and later joined the theatre program at Kellogg Community College and the Barn Theatre.  “As a native of Battle Creek, I appreciated having access to artistic opportunities as a kid. I’m excited to be a part of this event that celebrates quality filmmaking from hometown area and the entire Great Lakes region.”

“Each year, the number of submitted films and level of talent continues to grow for the festival. I’m also thrilled the committee selected a film called As We Are  by a Marshall native, Michael Faulkner. It’s pretty amazing how much talent comes out of our town,” said Jennifer Conley Darling, the chair of Wolf Tree’s film committee.  The committee, comprised of Cathy Bovitz, Jennifer Conley Darling, Beau Hutchings, Jacob Gates, Maddie Metzger, Kristy Morse, Isaiah Potter, and Erin Skidmore, reviewed nearly 80 films from various states and countries.  The final nine that were selected include a variety of genres, including comedy, drama, documentary, sci-fi, thriller and animated. The festival will be presented in two separate acts, starting at 6:00pm.

The first Act kicks off with Narcissick (from Canada/directed by Hugo Lacasse), a drama about an “Instababe” who puts her physical and mental health on the line to compete against a younger, more popular rival. Salt River Water Walk (from Canada & Minnesota/directed by Krista Davis, Jenny Zander) is a documentary that travels with the Salt River Water Walkers, describing an Indigenous-led ceremony as it creates community and builds relationships with the earth through the shared goal to care for the water.  Pegasus (from Illinois/directed by Orlando Leroi) is a drama, Sci-Fi student film about a young black father’s search for freedom that takes him beyond the limits of the atmosphere.  Medical Help (from Battle Creek, Michigan & Maryland/directed by Lanessa Miller) is an animated video illustrating the original swing jazz song “Medical Help” by Dwight L. Wilcox II with relevance to the era in which we are living. Rise (from Michigan/directed by Hannah Byrd) is a documentary about a previously homeless man who takes a ride through his past in order to understand the present and how it affects his future.

After a short break, the first film of the second Act is Bathroom Break (from Minnesota/directed by Simone LeClaire), a comedy about a woman who gets more than she bargained for when she spends her night out hiding in the bathroom.  As We Are (from Marshall, Michigan & California/directed by Michael R Faulkner) is a documentary about a man who was diagnosed with autism and who, along with his mother, went on to discover his gift for music together. Lily in the Maze (from New York & Michigan/directed by Alexandra Emmons and Andrew Juhl) is a thriller about a quiet introvert, who deals with a change in his routine on the same day a woman from his past appears.  The final film of the night is Satiety (from United Kingdom/directed by Anna Rust), a drama and thriller about a troubled woman who records her journey to finding her mother after she was abandoned more than a decade ago.

Tickets are $15 each and are available on the Franke Center website. 

Why “Wolf Tree?” According to legend, the Wolf Tree was a lone, prominent tree that once stood in the middle of Marshall. The first settler in the area sought refuge in the heights of the tree as wolves and bears roamed the dirt lane and forest that would one day become the city’s downtown. Later, a platform was built in the large oak’s branches where it is said a sentry, seeking the faint glow of wolves’ eyes, would hunt, eager to protect the village from threats hidden in the darkness below. It is a wild history, a bold story, and a great homage to the films that will be featured at this exciting annual event.

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