Fresno Filmworks takes over Tower Theatre


Kristen Stewart, of “Twilight” fame, stars in “On the Road,” an independent film in the ninth annual Fresno Filmworks Festival which takes place Friday through Sunday at the Tower Theatre.
Photos courtesy of Fresno Filmworks

Independent film fans gather at the Tower Theatre every year for the Fresno Filmworks Film Festival to watch multicultural films from all over the world. This weekend, the festival will be taking place for the ninth time.

Before there was a festival, Filmworks was showing films at the Fresno Art Museum beginning in 2002.

Jefferson Beavers, a board member of the Fresno Film Festival, said the event adds something that isn’t provided by the big, Hollywood-budget films.

He began as a fan of the movies as soon as the project began and started working as a board member in 2007.

“One of our goals in our mission statements is to bring multicultural films to Fresno,” Beavers said. “Most of the stuff that you see, like at the main movie theaters, are pretty big budget, Hollywood-style types of films, and so we show smaller films, independent films. We have a very specific multicultural component that we try to do as much as we can.”

The festival offers a variety of films that fans and newcomers alike might enjoy.

From a French romantic comedy to a Chilean film about a Latin American folklorist, there is variety in what is shown during the three-day event.

“The [films] that we have, we are very pleased with,” Beavers said. “They’re eclectic, multicultural, different styles, different genres and good representations of all of that different stuff.”

The festival brought in about 1,200 people last year and the board members hope to improve on those numbers this year.

Beavers said that beside the Filmworks events, it can be hard to find any independent films in the Fresno area.

“I love independent films, and you come here, and you don’t really get many of those,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll sneak into the theater for one week, and you really have to be on it and watch the schedule. If you blink, it’ll be gone.”

People involved really want to reach out to people who may not have seen many independent movies by expanding the types of films they show.

One film, “On the Road,” features larger stars to bring in new audience members.

“The core [fans] will like it because it’s literary and multicultural and produced by people from four different continents, but it’s also got big stars, so we hope people say, ‘Oh Kristen Stewart, I saw her in ‘Twilight,’ so maybe I’m going to go down to the Tower Theatre and see her in this other movie at this festival,’” Beavers said.

Two directors of the films in the festival have ties to the Fresno area. Doug van Bebber was raised in Porterville and has friends and family in Fresno who will come out to see his film on the big screen for the first time.

His short film, “Somebody,” presents the story of a first-time prostitute who spends the evening with a marine who is set to head off to Afghanistan. Through the “business transaction,” they end up connecting and understanding one another.

Van Bebber likes the Fresno Film Festival for more than just being able to have his loved ones support him.

“This particular one is very professional, it’s very nurturing, and they make sure that you meet the other film makers,” he said. “They spend the time to actually talk to you and the audiences are always very appreciative, which is wonderful.”

The goal is to bring together films to bring culture to the Fresno area and Beavers thinks they have accomplished that.

“We want a good mix of stuff and this year, it just kind of happened that all of the films that we loved and were available also, really fit into that mission,” he said.

The Fresno Film Festival will be at the Tower Theatre Friday through Sunday for those interested in watching independent films with ties from all over the globe.