This year's KC FilmFest, which runs April 10–14 at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet (14th Street and Main), comes loaded with discoveries — movies neglected or rarely screened or almost entirely unseen. It also offers local audiences a crack at films that have won awards at other festivals. And it has booked some talented filmmakers and cult heroes to appear at screenings. Full passes run $50. See kcfilmfest.org for a schedule.
Q Meets the Bronies
Actor John de Lancie has built his considerable fanbase on a wide array of roles. He's recognizable as the mischievous and enigmatic Q, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but also known as Donald Margolis, a small but key character in Breaking Bad. And he has grown accustomed to signing autographs for people who simply recognize his distinctive voice as the villain Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He had forgotten the recording sessions, so when e-mails from young fans started rolling in, his wife reminded him that he had participated in a cartoon intended to entertain little girls.
Then de Lancie reread the senders' names and told her, "These aren't little girls." His new correspondents were Bronies: grown men who also happened to love this latest version of My Little Pony. They held jobs, served in the military, gave generously to charities. Some would find spouses at Bronie conventions that began to pop up, and which de Lancie began to participate in. And he's an executive producer of the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.
"I haven't had anything like that happen before," de Lancie says from his home in Los Angeles. "I've been on a number of shows that were really successful shows, where I was brought in for what was intended to be a one-shot and the character became very popular, but nothing where I had walked away, never expecting to hear anything more about it."
He adds, "I began to have an opportunity to talk with them, and I found them to be very reasonable kids. The notion that they were all a bunch of creepy perverts walking around was immediately out the window."
He and fellow producer Michael Brockhoff are at the Alamo Drafthouse at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, April 11, to present the film at a screening. (It costs $20 to get into that event; for a separate $30 ticket, there's also dinner with Discord himself, at 5:45 p.m.) The show's creator and former head writer, Lauren Faust, is also coming to town, for a separate screening at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 13 (also $20).
De Lancie figures that his character resonates for a simple reason. "These are stories that are intended to be parables: Getting along and all that type of stuff. While the main characters might have conflicts and different points of view, they generally try to make things work in the end. To get a character in there who's just plain naughty ... guys were liking that naughtiness. I think those two elements came into play."
How the Summer Children Grew Up
The five-decade odyssey of Springfield, Missouri, native and Universal Studios employee Jack Robinette started with a game of tennis. He was playing at the home of Jack Ryan, the Mattel engineer who helped design the Barbie doll. Another aspiring filmmaker named James Bruner was there, and he and Robinette would team up to make The Summer Children, a 1965 SoCal sun-and-surf story that owed more to Jules and Jim than to Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.
Most films of that period portrayed teens and young adults as either marauding delinquents or giddy Beach Blanket Bingo players, but The Summer Children followed attractive young people through real problems, set against a gorgeous landscape — captured by Vilmos Zsigmond, who would become one of cinema's most admired cinematographers. Robinette is scheduled to be on hand to present his infrequently screened film at 9:20 p.m. Friday, April 12.