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Interrobang Film Festival Returns In Person

James Bruton
Des Moines Arts Festival
The Interrobang Film Festival will return to the Central Library in downtown Des Moines after pausing in-person screenings in 2020.

This summer will mark the return of the Interrobang Film Festival as an in-person event. Last year, the film festival cancelled all scheduled activities due to COVID-19 concerns and transitioned to an online platform.

The film festival, which is held in conjunction with the Des Moines Arts Festival, will be hosted downtown at the Des Moines Public Library from June 25-27.

Kristian Day, the festival’s director, said it will again feature virtual components in addition to its regular, in-person programming.

Festival attendees will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing during the film screenings.
Alan Jacobs
Des Moines Arts Festival
Festival attendees will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing during the film screenings.

“We are going to do both types of screenings. We are going to have an online screening alongside the in-person,” Day said. “We did like it [in 2020] because the people who are not there are able to jump in and experience it.”

Some traditional elements, however, will not return. Rather than screen films in two small rooms at the library, Day said the festival will operate with one larger screening room in order to practice social distancing. Additionally, concessions will not be available at the screening room, and masks will be required.

Day said they are planning to have “talk-backs” with featured directors who want to attend the festival in person, but the film-related workshops that are typically held throughout the weekend are cancelled.

“This year, we’re not doing any workshops, just because this is our first year since the COVID situation,” Day said. “We’re kind of taking baby steps.”

According to Day, the Interrobang Film Festival received over 200 entries this year. The final lineup will showcase 52 films from 27 different countries. Film programming will total 17 hours and 25 minutes over the weekend.

The festival accepts submissions in a variety of categories, including feature films, short films, documentaries and student films. This year, they also expanded their criteria to new genres.

“We opened up a couple new categories, including a found-footage category, that could be legitimate found footage or in the found-footage style,” Day said. “When people think of found footage, they instantly think of a horror film or true crime, but we have seen romantic comedies done in the found-footage style. We’ve been able to see some new ideas coming from that format.”

When selecting films to exhibit at the festival, Day said that this year he’s looking for stories that do not focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like the last thing people want to be entertained by are people in masks, or people living how we just lived,” Day said. “I want something that is very different than the life that we are currently in but also compelling enough to absorb our attention.”

The 2021 lineup will be announced June 1. Selected films are judged during the festival and awarded various distinctions, including Best of show, Best of Iowa and Producer’s Choice.

Tickets are not required to attend the festival, which Day said is his favorite aspect of the event.

“The biggest thing I love about the Interrobang Film Festival is it’s free,” Day said. “It’s free to the public.”

Nicole Baxter is a Sponsorship Coordinator and covers film as a contributing writer for Iowa Public Radio.