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Inspire Film Festival officials celebrate successful weekend; honor 2 films

February 21, 2019

With the curtains drawn to a close on the third year of the Inspire Film Festival, event organizers said Wednesday that they were happy with the five-day celebration of movies that focused on mentoring and “game changers” in all walks of life.

The third year of the popular film festival wrapped up on Monday, however the majority of the events and showings had been completed by Sunday evening when the Howard Hughes Corp. Award for the most popular films was given out, said festival founder Jane Minarovic. The two films, “Skid Row Marathon” and “The Interpreters” were recognized as most popular by attendees.

Minarovic, who created the festival three years ago and works tirelessly on many fronts during the five-day extravaganza, said final numbers of attendees have yet to be tallied, but an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people viewed films this year at the multiple locations set up around Waterway Square and The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

“I thought it went really, really well,” Minarovic said on Wednesday about the festival weekend. “The attendance was very good. I think a lot of people left changed, which is great. Almost all of the screenings were quite full. I don’t know for sure, but we had thousands of seatings.”

The festival, which spotlights a mix of short films as well as feature-length films, was focused this year on what Minarovic described as “game changers,” or people or entities that make a significant different in society by promoting inclusion, diversity and mentorship. The weekend kicked off on Thursday, Feb. 14, with a series of short films in an outdoor amphitheater followed by the ritzy VIP party where local officials, fans and dozens of people associated with various movies mixed and mingled with cocktails and party bites. The VIP party concluded with a unique fashion show where models showed off home-made dresses that were representative of the various films.

One of the most popular elements of the festival, Minarovic said, were the various panel discussions, presentations and Q & A sessions with film figures — including a forum with former Houston Astros players and personnel who talked about the documentary shown about the Astrodome, as well as Staff Sgt. Paul Braun and his Iraqi military interpreter “Phillip Morris,” who discussed the movie “The Interpreters.”

Township Board of Directors Chairman Gordy Bunch was one of the primary sponsors for “The Interpreters,” in part, he said because he himself was in need of the vital services interpreters provide during his military service in the U.S. Coast Guard. Bunch said during deployments to Haiti, which is a French-speaking nation, and to combat Chinese organized crime who were engaged in human trafficking, he realized the need and immense value interpreters bring to U.S. military forces around the world.

“My ship was deployed to Haiti and they were not any French interpreters deployed with us,” Bunch said. “We also dealt with the Chinese mob, which was doing human trafficking. It is a different way to deal with people without an interpreter.”

Minarovic said one of the new features of the festival in 2019 was a tent-space where Q & As were hosted and other events. She also said renowned card-trick specialists and magician Richard Turner wowed attendees with mind-boggling magic and card tricks.

“Turner, the famous card magician, he was on stage for more than an hour. You can see a magic trick and you can’t wrap your mind around how he does it,” she said. “The tent was a huge success…we really had some intimate conversations in there. After each screening, we had a Q & A with the people (from each film) who were there. People absolutely loved it.”

Although the festival ended Monday afternoon, Minarovic said she and other festival officials are still busy with assessing the 2019 event and processing information such as attendance numbers and other details. And, work for the 2020 festival is already underway.

“The whole weekend culminated on Sunday night with the concert from the Thunder Soul Reunion Band. It was so great…the audience was on their feet, people were dancing,” she added. “I’m already working on films for next year.”

jeff.forward@chron.com