First Boca Grande Film Festival a smashing success

February 15, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
The inaugural Boca Grande Film Festival exceeded the expectations of organizers – ensuring that the 2020 event will be an even greater affair.
“We felt it was a wonderful success,” said Steve Laughlin, who spearheaded the event, suggesting the concept to the Friends of Boca Grande last March.
The Boca Beacon, Eagle Grille & Miller’s Dockside and U.S. Trust were the corporate sponsors for the 2019 event.
The idea for the festival began with a discussion between Boca Grande seasonal residents Steve and Marge Laughlin.
Steve has served on the board for the Milwaukee Film Festival for the past 11 years.
Last fall, he and Marge were up north, and they talked about how a film festival in Boca Grande might be well accepted in the community.
Steve met with staff at Friends of Boca Grande, and they were immediately interested. He also collaborated with Milwaukee Film Festival Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director Jonathan Jackson and asked for his thoughts on the idea.
The conversation resulted in a meeting in Boca Grande last March to begin coordinating the event.
Steve and Marge were tasked with watching several films at the festival last year and reviewing them and sending their ideas to Jackson, who expanded the list for potential films for the Boca Grande festival.
“The Friends of Boca selected a small committee to look at the trailers of the films and rank each of them,” Steve said.
“We tried to choose films that had a global representation.”
Jackson took those suggestions and added to the list to give the Boca Grande film committee more options.
“I looked at the 300 films we featured last year in Milwaukee and chose a few more that were globally diverse to add to the list,” Jackson said.
The event kicked off with a drive-in movie held on the lawn of the Community Center on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.
Many brought blankets and chairs, and several watched from their golf carts, enjoying snacks and beverages.
Eight films were shown over the next three days. Attendees cast ballots to vote for their favorite film of the year.
The winning film for the 2019 festival was “Free Solo,” an award-winning documentary by filmmaker E. Chai Vasarhelyi and world-renowned photographer and mountaineer Jimmy Chin. “Free Solo” is a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock, the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without a rope. Celebrated as one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind, Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death. Succeeding in this challenge places his story in the records of human achievement. The film has been nominated for an Oscar award this year.
“Right after the festival, we met with sponsors Dusty and Cheryl of the Boca Beacon, and we began planning how we might expand and improve the festival next year,” Steve said. “We would like to add a second venue and build on the experience next year, but still keep it intimate for the community.”
Jackson said he thought the event went almost flawlessly.
“For a first-time film fest, I thought it was extraordinary – and I’m very excited and eager to participate next year.”