Return of the Living deadCenter

7 minutes

Twenty-twenty-two was the year the deadCenter Film Festival came back to the streets of downtown Oklahoma City. The recently wrapped festival screened more than one hundred and fifty films at six theaters, including newcomers the Yale Theater and the First Americans Museum. While most events were in-person, deadCenter still offered a virtual option the following week.

In 2020 and 2021, deadCenter was mostly online streaming, with few in-person events such as drive-in screenings at The Winchester or in 2020 an outdoor screening in the Harkins parking lot in Bricktown. My first deadCenter was 2019, the last year before it went to majority virtual. I had not been back in-person since then.

The best part about deadCenter for me is getting to watch these incredible movies with other movie lovers and filmmakers, which I missed in 2020 and 2021. Being able to talk about the movie with friendly people or at a live Q&A was a treat.

Q&A sessions with filmmakers are a big draw for deadCenter Film Festival. Photo courtesy deadCenter Film Festival

Q&A sessions with filmmakers are a big draw for deadCenter Film Festival. Photo courtesy deadCenter Film Festival

My love for deadCenter wasn't in question, though, so I asked some of the other attendees thought about the film festival as well. One person I talked to was Beth Bando, a retired acting teacher and actor for the short film A Brief and Passing Thing, directed by Judd Myers, about a mother reconciling with her past to reconnect with her daughter.

“My favorite thing about deadCenter has to do with a welcoming feeling about films, who is creating them, what have they created, and the desire to give a venue and platform for creators,” Bando says, “There was such a spirit for the sharing of film.”

I also got to talk to fellow cinephile Breigha Czajkowski. While one draw of deadCenter is seeing films and filmmakers, she says the people are what make it special.

“Just getting to talk to people is my favorite part,” Czajkowski says. “I love getting to know people, I love the experience of watching movies together, I love the community aspect of it entirely and I think that’s really the backbone of the festival and it’s what keeps people coming back every year.”

I feel the same way—being able to talk with Czajkowski, Bando, and many others made the festival incredible for me.

“That separation between filmmakers and audience, all of that is erased,” says Bando, “I loved the Q&As.”

This year's Q&A sessions were incredibly insightful, with the films* Mama Bears* and Dealing with Dad being my favorites. The former spoke about being an LGBTQ+ ally in Oklahoma and the later spoke out about his personal experience with his dad and representation of Asian-Americans in film.

Chances to talk with filmmakers and fellow cinephiles are integral to the deadCenter experience. Photo by Derek Trammell

Chances to talk with filmmakers and fellow cinephiles are integral to the deadCenter experience. Photo by Derek Trammell

The quality and diversity of the films this year was great to see. I saw short films from France and China, and Czajkowski saw a short from Greece. On top of that, many voices were represented, from Indigenous to LGBTQ+ stories.

“I saw films from more countries this year,” Czajkowski says. “I saw a short film from Greece, which I have never seen a film from Greece before.”

But you can’t attend a film festival without discussing your favorite films! Run Woman Run, directed by Zoe Leigh Hopkins, was Bando’s favorite, besides the film she acted in. The story was about a single mom overcoming depression and type-two diabetes by running a marathon.

Run Woman Run, what a powerful compelling story,” Bando says. “So authentic, so human. It just pulled me into the world. I, personally, am drawn to material that is about healing in some way, and there it was in front of you.”

Czajkowski loved the dreadCenter Shorts and the undeadCenter Shorts, blocks of horror shorts. Her favorite of the features was The Reverend, a documentary directed by Nick Canfield about a gospel singer who perfoms in a bar in NYC.

“That documentary was so enlightening, so different from anything I had seen,” Czajkowski says, “Yeah, I loved that one.”

My favorite of all the films I saw had to be Local Middle Schooler, directed by Sanjna Bharadwaj, an animated short film about a girl with magic eyelashes who learns it is not selfish to be yourself. The Awesome Animations, filled with short animations from all over the world that lived up to its name, and the Okie Shorts, radical locally filmed shorts, were definitely the highlights for me.

But of course, the real magic is watching these films with other people

“Just getting to talk to people is my favorite part,” Czajkowski says. “I love getting to know people, I love the experience of watching movies together, I love the community aspect of it entirely and I think that’s really the backbone of the festival and it’s what keeps people coming back every year.”

Watching films with amazing movie-lovers like Czajkowski and filmmakers like Bando is a fun and touching experience. We get to go watch movies with an awesome community.

“I felt such a sense of camaraderie there,” Bando says. “From the moment we walked into the festival, there was a welcoming feeling . . . and there was such an open heart and curiosity to see what stories have been made.”

That is what not only deadCenter is about, but films as well. They bring friends and family together to enjoy (or sometimes not enjoy) a story. deadCenter combines all the best parts of film, stories, representation, filmmakers, movie-lovers and kind-hearted people, all into one weekend. I personally can’t wait till next year.

Written By
Cooper Marshall

Cooper Marshall is an Oklahoma native currently working as an intern for *Oklahoma Today*.

Cooper Marshall
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