With assist from Burt Reynolds, Macon Film festival’s 10th year a success

Buoyed by a Bandit, the Macon Film Festival had a successful run in its 10th year.

Julie Wilkerson, president of the festival’s board of directors, said that she didn’t have the final numbers for attendance or revenue for this year’s edition, but she noted the figures were “much more than last year.” Everyone involved benefited from the presence of film and television star Burt Reynolds, she noted.

“One, it has created a lot of excitement, for sure, and I think that has (visitors) generally interested in the festival and what it is,” Wilkerson said.

For Reynolds’ part, he said he was glad to help add to the hype for the festival, if that was the case.

“I think it’s important that film festivals are burgeoning and coming to towns like Macon,” he said in a Sunday news conference.

The increased intrigue at the festival carried over to other films that didn’t involve Reynolds, who participated in showings of “Deliverance” and “Sharky’s Machine.” One such film was “Raised in the South of Normal,” a documentary about Lauretta Hannon.

The Warner Robins native is known for her book “The Cracker Queen -- A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life.”

“They had over 200 people at the screening (Saturday) at the Douglass ... so that has created a lot of interest,” Wilkerson said.

Another popular film at the festival was “Take Me to the River.” The documentary focused on Memphis recording label Stax records, and Wilkerson credits Macon’s musical heritage for its popularity.

“I think the music documentaries play well here because of our music history,” she said.

The solid crowds carried over into Sunday. Volunteers at both the Douglass and the Cox Capitol Theatre reported healthy attendance, particularly for a screening of “Saturday Night Live” documentary “Live From New York!” at the Douglass on Sunday afternoon.

Less obvious times to view a movie have also been popular.

“I’ve been working the morning shift, and people have still been turning up,” said Marissa Poss.

Poss, a Forsyth native and Middle Georgia State University student, was working the front table at the Cox Capital Theatre.

“It’s just a great experience,” she said. “The people area really nice and just getting involved with Macon.”

Connecting with Downtown Macon is important, said Forrest Evans, who works with the Tubman Museum. She came to the Cox Capitol Theatre for the LGBT Narrative Shorts segment of the schedule and was impressed with the variety shown as part of the festival.

“It’s very great because it shows Southern literature and Southern art, but it also includes other perspectives,” she said.

Showing Southern perspectives is important to Reynolds, as well.

Born in Waycross, he also lived in Florida before attending Florida State University on a football scholarship. That time spent living in the southern United States made Reynolds eager to change a perception of the South as full of unintelligent people.

“I was always kind of angry with the way the South was presented,” he said. “It was just something, I think, that we weren’t presented well.”

Reynolds said he viewed Georgia as his “good luck state” because he’s filmed numerous movies here. Further, he pointed to a wealth of talent in both music and writing in the South and hoped film directors would notice that.

The film festival did its part toward achieving that goal, Evans said.

“It definitely provides a positive representation of Macon and Bibb County,” she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.