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Newberry's Premier Film Festival!!

By Michele Gangale

A long time ago, in a town far, far away… a boy was born who would one day have a dream. Sadly, he would not get to see that dream come to fruition before he passed away. That boy, Dean “Dino” Gangale, became my husband, the father of our three children. His love of movies was a huge driving force within our family. His movie trivia knowledge was unrivaled, as far as we knew. So, here is how his unfinished story is continuing to be written after his death.

One day, my son, Kilian, 13 at the time, was asking questions about what the anniversary of his passing was going to be like. I had no idea. I was honestly just trying to make it through each day. I answered his questions as best as I could and retreated into quiet contemplation. And then it hit me. One of the things he so desired for the town of Newberry, a town he had adopted as his own, was to bring his love of film to it in the form of a film festival. What better way could we honor him than to move forward with that! The wheels began turning that very day.

But what exactly is a film festival? It is a unique opportunity to see films that you may not otherwise be able to view on the big screen. Many times, the experience includes being able to meet and talk with those who made the films that you just viewed. You get to hear firsthand what it took to make that film a reality.

Since I had never done anything like this before, I had a huge learning curve ahead of me if I wanted to see this through. Thankfully, I had access to reach out to some of Dino’s friends who ran their own festivals, and they were invaluable to getting me up and running. I learned quickly and worked even harder. The More Than Decent Film Festival, held in Dino’s honor, has a focus on local films; films that were either shot in Newberry County or were written, directed, or star those from Newberry. Some festivals choose to showcase specific genres, others are more eclectic. The More Than Decent Film Festival is of the eclectic mindset.

In April 2022, we held the first annual festival at the Ritz Theater, downtown Newberry. That weekend we screened 42 films from all over the world, over 3 days! It was a huge success. I was exhausted by the end of it, but I knew I was right where I needed to be. The friends I met over that weekend have helped me grow over this past year in ways I never thought possible, and there is a whole new future waiting for me and my kids.

Presently, I have been diligently working on and getting ready for the 2023 festival. It will be taking place at the Ritz Theater again on April 21st through the 23rd and, just like last year, I am really excited about the caliber of creative talent I get to share. This year, in addition to the chosen films, we will be displaying artwork from Newberry County residents. That has become one of my goals, to grow each year in what we can bring to our audience. For example, I am working to create a vibrant student submission aspect to our festival, allowing kids as young as 13 years old a creative outlet to express themselves through film.

In addition, I am looking to expand by opening an arthouse theatre, allowing for the opportunity to show independent films on a consistent basis throughout the year. This theatre would be perfect for small intimate gatherings, much like viewing a film from the comfort of your living room, but with 25 of your closest friends. I see so many ways that this venue could be used to bring creativity, and of course entertainment (films, live theatre, music, and performance art, etc.), to our community.

The journey I have been on since the morning of April 17th, 2021, has had its fair share of lows. It is, however, from those lows, and wanting to connect with him in any way possible, that I have found a strength that I never knew I had. A determination to grow, to learn, to be who I have always been but never allowed myself to be. What started with the dream of a boy from a town far, far away, has become my passion and my purpose. And I could not be happier. I am thankful for the time I had him in my life, and for all the love that he showed me and my children. I know he would be proud of how we are carrying forward.

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