Hosting an international film festival in a community of 37,000 people may not be something many would try. Do it in the upper Midwest in February and some may raise serious questions. Yet in 2005 Beloit’s can-do spirit again emerged and with a challenge grant of $40,000 from Ken and Diane Hendricks the Beloit International Film Festival was born. As is so often true in this city, community leaders and an army of volunteers stepped up and 19 years later the festival continues.The Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) is a 10- day festival that screens 100+ short and documentary/narrative features. Coined, ‘the walkable festival,’ it is hosted in downtown Beloit and attracts nearly 100 filmmakers and more than 2,600 regional attendees annually. Filmmaker workshops, post-screening discussions, BIFF After-Dark activities, and the Student Filmmaker Showcase round out the festival which is currently ranked by FilmFreeway as one of the top 100 best reviewed festivals. Honorary chairpersons over the years have included Steve McEveety (Braveheart, Passion of the Christ, What Women Want), David Zucker (Airplane, The Naked Gun) and John Shepherd, President of MPower Pictures.
BIFF remains a prime example of what is possible when Beloit comes together to make something happen. In addition to overseeing the overall health and administration of the organization, the all- volunteer Board of Directors is a “working” Board. In conjunction with the organization’s Executive Director, members staff a wide variety of committees that do the work of coordinating and organizing festival activities throughout the year, including film selection, marketing, volunteer coordination, event planning, fundraising, hospitality and logistics. They are aided in carrying out festival activities by 130+ volunteers from the Greater Beloit community.
Arts organizations like BIFF are an important part of the fabric of our community and the Hendricks Family Foundation has provided an annual operating grant nearly every year since the launch of the festival.