Omaha film festival

With the Sundance Film Festival recently passing and South by Southwest approaching, the film festival season is in full swing. One of the largest film events in the Midwest, the Omaha Film Festival, is taking place this week.

The 15th Annual Omaha Film Festival will run from March 3-8, taking place at Omaha’s Aksarben Cinema. The festival will feature over 100 films, which judges select from almost 1,000 submissions from around the world. Each film falls into a category — Narrative Feature, Documentary, Short Film, Animated Short and Nebraska Short.

The festival was founded by director Jeremy Decker, executive director Jason Levering and program director Marc Longbrake after the three attended a film festival in Kearney. About a year and a half later, the first Omaha Film Festival took place.

“On the way back from that festival, Jeremy was kind of inspired and just started talking about Omaha and asking why it didn’t have its own film festival,” Levering said. “After doing some research on different festivals, he came back to Marc and I with these crazy ideas and basically convinced us to join him to create one in Omaha.”

Fifteen years later, the passion project continues to gain attention. According to Levering, the festival has become one of the biggest film festivals in all of the Midwest.

“We don’t have nearly the attraction of a Sundance or Tribeca, but last year we were included in ‘50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee’ according to MovieMaker Magazine,” Levering said.

The festival attracts entries from over 60 countries. The path to narrowing down the entries starts months before the day of the festival, according to Decker. The festival staff sends the submissions to judges of the different film categories and narrow it down based on the judge’s scoring sheets.

The festival has featured award-winning films that received a national theatrical release in the past through special screenings.

“We definitely display films that studios pick up. It’s not like ‘Avengers’ or ‘Indiana Jones,’ but there are some that people have seen on the big screen,” Decker said.

Some of the special screenings in the past have included “Hotel Mumbai” in 2018 and “The Lobster” in 2015.

The Omaha Film Festival also provides the opportunity for Nebraska filmmakers to receive acclaim and attention in the film industry through Nebraska Spotlight, which highlights films and documentaries made in Nebraska or by Nebraskans.

“We want to make sure that we give these people their moment to shine. So we definitely appreciate having this much local content,” Decker said.

Schedules and passes for the festival are available on its website.