Lineup for Free State Festival 2023 features film premieres and headliner Boots Riley


The Lawrence Arts Center is hosting the Free State Festival from June 26 – July 23, providing opportunities to watch film screenings, live music performances, and filmmaker and guest Q&As.

Since its early beginning as a short film showcase in 2011, the Free State Festival has evolved into a space celebrating a variety of art, including comedy, music, and more. Community partners and sponsors help fund the festival and provide Lawrence visitors and locals with a week of exciting events to attend.

Filmmaker Boots Riley headlines the festival with a discussion of the television writer’s strike. In addition to his work as a musician and author, Riley created the satirical nightmare comedy Sorry to Bother You, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. 

Other headliners include Oscar-winner and familiar Lawrence director Kevin Willmott, executive producer Chris Estrada, and KCK activist Janet Murguía. 

The festival will host a Q&A following the screening of Wilmott’s No Place Like Home: A Struggle Against Hate in Kansas which encapsulates the difficulties of the LGBTQ+ community in a red environment. A comedy performance will be presented by Estrada who is also the lead actor and writer of the Hulu comedy show This Fool

The Gumbo Coalition with Janet Murguía screening includes pre-show gumbo provided by Terrebonne Po ’Boys and a post-show Q&A with Murguía herself. The documentary displays Murguía and another activist, Marc Morial, as they “work to empower African American and Latino communities…” 

In addition to the lineup, KU film professor Robert Hurst contributes his Garden City, Kansas documentary. His film documents and tells the story of the 2016 bomb conspiracy that threatened a Muslim Immigrant community. Filmmaker Q&A will be available after the show’s screening.

Musical performances will be hosted by Detroit pianist BLKBOK and experimental hip-hop musician DJ Spooky. Instead of rapping words, BLKBOK tells his stories through inspiration of hip-hop melodies on the piano. DJ Spooky will accompany Oscar Micheaux’s silent film Body and Soul with a live music score. 

Another live band performance by The Embarrassment and Q&A will be followed by a screening of their history. The 20-year project We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment documentary displays how the punk rock outcasts in Kansas received their fame. 

Free State Festival Passes are available for $100 to attend the week’s worth of events. Attendees can also pay individually for the attraction visits. More events occurring at the Free State Festival can be found here.

Categories: Movies