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Micheaux film festival canceled

Oscar Micheaux

GREGORY -- Due to lack of funding, The Oscar Micheaux Film and Book Festival in Gregory is canceled this year.

It was scheduled for Aug. 1-4. This would have been the 17th year.

"We will plan to have it in following years, but this gives me the opportunity to work on some new presentations," said Jerry Wilske, festival coordinator.

Taking a year off from the event will also allow him to save up for next year's event and apply for another grant through the South Dakota Humanities Council.

In the past, the festival received a $2,500 grant through the council, but didn't receive one last year or this year. Attendance was down last year, as were donations.

The event depends heavily on donations as there is no charge to attend, Wilske said.

Despite the cancellation, Wilske is confident the festival will return next year. This year's planned theme -- Railroads in South Dakota -- will be integrated into a three-part theme that will circulate in following years.

In 2013, Wilske plans to present on South Dakota's land as its greatest asset, what makes a South Dakotan, and the advent of the railroad into South Dakota.

He said the focus will likely be on the railroad, with lesser presentations on land and people.

In the following two years, the three subjects will rotate, with one year focusing on the land and other focusing on the people.

"I want to include new materials or research, if there is any, on Micheaux," Wilske said of the festival in coming years. "Otherwise, we will continue on with his films, as well as contemporary films, his books and presentations relevant to South Dakota."

Micheaux was an African-American who homesteaded in the Gregory area before becoming an author and one of the country's first major African-American filmmakers.