'Trek' fans, movie buffs turn out for Modern Film Fest opener
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS - For a few hours Friday evening, West 1st Street was part of Capt. James T. Kirk's "final frontier." The voyages of the starship Enterprise lit the big screen of the Gem Theatre on Friday to open the fourth annual Modern Film Fest. Director and author Nicholas Meyer was the night's featured guest, and one of his earliest films - 1982's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" - was the night's feature. Meyer, who greeted VIPs before the event and signed books for fans, said the invitation to this year's festival was serendipitous. "I do know that when I'm invited to film festivals in whatever capacity, as a writer or a director, I always enjoy it," Meyer said. In addition to writing and directing two "Star Trek" films and writing a third, Meyer is known for his 1979 film "Time After Time," in which author H.G. Wells uses a time machine to track down Jack the Ripper. Meyer also directed the 1983 TV movie, "The Day After," which depicted the aftermath of a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and authored the novel and screenplay for "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," a story about detective Sherlock Holmes. Meyer said he really couldn't choose a favorite from among his works. "If you ask most artists - authors, filmmakers, whatever - to choose among their children, I can't really do that," Meyer said. But, in talking to fans of specific films and cinema in general, Meyer said he tries to emphasize that the movie is what they make of it. "You (the audience) have to say what it means," Meyer said. "I think artists are people who put messages in bottles. When you're finished, you throw throttle out there and hope that someone picks it up." Michael Knox, one of the festival's organizers, said interest in Meyer's visit has been keen. And the chance to experience a bit of "Star Trek" history brought fans out in droves. "Wrath of Khan" is a cult classic in which Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as the supervillain Khan from a 1967 episode of the "Star Trek" TV series. Local businesses got in on the act. Video game store GameStop set up a table outside the Gem Theatre with Xbox 360 consoles loaded with "Star Trek" games. And Henry Mink manned a table for Salisbury's Comic Monstore, loaded with "Star Trek" figurines, trading cards and collectables. "It's part of American culture," Mink said. The weekend's other films are as diverse as America itself. Knox said Beatles fans will enjoy Seth Swirsky's "Beatles Stories," playing Sunday at 1 p.m. The film features interviews with famous people recalling the times they met the Beatles. The biggest draw for Kannapolis residents may be "Stitched in Time," the documentary created in partnership between Leadership Cabarrus, local historical societies and A.L. Brown High School students. The film tells the story of Kannapolis and Cannon Mills through interviews with mill workers. For those interested in what goes on behind the scenes, this afternoon's film industry panel discussion - starting at 2 p.m. - will include local extras from "The Hunger Games." All in all, the festival has continued to grow each year both in content and attendance, said Steve Morris of the Gem Theatre. "There's an awful lot of diversity here, and I think people are enjoying having a lot of one-on-one time (with filmmakers)." For Ron Sansing of Kannapolis, the festival is a great thing to have in town. As a "Star Trek" fan, Sansing said this year's opener would be a treat. "I think (the festival) helps put us on the map," Sansing said. For a full schedule, go to www.modernfilmfest.net. Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor's desk at 704-797-4244.