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One of the proud accomplishments of Beyond Normal Films was their part in raising money for Bloomington artist Rick Harney's sculpture of late film critic Roger Ebert outside the Virginia Theater in Champaign, site of the annual Ebertfest. Harney, center, is pictured in 2013 with his scale model of the sculpture.

Just a year after celebrating its 20th anniversary, B-N's own quality cinema advocacy group, Beyond Normal Films, is calling it quits, we're sorry to report.

The group is currently represented on screen with the second weekend of its annual fall film festival at the Normal Theater, aka the Farlee Film Festival, renamed several years ago in honor of BNF co-founder Colleen Farlee.

The BNF family, formed as a not-for-profit group in 1996, has worked exclusively in connection with the town-owned theater.

Over the years, BNF has researched/recommended to the Normal what they describe as "unique foreign, American independent and documentary films of artistic quality." 

The announcement of BNF's end was made in a Sept. 15 newsletter to members. The group's disbanding will come at year's end.

A number of factors are being cited as contributors to the decision.

Among them:

  • The Normal Theater's expansion of its own programming model "to feature more film events of its own design and non-film events to serve the diverse needs of the community and to use the theater throughout the week."
  • The increased showing of indie films at B-N's commercial cinemas.
  • Films being more readily available via streaming services and other home video options.
  • The ending of the process whereby BNF recommendations, "BNF Choice" films, which were booked by the Normal at no cost to the group.
  • A declining audience, "especially for the BNF film festivals."
  • A 30 percent drop in BNF membership resulting in a loss of dues to pay for film licensing and other operations.
  • And a "serious attrition problem" in the BNF board "which is difficult to resolve without a clearly defined purpose going forward."

Operations will cease on Dec. 31, with, per the board bylaws, any remaining funds in the BNF account donated to the theater.

The board did offer one ray of hope amid the fading to black: If a new leadership would step forward to "restructure the organization" with a revised new mission, the group could be revived.

The deadline for that hope is Nov. 1. Written proposals can be emailed to

Meanwhile, the Farlee Film Festival, as noted, continues with its final weekend of French classics: Louis Malle's "Au Revoir Les Enfants," at 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amelie," at 7 p.m. Friday and Sunday.

Remembering Paul: As one of the area's go-to destinations for both its signature product and its many entertainment offerings, the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard suffered a profound loss with the November 2016 death of its founder and official Bacchus, Paul Hahn.

The Hahn family, including Paul's wife and business partner Diane, carried on over the past year, staging the annual vineyard events, from summer festivals to weekend musical offerings.

This weekend, however, marks the event that has been named in his honor and designed to "continue the mission Paul took to heart."

Namely, his outreach to others to warn of the need for colorectal cancer screenings at age 50, or earlier for those with a family history.

The event, on Saturday, has been dubbed the Paul Hahn 5K Memorial 'Ohana Run, with the name chosen "because Hawaii held a special place in Paul's heart," according to Diane.

"'Ohana means 'family' in the broadest sense, not just for those you are related to by ancestry but those you choose to love as your own," she says. "Paul achieved many things in his life, but his family and friends were at the core of what he loved."

On tap is the titular 5K race, along with a 1-mile fun run/walk, with registration and check-in from 8 to 9 a.m., and the race start at 9 a.m.

Awards are at 10 a.m., followed at 10:30 a.m. by a plumeria petal release in the vineyard's pond to honor Paul and others lost. 

Sponsors are Central Illinois Endoscopy Center, Midwest Orthopedic Center and The Catering Company; proceeds go to benefit the mission of CRC Life, the local Colorectal Cancer Life Charity.

For more information and registration details, go to

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at


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