A new sequel in Washington’s film history

The State Theatre in Washington, Iowa, is the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the world. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Just as a plant can sprout from a single seed, a tradition can grow from a simple idea. Just ask a farmer — or a filmmaker. That’s the inspiration behind the inaugural Farm to Film Festival set for May 20-21 in Washington, Iowa.

Many, but not all, of the three dozen indie films in the festival’s first lineup focus on agriculture. There are titles like “Dairyland” and “Fields of Devotion,” but other subjects range further afield, like “Life in the Circus Arts” and a profile on the Des Moines lawmaker Ako Abdul-Samad and his early years with the Black Panthers. There’s a story to suit any interest.

Washington, of course, is the perfect place to host one of Iowa’s film festivals. It’s the home of the historic State Theatre, which the Guinness Book of World Records has declared the world’s longest continuously operating movie theater, dating back to 1897. And a local man named Frank Brinton was among the early impresarios who traveled from town to town in the 1890s and early 1900s to exhibit “magic lantern slides” and, soon after, the first moving pictures. He and his wife, Indiana, traveled the Midwest to screen films for captive audiences and test the new-fangled technology.

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