Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 25, 2013

Filmmakers explore what has happened to World’s Fair in documentary

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

IRONTON — Generations of Americans and the world were awed by innovations and technology showcased at the World’s Fair during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The expositions drew millions of visitors, inspiring inventions that changed the course of history.

Then the fairs disappeared from the cultural landscape of the United States.

Or did they?

That’s the question a new feature-length documentary, “Where’s the Fair?”, created by two local filmmakers Jeffrey Ford and Brad Bear explores.

The film will premier in a private screening this weekend at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Produced and directed by the friends, it was only completed three weeks ago after nearly five years of work, which took the pair around the world to seven countries and more than 36 cities.

It all stared when Ford picked up a View-Master with old photos of the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., which hosted the 1984 event. Curious about where they disappeared to, he began searching for an answer.

It turns out there wasn’t a good one — at least not on Google.  

Together, Bear and Ford began looking for one.  

Ford directed and wrote the film, which Bear edited and produced. “Where’s the Fair?” is described as the “unraveling of a great American tragedy.

“It is the story of the loss of not only the world’s greatest celebration of culture, art, and science, but also of American exceptionalism, and perhaps even the American dream. It is a global quest for truth against a backdrop of secrecy, corruption, and political entanglement. It is the surprising answer that you find when you ask... ‘Where’s the Fair?,’” according to the film’s website, wheresthefair.com

The film begins at the 2008 World Expo in Zaragoza Spain, then follows the history of World’s Fairs, also called World Expositions or Universal Exhibitions, before delving into the United States’ not so graceful exit from them at the turn of the 21st century. It also visits the most recent World’s Fair in South Korea and looks forward to the 2015 event slated for Milan, Italy.

But the film explores a much deeper question, according to its creators.

“The idea of the film, what we really bring into question, is have we stopped dreaming? How much power do we as individuals have. It’s kind of surprising,” said Bear. “It’s about what the World’s Fair allows other people to do because it inspires. That’s the heart of the film.

“We hope, at the end of the day, it starts the conversation with Americans to kind of look up.

“And outside of the World’s Fair, maybe it’s time we get more involved. That we do become overtly concerned and involved with how we are perceived in the world and realize that all of these things that happen, that you read about in the newspaper and see on the news, that there is no real disconnect there,” Bear said.

“We have kind of been lulled into sleep. We’ve allowed our jobs to be exported and allowed ourselves to rest on our laurels. We think we’re at the top and it’s someone else’s job to stay at the top... but, in reality, it’s our job to remain great as a country and keep dreaming bigger and doing better things.”

When the broader public will get to see the film, however, is still undetermined.

Saturday’s screening is invitation only, so the film can maintain its premiere status as it makes its way through the film festival circuit.

 Distribution of the film on a large scale, according to Bear, is still in the works and is the “learning curve” part of the project for the pair. They are in discussions with two major broadcast companies regarding the film, he said.

“Where’s the Fair?” was recently nominated for the Best Feature and Best Documentary film at the 2013 Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, N.C. The festival will take place in May.  

To learn more about the film, watch movie trailers and to follow its progress, visit: www.wheresthefair.com or like Where’s the Fair? on Facebook.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com