Remember your 10th high school reunion — those of you who have been out of high school that long, I mean (everyone else should feel free to bite my shiny, middle-aged a*s)? Remember the anticipation, and then the inevitable disappointment when you realized so few of your friends had gone on to fulfill the promise of their youth?

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Yeah, me neither. I didn’t go to mine, so I’m only speculating. What I am sure of, however, is there was no such letdown at last month’s 10th deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City, OK. The fest has grown from screening a handful of films over the course one weekend back in 2001 to showcasing over 100 movies and shorts over five days and attracting filmmakers from across the globe. In this, its tenth year, deadCENTER is firing on all cylinders and is — in my humble opinion — one of the best film festivals around. Period.

Before you ask: yes, I’ve been to Sundance/SXSW/CineVegas. Granted, SXSW has the Alamo Drafthouse and the Ginger Man, CineVegas allows us film nerds access to clubs they’d never get into the other 50 weeks of the year, and Sundance gives people from all walks of life a chance to share near-lethal strains of the flu with each other. Every festival has its pros and cons and great people working for it.

But unlike most festival, deadCENTER remains committed to giving independent (and especially local) filmmakers a stage. Where Sundance and SXSW have become showcases for the majors studios to pimp “indie” product with $20 million budgets and star-studded premieres,  deadCENTER is a truly community experience. 2,500 people attended the opening night event for Mat Hoffman and Spike Jonze’s The Birth of Big Air, with nary a velvet rope or bouncer to be found.

And only at deadCENTER will you find the festival’s Executive Director doing a lights-out rendition of Cher’s “Dark Lady” at the after party.

The fortune queen of New Orlea... er, OKC

Read more of Pete’s adventures at the 2010 deadCenter Film Festival in Part Two

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