Wichita State student's debut documentary chosen for 2022 Tallgrass Film Festival

Film still from Corri Newman's documentary "Kansas Honor Flight"

The Tallgrass Film Festival has become a staple in Wichita’s arts community during the past 20 years, engaging audiences with world-class programming in a celebration of cinematic arts. The festival is known for connecting film-savvy audiences with cutting-edge filmmakers from all over the world, providing a unique experience throughout the four-day festival. This year, Wichita State student Corri Newman will be added to the list of distinguished filmmakers who have contributed to the festival’s legacy.

Corri’s short documentary, “Kansas Honor Flight,” was selected to be screened at the 2022 festival, and the news came as a pleasant surprise to Corri.

“It’s surreal, really, because I’m a rookie,” she said. “I had never made a documentary before and to be entered in the film festival with the big dogs — it feels pretty amazing.”

Corri, a senior majoring in communication sciences and disorders in WSU’s College of Health Professions, enrolled in Jennifer Ray’s Documentary Media and Social Strategies class in fall 2021. Ray assigned her students the task of creating a documentary – an assignment Corri took as an opportunity to challenge herself.

“I’m an adult learner, and I decided to go back to school after being out for 16 years,” she said. “The reason why I’m in college is to push myself, to make myself better. I’d done photography in high school, but I’d never done any video editing. I thought to myself, ‘Let’s try something new.’”

Newman’s documentary focuses on Kansas Honor Flight, a nonprofit all-volunteer organization that works to honor Kansas veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War by providing them with an all-expenses paid journey of honor and remembrance to visit memorials in Washington, D.C.

“I decided to focus on Kansas Honor Flight because I’m really passionate about veterans – it’s kind of the field I want to go into,” she said. “I’d love to do speech pathology with veterans.”

Corri interviewed both veterans and volunteers from the organization for her film.

“I wanted to interview both perspectives,” she said. “Now when I see them, I feel I have a personal connection with them. There’s a shared experience we have together that’s really special.”

Newman was even inspired to become a volunteer for Kansas Honor Flight after spending time with participants of the organization and witnessing the welcome-home events that take place when the veterans return home from a flight.

“Attending a welcome-home event is just such a moving experience,” she said. “I think a lot of people want to be involved after that point.”

While the experience of directing her very first documentary felt intimidating, Corri never lost sight of her goal to honor Kansas veterans.

“Being a rookie to it all, it was kind of a daunting task. It was like, can I do this? Can I make something meaningful from it? I pushed myself for Kansas Honor Flight to help spread the word.”

Newman hopes after people watch the documentary,  they will consider volunteering, donating or attending a welcome-home event or recommending this program to a veteran.

“Our veterans have done so much for us, and the Kansas Honor Flight is one way to honor them,” she said.

“Kansas Honor Flight” will show September 29th at 4:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Tallgrass Film Festival website. Students receive a 50% discount by using code “service” at checkout.