October 31, 2014

Film festival will honor southwest Iowa man

A film festival scheduled for next month will honor the memory of a southwest Iowa man who entertained and educated Iowa kids over three decades. Al Bell, of Menlo, visited hundreds of Iowa schools between 1949 and 1979, telling kids about his travels around the globe. While Bell died in 1993, his daughter Becky Bell Greenstreet says thousands of Iowans remember his action-packed presentations.

“He went to small schools, mostly, and it would vary between 400 and 500 schools a year,” Greenstreet Bell says. “He would do a 20-minute lecture first, he would come out running onto the gymnasium floor usually or auditorium stage in his costume which was appropriate from the last trip.” Bell visited some 65 countries and performed about 12,000 shows across Iowa. Bell Greenstreet and the rest of the Bell family would go on the excursions and appeared in the films her father produced.

“When I was in school and he would come to Menlo, where we grew up, indeed we saw Al Bell run out onto the floor and do his usual thing and I was very impressed,” Bell Greenstreet says. “I really was. I had no idea for many years, until I got a little older to appreciate it, how good his program was.” After the 20-minute lecture, filled with funny and dramatic anecdotes and a show-and-tell of souvenirs from far-away lands, there would be a film, usually lasting 28-minutes. Four of those films will be featured at the festival. His assemblies were often the hit of the school year, she says.

“He worked at it extremely hard but he was just a natural entertainer and he had such a wonderful, exuberant personality,” Bell Greenstreet says. “I think one of the most important things about my dad and his attitude was he was an optimist. He always believed there would be a happy ending.” The first-ever Al Bell Film Festival will be held Sunday, September 12th at the Saints Center in Stuart.

The event will feature all four of Bell’s children and a chance to enjoy films about Canada, Egypt, the Holy Land and Peru. All proceeds from the film festival and general donations will be used to restore the entire film library of approximately thirty films. Learn more at: “www.whitepoleroad.com” and click on the Upcoming Events link.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City