Filmmaker asks questions about U.S.'s World's Fair participation

Filmmaker asks questions about the country's lack of World's Fair participation

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Jeff Ford, 38, has done a lot of research on the 1982 World's Fair. He was not in Knoxville that year, but it was a much more recent trip to the city that sparked the idea for his first ever documentary. Jeff Ford, 38, has done a lot of research on the 1982 World's Fair. He was not in Knoxville that year, but it was a much more recent trip to the city that sparked the idea for his first ever documentary.
"I honestly thought World's Fairs were done, they were over, until I picked up an old Viewmaster at a toy show right here in Knoxville in 2008," said Ford. "I honestly thought World's Fairs were done, they were over, until I picked up an old Viewmaster at a toy show right here in Knoxville in 2008," said Ford.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knoxville Film Festival kicks off Friday, and one film entitled "Where's the Fair?" is sure to bring back a host of memories and spark a lot of questions for many in east Tennessee.

"Where's the Fair?" is a documentary exploring our country's lack of World's Fair participation,  starting shortly after Knoxville hosted 23 countries in 1982.

6 News met up with one of the filmmakers Thursday to find out how a trip to Knoxville helped spark the already award winning documentary.

Jeff Ford, 38, has done a lot of research on the 1982 World's Fair. He was not in Knoxville that year, but it was a much more recent trip to the city that sparked the idea for his first ever documentary.

"I honestly thought World's Fairs were done, they were over, until I picked up an old Viewmaster at a toy show right here in Knoxville in 2008," said Ford. "When I looked through it, I saw images of the 1964 World's Fair, and I said 'This is amazing. Can I go to this place? Can I go to World's Fair?' And that's what started this journey."

After five years of research, countless interviews and visits to eight countries, Ford seems to have uncovered a controversial question: Why is the United States not taking part in World's Fairs?

Ford's documentary reveals that these expos still exist, and he says they provide energy and hope that current and future generations are missing out on.

"The World's Fair is something that can give kids that energy, that excitement and lead them on journeys of discovery that can literally change the world," said Ford.

It's undeniable that our scruffy little city, did what many did not think was possible, and Ford says the payoff is still evident.

"Here in Knoxville, the legacy of the World's Fair is much more than the Sunsphere behind us," he explained. "It's interstate highways, trade, investment, energy injected in this city. You continue to reap the benefits of what happened here more than 20 years ago."
 
Ford's film has already won Best Documentary at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival, and ultimately he hopes it moves people to take action.

"I hope people will see this film, what happened to the World's Fair. And then I hope they will ask 'What can I do to bring it back?' Having it here makes a difference, and it's more important than you might think," said Ford.

Ford is scheduled to be a key speaker on this issue Thursday night. "A Fair and Scruffy City: How Two Expos Shaped Who We Are" will kick off at 7 p.m. at  the East Tennessee History Center. The event is free and open to the public. 

Area historians and city representatives will also help lead the discussion.

Ford's film will be shown Friday as part of the Knoxville Film Festival at 5:30 at Regal Downtown West Cinema 8.

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