A preview for Russ Emanuel's award-winning thriller "Occupants," which is screening at the Athena Cinema on May 11 as a pre-cursor event to the 2017 pop culture convention Ratha Con.

2017 Ratha Con Set For May 13 at Athens Community Center

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Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 4.40.07 PMWhether it’s Star Trek, Star Wars, J.R.R. Tolkien’s works or various tabletop games, to celebrate one’s pop culture interests is a surefire way to connect with those with similar passions.

For the past six years Athen’s own pop culture convention, Ratha Con, has been bringing together dungeon masters and Magic the Gathering players alike for a day of indulging all of their diverse fandoms.

Kelly Lawrence, Ratha Con’s project director, as well as the executive director of ARTS/West, said Ratha Con was the brainchild of herself and former ARTS/West executive director, Emily Prince.

“We’re both card carrying nerds,” said Lawrence in an interview with WOUB a few days prior to the 2017 Ratha Con, which will take place on Saturday, May 13 at the Athens Community Center, kicking off at 10 a.m. “When we first started it, it was more of a comic-con in Athens, focusing mainly on comic books. Over the years we realized that there are a lot of people in the region with a diversity of pop culture type interests, so we’ve been expanding it a little every year.”

Lawrence said cosplaying has become an increasingly big part of the event, with people costuming as their favorite people, fictional and nonfictional – from superheroes to obscure anime characters.

“This year we have some professional cosplayers helping us bring the cosplay element of the event into its own,” said Lawrence. “Cosplaying gives people who are interested in this kind of stuff a space to go and enjoy it. It can help people express themselves, especially people with social anxiety. Sometimes they find that they do very well in social situations when they are dressed up, even if ordinarily going out into a crowd of people isn’t too appealing to them.”

This year Ratha Con has two cosplay contests going on, one for children under the age of 12, and another for everyone else. Cosplayers will be evaluated at a set time by the cosplay judges, with each competition split into three categories: novice, journeyman, and master.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 4.43.13 PMPlay-to-win tabletop gaming will also be a part in this year’s Ratha Con, with a set of publishers having donated several games to the event. Some of the games that will be available for check out at Ratha Con this year include “Emergence: a Game of Teamwork and Deception,” “Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia,” “Cultists & Cthulu,” “Pack Wars,” and “Tricked Out Hero.” Throughout the event players can check out games, in doing so entering their name into a drawing to potentially win the game at the end of the event.

One will not only witness all types of celebration of niche interests at the event but also catch a glimpse of kids making their unique merriment, as well.

“Kids always have a blast (at Ratha Con),” said Lawrence. “They’re just in hog heaven. They get to see all these people all dressed up, the kids themselves might get to dress up, and we have games of all types set up throughout the event for anyone.”

Attendees will also have the opportunity to glean pop culture knowledge from a series of guest speakers and presenters throughout the event.

Some of these include “Careers in Comics,” led by Archie Comics artist Craig Boldman, Jason Lewis, and James Patrick; a self publishing author panel with E.A. Copen, Martina Fetzer, and Santana Young; a Magic the Gathering Tournament hosted by Timewarp Cards and Comics; a “Secret Societies in Pop Culture” presentation by Chad Kopenski, and more.

filmscreeningposter2017_edit2Another highlight of the event is its list of guest speakers, which includes Boldman, magician and performer John Pyka, aka Big Daddy Cool, and filmmaker Russ Emmanuel.

Pyka will make an appearance at ARTS/West May 12 for a special performance of “Tales From the Flip Side,” a fantastical time-traveling live show that will follow the opening of a pop culture themed exhibit at 5 p.m.

Two of Emanuel’s works, the award-winning thriller Occupants and a portion of the still-in-the-works Assassin’s Apprentice, will be shown at the Athena Cinema on Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m. as a precursor to Saturday’s festivities. After the screenings Emanuel will take questions from the audience.

“I’ve just always loved films,” said Emanuel in an interview a few days prior to the screenings. “From what my parents have told me, I probably watched Superman II at least 50 times as a kid.”

talesfromtheflipsideposter_v3Emanuel said that as a child he would build little sets for stop action movies made with Legos and shoeboxes, and his passion for making films hasn’t changed in the following years.

His work has been shown all over the world at various film festivals. Occupants alone was shown at Comic-Con San Diego and decreed the Best Sci-Fi Film at the 2016 Shriekfest.

“I’m really grateful that Ratha Con invited me back, because they didn’t have to, and I really appreciate it,” said Emanuel, who was also at last year’s event. “Ratha Con is a very personal event – and I’ve been to the big comic conventions, I’ve been to the San Diego Comic-Con; and it’s great, but it’s just not as personal as an event like Ratha Con.”

For more information on Ratha Con and a full schedule of events, visit the event’s website.