The Indie Memphis Film Festival which kicks off on Tuesday (Oct. 24), is showcasing its commitment to diversity and representation in media imagery during its six-day run.
In addition to the 6th year of the Black Creators Forum, the festival that extends through Sunday (Oct. 29) will screen over 50 films by Black filmmakers and/or centering the narratives of Black cultures and lives.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the Black films being shown, including films by and about Memphians!
“Black Barbie: A Documentary”
For filmmaker Lagueria Davis, it all started with her 83-year-old Aunt Beulah Mae and a seemingly simple question, “Why not make a Barbie that looks like me?”
“Black Barbie” is a personal exploration that tells a richly archival, thought-provoking story that gives voice to the insights and experiences of Beulah Mae Mitchell, who spent 45 years working at Mattel.
Upon Mattel’s 1980 release of Black Barbie, the film turns to the intergenerational impact the doll had. It probes how the absence of Black images in the “social mirror” left Black girls with little other than White subjects for self-reflection and self-projection.
Beulah Mae Mitchell and other Black women in the film talk about their own, complex, varied experience of not seeing themselves represented, and how Black Barbie’s transformative arrival affected them personally.
In this film by Memphian Princeton James, struggling school teacher Madison strikes a lucrative book deal to help solve her financial troubles. As she dives into her dark past surrounding the “College Town Slayings,” she realizes it may still be a part of her present after all.
In the documentary “I Am,” Memphians Amanda Willoughby and Jessica Chaney tackle the issue of mental health in the African-American community via candid and revealing interviews with five Black women, who speak about their journey with anxiety disorder. Angela, Grae, Angel, Santyria, and Chloe share their stories and the remarkable ways they cope as they face unique cultural and societal issues.
“Banel & Adama”
Banel and Adama are fiercely in love. The young married couple lives in a remote village in northern Senegal. For them, nothing else exists. Yet their perfect everlasting love is on a collision course with their community’s customs. Because in this world, there is no room for passion, let alone chaos.
“Donna and Ally”
Donna and Ally are two Black sex workers, who have transformed the trials of a 12-year run from the law into a relentless pursuit of legendary status. Their world, encapsulated in raw humor and undying hope, promises non-stop laughter. Unraveling a narrative that is as authentic as it is captivating, they prove that there’s no force mightier than a woman with a dream.
In tribute to hip hop’s 50th anniversary, the Indie Memphis Music Festival (IMFF) presents the 1995 cult classic starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.
“Friday” follows a day in the life of Craig and Smokey – two guys in Los Angeles hanging out on their porch on a Friday afternoon, smoking and drinking, looking for something to do and finding trouble.
When Zinwe visits her late grandmother’s village – a small rural fish village – she must confront her true spiritual destiny to usher in a new age of blessing and prosperity, and save her people from the hands of the ruthless and violent Sergeant Jasper.
“Birth of Soul Music”
Memphis filmmaker George W. Tillman is the creative force behind “The Birth of Soul Music” – a story that explores legendary beginnings at Memphis’ own Club Paradise.
“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”
The 1988 cult classic from Keenan Ivory Wayans starring OG heavyweights Antonio “Huggie Bear” Vargas, Jim Brown, Anne-Marie Johnson and Ja’Net Dubois (“Willona”), with memorable cameos from up and comers at the time Chris Rock, Dawnn Lewis (Jalessa) and Kadeem Hardison (Dewayne Wayne). Memphis legend, Isaac Hayes, makes an appearance.
Jack Spade returns from the army to his old ghetto neighborhood when his brother, June Bug, dies. Jack declares war on Mr. Big, a powerful local crimelord. His army is led by John Slade, his childhood idol, who used to fight bad guys in the ’70s.
“Going To Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project”
A look at the life of poet Nikki Giovanni and the revolutionary periods in which she wrote, from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.
IMFF presents this ’90’s classic starring DMX in honor of hip hop’s 50th anniversary.
Tommy Bundy and Sincere are best friends as well as infamous and ruthless criminals and shot-callers in the hood, where they are respected by many and feared by all. As the police are closing in on them and new players are looking for a come up, will their reign last?
In the Wayans Brothers hilarious spoof on “Scream” and the “scream queen” genre, a familiar-looking group of teenagers find themselves stalked by a more-than-vaguely recognizable masked killer! As the victims begin to pile up and the laughs pile on, none of your favorite scary movies escape the razor-sharp satire of this outrageously funny parody!
Poverty and misery break out with a vengeance in a Mossi village within the borders of the Sahel. For the people of the country, a choice has to be made: either await international assistance or travel further inland to the richer areas of the country. Salam and his family opt for the second solution, with all the sacrifices that this entails. A new life can now begin for them. They discover love, joy, hate, violence and feelings that hunger and thirst had made them forget.
**Meet the filmmaker in person after the screening!
Cord Jefferson’s hilarious directorial debut confronts our culture’s obsession with reducing people to outrageous stereotypes. Jeffrey Wright stars as Monk, a frustrated novelist fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, Monk uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.
Another Wayans Brothers hit!
Two FBI agent brothers, Marcus and Kevin Copeland, accidentally foil a drug bust. To avoid being fired, they accept a mission escorting a pair of socialites to the Hamptons, but when the girls are disfigured in a car accident, they refuse to go. Left without options, Marcus and Kevin decide to pose as the sisters, transforming themselves from Black men into rich white women.
“JOURNEY(S): Addis to DC”
“JOURNEY(S): Addis to DC” is a visual “docupoem” anthology that combines oral history with original poetry, animation and archival imagery to honor the stories of Ethiopian women in America, and Black women across the diaspora.
**Meet filmmaker Saaret Yoseph in person
This meditation on what it means to maintain continuity with the past is told through the kaleidoscopic journey of a young drummer, who must learn how to guide a multi-generational band into the future after being named their new bandleader.
On April 5, 2001, shortly after a nearby massacre at the hands of paramilitaries, two hooded strangers entered the farming town of La Bonga and delivered a letter. The note accused the town of sympathizing with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia. They were given 48 hours to leave or be forcibly removed. The entirety of La Bonga – 150 families – fled that same day.
Over time, the jungle that surrounded the town swallowed it whole. An entire generation knows only of their birthplace through the stories of their parents and grandparents.
Prompted by the tenuous Colombian peace agreements of 2016 and led by the only person who has attempted to live there again – María de los Santos – the townspeople decide to resurrect a festival honoring their patron saint, Santa Rosa. To do so, they must confront the jungle to reclaim their home while facing the realities of attempting to reconstruct a place that no longer is.
Interspersed with the epic journey of the main group, we accompany María travelling by herself with her 15-year-old granddaughter, Dayanis, who has never set foot in La Bonga. Maria attempts to instill in Dayanis the image of the land she loves, believing that if she remains the only person to actively seek a path to return, La Bonga will be lost forever.
While looking for a new home for his family, a Haitian demolition worker is faced with the realities of redevelopment as he is tasked with dismantling his rapidly gentrifying Miami neighborhood.
**Meet the filmmaker in person
“Mist Melodies of Paris”
In the second short film directed by Julius-Amédée Laou, a West Indian man named Richard (Greg Germain) is haunted by memories of “his war” fighting on behalf of the French government in Algeria. More than 20 years later and still carrying internal trauma, he is mad as hell and can’t take it anymore; Jean-Claude Mejstelman’s synthesizer score brings an antic, theatrical quality to the story, and a cameo from the filmmaker adds a dash of surrealism.
**Meet Black French filmmaker Julius-Amedee Laou in person during his first US tour.
Hometowner Documentary Shorts: “SLICE,” “The Blues,” “Intersectionality: The Documentary”
Hometowner Narrative Competition Shorts: “ETTO” and “r.e.g.g.i.N “
Hometowner Features: “The Reaper Man,” “Spirit of Memphis”
Seeking Sincerity Shorts: “Dressed” from Bethaiel Alemayoh, the current IMFF screenwriting resident
**Bethaiel Alemayoh will be at IMFF in person.
(For the full festival schedule visit: https://imff23.indiememphis.org/schedule.)