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Taking a peek at the 2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival

The 2020 Indie Memphis Festival will be “Online and Outdoors,” with film lovers from myriad parts of the world expected to participate in the virtual screenings and events.

Presented by Duncan Williams, Inc., the festival will span Oct. 21-29. It will screen 230-plus feature films, shorts and music videos, with most screenings followed by filmmaker Q&As. Memphis audiences will also enjoy in-person screenings at the Drive-In and outdoor lawns.

This year’s festival will give focus to BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) and women filmmakers. The marketing pitch for the festival notes that there will be a focus on politics with multiple approaches to what that means and how someone can engage. Storylines will include aging, weed legalization, electoral politics, activism and unhoused LGBQT+ youth, and more.

Among the Indie Memphis films dubbed as “Departures” – meaning they depart from expectations – is “The Giverny Document.” Filmed on location in Harlem and in Giverny, France, “The Giverny Document” is billed as a multi-textured cinematic poem that meditates on the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women.

In this difficult moment, the festival seeks to reflect the community and the world, with a wide range of filmmakers tackling themes that matter to their communities.

Festival Artistic Director Miriam Bale said, “We hope to bring people together, in person and online, and provide inspiration and an outlet. In order to counter Screen Burnout, we’ll be offering a series of what we call ‘Groundings’ throughout the digital festival, including a meditative film called ‘A Still Place’ by festival alumnus Christopher Yogi.”

For Ryan Watt, this will be his final year as executive director.

“This year is a truly unique festival experience to keep our audience safe and entertained while online and outdoors,” said Watt. “My sixth and final festival at the helm is bittersweet, I’ll be soaking in every bit of the incredible program our team has assembled.”

The festival also features many film premieres, including the World Premiere of Trimiko Melancon’s documentary “What Do You Have to Lose?,” which explores the history of race in America and the U.S. Premiere of Anthony Banua-Simon’s documentary “Cane Fire,” which examines the past and present of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.

This year’s opening night film will be Memphis-born Lynne Sachs’ celebrated documentary “A Film About a Father Who,” comprised of 35 years of footage that Sachs’ captured of her father as she attempts to uncover his secretive past.

The festival features several festival favorites, including Mario Furloni and Kate McLean’s “Freeland,” starring Krisha Fairchild (Krisha) as an aging pot farmer facing extinction and Emma Seligman’s culture clash comedy “Shiva Baby.”

The Retrospective section will include a new restoration of Joyce Chopa’s “Smooth Talk” in Laura Dern’s breakout role, and classic titles such as Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz” starring Diana Ross and the Richard Pryor comedy “Car Wash,” in tribute to filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who died earlier this year and wrote both films.

Passes to the public are available on the Indie Memphis website here and new programming additions will be announced leading up to the festival!

Films by Memphis filmmakers

“Coming to Africa” – (Anwar Jamison, 96 min)

A philandering financial executive unexpectedly finds himself in Africa on an amusing adventure where he meets a beautiful Ghanaian schoolteacher and finds nourishment for his soul.

“Smith” – (Jason Lockridge, 117 min)

Underwhelmed by corporate assignments, a private detective is approached by a client with the type of investigation he longed for.

 “We Can’t Wait” – (Lauren Ready, 37 min)

Tami Sawyer’s quest to become the first Black female mayor of Memphis.

“The Hub” – (Lawrence Matthews, 46 min)

Following the narrative of a young man recently let go from his low paying warehouse job while he spends his summer navigating the Memphis job and transportation crisis, among his own personal issues.

“1st Forgotten Champions” – (Morreco Coleman, 68 min)

Hitchhiking his way to college with dreams of a brighter future, Jerry C. Johnson later became the first African American basketball coach to win a NCAA Division III National Basketball Championship in 1975. The film was the Audience Choice Feature Film Award winner at the 2020 Burbank International Film Festival and the Best of Tennessee selection at the 2020 International Black Film Festival.

Black Creators Forum: Held in association with the Indie Memphis Film Festival, the two-day Black Creators Forum is set for Oct. 17-18. A virtual symposium this year, the forum will feature panels, discussions and workshops for Black filmmakers, industry professionals, scholars and critics.


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