story and photos by Chellie Bowman

Y’all it was another amazing year at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. While Indie Memphis is obviously centered around screening FILMS it really is more broadly a cultural phenomenon—and I just wanted to share this with our Focus readers! First off, Indie Memphis sets up numerous “Indie Talks” throughout the festival which are FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC YOU GUYS. Below is a photo from one panel that for me was not optional—I had to go! Culture and New Yorker writer Doreen St. Felix and writer/director of the The Girlfriend Experience, Amy Seimetz, were going to be there discussing women’s art in the post #metoo climate. Once there I was pleasantly surprised by a local panelist that was part of the discussion, Alice Bolin, a University of Memphis professor who recently published a book of essays entitled Dead Girls about our American obsession with narratives about–you got it–dead girls.

Sarah Nicole Prickett, Doreen St. Felix, and Amy Seimetz as panelists on the #metoo Indie Talk 

Filmmaker Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You) was the keynote speaker for the Black Creatives Forum. I’d been following his work since I heard about his beef with Spike Lee’s latest film BlacKkKlansman (as well as his collaboration with the NYPD) and was really looking forward to hearing from his particular viewpoint.

Miriam Bale, Senior Programmer at Indie Memphis talking to filmmaker
Boots Riley during the keynote

Second, the festival’s emphasis on and commitment to diversity is truly PALPABLE. The Black Filmmaker’s Pitch Rally allows for locals to pitch their ideas and compete to win a $10,000 grant to complete their project in Memphis. Congratulations to this year’s winner Dave Godbout! In addition, this year’s centerpiece presentation was Barry Jenkin’s (Moonlight) If Beale Street Could Talk and it was so beyond amazing that I cannot imagine it not receiving every Oscar it possibly could.

Here’s another badass stat: the festival included 11 film features by black women filmmakers. They also featured tons of queer interest films and my only disappointment about this is that I wasn’t able to physically see them all. Here’s a list of some of the narrative features so you can check them out: Gospel of Eureka, Solace, Sorry Angel, Wild Nights with Emily, Rukus, Shakedown, and Mahogany (with Mahogany Too). I highly recommend Shakedown in particular which is a documentary about the underground lesbian party scene for African-American women in Los Angeles, by filmmaker Leilah Weinraub. It was the Documentary Competition Feature winner!

Above: Ryan Watts, Executive Director & Memphis filmmaker Dave Godbout, winner
of the Rally, accepting
his $10k Bounty Prize for his surreal comedy  “Charmaine”

Third, you get to see incredible local musicians play before every screening and for free during the numerous block parties such as Tori Whodat, Alex da Ponte, Midtown Queer, and Unapologetic..

Finally, a festival favorite is the annual Awards Ceremony produced by none other than our favorite Savannah Bearden, who recently produced our Focus Awards this year and, of course, graced the cover of our May/June issue.

Above, Savannah forcing her own husband to dance on stage. Jamie Tipton accompanies him. 

This festival is a gem and we are so lucky to have access to it, and to have such hardworking Memphians (such as my good friend Brighid Wheeler who is the badass shorts programmer) making it happen. It’s not to be missed!




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