Indie Memphis announces lineup; 230-plus features, shorts and more to screen virtually and outdoors
Memphis Commercial Appeal
By Bob Mehr
September 24, 2020
A drama about an aging pot farmer, an African-set romantic comedy, and documentaries on race relations and pioneering basketball coaches, will be among the films screened as part of the 23rd annual Indie Memphis Film Festival.
Organizers of Indie Memphis – which is set to run Oct. 21-29, and is presented by Duncan Williams, Inc. – announced their slate of films during an online preview party on Thursday night. More than 230 features, shorts, and music videos, including a selection of work by Mid-South talents, will be shown during the fest.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s festival will consist of a mixture of online content and outdoor events. Shelby Farms, the Levitt Shell, The Grove at GPAC, the Stax Museum parking lot, the Downtown riverfront and the Malco Summer Quartet Drive-In are among the sites that will host outdoor screenings.
Screenings will occur nightly at the drive-in and on various nights at the other “lawn” venues. Most films will also be made available for streaming online. The “virtual” festival also will feature filmmaker panels, Zoom-style question-and-answer sessions after some movies, and other activities. Indie Memphis organizers note that beyond the programming that’s already been confirmed, other films and events are expected to be added over the coming weeks.
Outgoing Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt — who will be stepping down after this year’s event — said that the 2020 Indie Memphis will be a “truly unique festival experience to keep our audience safe and entertained while online and outdoors. 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.”
Once again, Indie Memphis will showcase a diverse array of voices: the 28 in-competition films include work by 12 female filmmakers, 14 persons of color and 12 black filmmakers.
Seven different films will screen as part of the Narrative Competition, including Mario Furloni and Kate McLean’s “Freeland,” the story of a pot farmer dealing with the legalization and industrialization of cannabis, which threatens to destroy her idyllic way of life
Also on tap is “Executive Order,” Lázaro Ramos dystopian saga set in a futuristic Brazil where “an authoritarian government orders all citizens of African descent to move to Africa – creating chaos, protests, and an underground resistance movement that inspires the nation.”
The Documentary Competition will see the U.S. premiere of “Cane Fire” which looks at the history of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi. The film interweaves “four generations of family history, numerous Hollywood productions, and troves of found footage to create a kaleidoscopic portrait of the economic and cultural forces that have cast indigenous and working-class residents as ‘extras’ in their own story.”
Also among the docs being screened is “What Do You Have to Lose?” directed by Rhodes College professor Trimiko Melancon. The 74-minute film – which will get its world premiere at the fest — explores the history of race in the United States and will attempt to “shed light on the current political and racial landscape in America during the post-Obama age of Trump.”
Memphis-born filmmaker Lynne Sachs will present “Film About a Father Who,” a doc comprised of footage of her family shot over a 35-year period and presented as an “attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.” Other docs of note include Elegance Bratton’s “Pier Kids” which follows the lives of three LGBTQ homeless youth.
The Hometowner category will feature the work of several local filmmakers, including Anwar Jamison’s feature “Coming to Africa,” about a philandering financial executive who unexpectedly finds himself falling love with a beautiful Ghanaian schoolteacher.
Among the Hometowner documentaries are “We Can’t Wait,” director Lauren Ready’s film on Tami Sawyer’s quest to become the first black female mayor of Memphis. Also set to screen is “1st Forgotten Champions,” Morreco Coleman’s look at the life of Jerry C. Johnson, who would become the first African American coach to win a NCAA Division III National Basketball Championship in 1975.
As usual, Indie Memphis will present a variety of music-themed films. This year’s selections include a documentary about Ibizia DJ Jon Sa Trinxa, a film about the fondly-remembered Memphis recording studio Shoe Productions, and a collection of shorts by Andrew Trent Fleming focusing on classic albums from the iconic Stax Records label.
A series of retrospective films will be shown at Malco’s Summer Drive-In. The schedule will include a restoration of the 1986 motocross cult favorite “Rad!” Joyce Chopra’s 1985 thriller “Smooth Talk,” featuring a young Laura Dern, will be presented in resorted form as well. As part of a pre-Halloween event, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 horror film “House” will also be screened.
The festival will celebrate late filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who passed earlier this year. A pair of early films written by Schumacher – 1974’s “Car Wash” and 1978’s “The Wiz” – will also be shown as part of the Drive-In Retrospective.
A virtual pass that provides access to the online films starts at $25, while a Memphis pass, good for both online and outdoor events, starts at $100. To purchase, for a full schedule, or for more information, go to indiememphis.com