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Merging music and movies with Indie Memphis Film Festival

The city of Memphis in Tennessee is famed as the home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, so it’s no surprise it makes the perfect creative landscape for one of the city’s core art institutions – the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Dedicated to bringing a range of independent features, documentaries, and short films to Memphis from all corners of the world, this organization has been connecting and inspiring indie filmmakers & film-lovers for over twenty years.

In addition to its yearly screening event held in November, Indie Memphis serves up a year-round film series showing movies on a weekly basis, a filmmaker development program including a granting setup for local filmmakers, and a youth program with an annual Youth Film Fest and a mentoring program to assists students in grades seven to twelve.

Executive Director Ryan Watt told Film Daily, “The film festival is our largest event and the other programs have been added to fill the needs in our city and compliment the mission. We do not have an ‘art house’ theater in Memphis, so we are bringing films to premiere in the city that would not otherwise be seen theatrically and curating the experience for our audience. The mission of Indie Memphis is to create community for independent film and support the development of filmmakers.”

Last year saw the festival’s 20th anniversary celebration aligned with MLK50, featuring a powerful lineup of movies by Memphis filmmakers evoking themes of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. In addition, cinematic highlights comprised Abel Ferrara presenting a mini-retrospective of his work including the 25th anniversary of Bad Lieutenant, the world premiere of Oliver Butler & Will Eno’s Thom Pain, and a double feature presented with Mark Webber of Flesh and Blood and Weapons.

When it comes to awards, Indie Memphis likes to honor its winning filmmakers with a custom-made trophy as well as cash prizes. There are numerous spots to compete for at the event, from Best Narrative Feature to Best Documentary Feature to Best Narrative Short and there’s even an honor in scriptwriting.

The event also connects filmmakers & festival attendees to the live music scene that pulses through the city. In 2017, the Indie Memphis Sounds category included Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live . . . And More – a concert film that celebrates the music of Big Star. “We are one of the only festivals in the world to feature live music in the theater before every screening. Our new music film categories and music video showcase will expand our emphasis on collaboration between artists of all kinds,” added Watt.

The festival has received warm reviews over its longstanding history, with Brooklyn Magazine critic Paul Dallas encapsulating the spirit of the event in just a few sentences: “Infused with the city’s warmth and buoyed by the local music acts (they play before each screening) ranks as one of the more satisfying regional film festivals around. Where else do you overhear folks debating BBQ and fried chicken houses while in line for the latest films by Kelly Reichardt and Raoul Peck?”

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