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A few of my favorite things: INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FEST EDITION
Indie Memphis Film Festival 2023 did not come to play
Hello, beautiful people.
I hope that you are finding moments of peace these days.
This post will be about a brief moment of joy called the Indie Memphis Film Festival 2023 (IMFF23).
I’ll speak on solidarity with Palestine and the collective trauma so many of us feel right now in my Spirit of Memphis summary below. But first, we’ll rejoice in the power of cinema.
I was blessed with an Indie Memphis VIP Pass this year as a show of gratitude for volunteering as one of their screenwriting scholarship readers. This was my first time at Indie Memphis and y’all… I am hooked. I am inspired. I am moved!
(A bit of background: I’m a cinema studies grrlie, cinephile, and screenwriter who finds any moments I can these days to use that virtually untouched degree.)
So, now! Here are some of my favorite Indie Memphis films, in no particular order.
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ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT
directed and written by Raven Jackson
I can’t think of a better way for Indie Memphis' to have opened than with Raven Jackson’s absolutely beautiful A24 film All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.
It’s a film so eloquently specific in its detail that you need no markers to discern between the several shifts in decades on screen. In a live Q&A, Jackson’s mother mentioned that All Dirt Roads requires so much inference. A skill not always required in more mainstream film. This is so true.
You must be an active, curious, and empathetic viewer as the main character Mack (played in various ages by Charleen McClure, Kaylee Nicole Johnson, and Zainab Jah) flows through an evocative, nonlinear journey. In so doing, you’ll be blessed with all sorts of cinematic magic.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is in theaters as of November 3rd.
In the meantime, I highly recommend this thoughtful interview with Raven Jackson by.
Directed and written by Zaire Love
Etto is a love letter to ghetto Black girls. Ghetto Black Memphis girls, specifically. I see family in this film. The ones that rarely get shine, celebrated. Embraced.
This “Zaire Love Junt,” which won the Indie Memphis Hometown Narrative Short Award, is a film about respectability for Black women who don’t fit the “right way” of being in corporate spaces.
It’s full of Love’s unique flavor and Memphis finesse, from the green, candy-paint vintage Cadillac to the drip to the loving and relatable bond between its main characters, Blessed/Etto (Daniela Griffin) and Royal (Annsleigh Thornton).
I also want to give a shout out to Love’s award-winning Slice, a short documentary film on how Black boys and men in Memphis fly. More specifically, how they ‘slice’; a Black art form in which you dive into pools of water with style.
I’m so ready for whatever Zaire Love does next. Follow Love for updates on how to watch both films.
directed and adapted by Cord Jefferson
Based on Erasure by the brilliant Percival Everett, American Fiction is a fun and funny, satirical, and sharp film about the way whiteness and white supremacy in entertainment and media profit off Black art that relies heavily on the same ole’ tired ass tropes.
I found myself relating deeply to the film’s main character, Monk (Jeffrey Wright), a frustrated novelist whose work fails to fit the right “trending tropes” of the day. And Tracee Ellis Ross does the damn thing in her very short cameo as Monk’s sister. She literally had me guffawing within moments of opening her mouth on screen.
American Fiction is in theaters on December 15th, 2023.
Co-directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler
Bad Press tells the revolutionary story of a hard-hitting news outlet, Mvskoke Media, and one especially plucky reporter as they win a long and arduous fight to make Muscogee Nation one of only five out of 574 federally recognized tribes to establish a free and independent press.
You read that right. Most tribes in the U.S. don’t have the right to a free press. It stems from a history of pressure to present only their most shining news in an attempt to combat years-old debilitating stereotypes and harmful tropes brought on by white supremacist propaganda. The history of press for Native people is a complicated one, and Bad Press does such a brilliantly compassionate job of expressing that.
SPIRIT OF MEMPHIS
directed by Alicia Ester
What is the spirit of Memphis, exactly? I’ve sat with this question ever since having the privilege to see Alicia Ester’s (shockingly) first feature, the 2023 Best Hometowner Feature Award recipient, Spirit of Memphis.
You cannot know the spirit of Memphis without understanding the importance of Robert Church, the Sanitation Strike, and the many historic civil rights moments directly connected to the iconic Clayborn Temple.
You can’t know the spirit of Memphis without knowing the beauty of Black people. The resilience of Black folks, to be torn down again and again and again, and to rise up every single time. With music. With art. With love.
Spirit of Memphis shows you all of this. I’m so, so grateful for this film. I’m grateful to have witnessed it now.
As genocide continues to kill and displace the people of Palestine. As I watched my Memphis ancestors in archived footage attacked with some of the same tactics used in Palestine since 1948, by the ethno-nationalist settler colonial project that is the Israeli government. Tactics still used on many oppressed people in modern day.
Spirit of Memphis is a reminder that the collective trauma of oppressed people is a global one. Solidarity requires an international lens because euro-colonial ideologies have built a worldwide economy on the backs of Black and Brown peoples.
Ain’t none of us free until we’re all free.
I am for the liberation of Palestine. But hear me clear—Anti-zionism ain’t antisemitism.
My heart hurts for the souls lost on October 7th. I hope for healing for their loved ones. I hope that people are able to understand that global liberation includes Jewish people. Israel does not represent all Jewish people. Israel is an apartheid state. We must be clear on that distinction.
Liberation includes freedom and peace for all oppressed folks under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. That means free Congo. Free Atlanta. Free Tigray. Free Hawaii. Free Puerto Rico.
FREE PALESTINE. FREE PALESTINE. PALESTINE WILL BE FREE.
Information is a precious commodity right now. So, in honor of Indie Memphis Film Festival I’d like to leave you with a few video resources for further learning:
Now, I’m sure some of you might not appreciate this post, and that is okay. You may even unsubscribe if you were following, and that’s fine.
This newsletter is one of optimism and hope, sure. But neither are always cute nor light. Optimism right now is believing in the power of us—not the ‘us’ as in the United States—but us, The People, to get everybody free.
Thank you to everybody at Indie Memphis Film Festival for such a magical week. These films remind me in a time of collective pain that the revolution starts within. That’s what Gil Scott Heron meant when he said, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ after all.
Thank you all for reading this special edition of the newsletter. I know, it’s been a lot of “special” lately, so expect something actually light and fun next time round.
Until we meet again (in two weeks, lol),