One of the city's core arts institutions, Indie Memphis connects and inspires indie filmmakers and film-lovers through the unique creative landscape that is the home of the Blues and the birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll. Now entering its 16th year, the 501(c)3 non-profit organization is a two-time Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences grant recipient, receives project support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and is the only film organization to receive annual funding from ArtsMemphis.
The year-round organization is best known for its annual Indie Memphis Film Festival presented by Duncan-Williams, Inc., which transforms the city into a connecting point for filmmakers, musicians, artists, and audiences. Twice ranked by MovieMaker Magazine (as one of "25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee" in 2011 and as one of the "25 Coolest Film Festivals" in 2009), the festival brings a broad range of independent features, documentaries and short films to Memphis from all corners of the country. Set in Overton Square in Midtown Memphis, the city's cultural and creative center and home to a plethora of restaurants, bars and clubs, the 2011 festival attracted a record-setting crowd of more than 8,000 attendees with high-profile screenings including Undefeated and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, both nominated for Oscars for Best Documentary Feature (an honor that eventually went to Undefeated at the 2012 Academy Awards). Special guests included Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Footloose), Tanya Wright (HBO's True Blood), Jason Baldwin of the West Memphis Three (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory), Daniel Waters (Heathers), Mark Bell (FilmThreat) Mike Ryan (Junebug), Ira Deutchman (Emerging Pictures), and Chris Parnell (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock), who hosted the festival Award Show.
Other past festival attendees have included former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell (KCRW's The Treatment), Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams), Scott Mosier (Clerks, Chasing Amy), Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs Larry Flynt), Matt Lopez (Race to Witch Mountain, The Sorcerer's Apprentice), Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue), John Sayles (Matewan), Gary Clark, Jr. (Honeydripper), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Do The Right Thing), Ray McKinnon (The Blind Side, Footloose), Barry Corbin (No Country For Old Men, Northern Exposure), Angela Bassett (What's Love Got To Do With It), Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter) and Bob Mondello (National Public Radio).
Indie Memphis also connects filmmakers and festival attendees to the live music scene that pulses through the city. Memphis musicians, including Amy LaVere, Snowglobe, Blind Mississippi Morris, Bluff City Backsliders, The Sultana, Robert Belfour, Grace Askew, the Subteens and Pez have performed in theatres prior to festival screenings, during music showcases at the Festival Cafe, and at various festival parties and receptions throughout the festival weekend. Prior years have also featured special performances by visiting artists including the Alloy Orchestra and British singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock.
But Indie Memphis is more than just an annual film festival, with year-round programs that inspire, encourage and promote independent films and filmmaking in Memphis. More than 50 screenings and special events filled the calendar in the months leading up to the 2011 festival, providing Indie Memphis members with numerous discounts and free admission opportunities to take advantage of. Highlights from the past year included: the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis "GiVE 365 Movie Night with Indie Memphis" in January; the Summer Drive-In screening of The American Astronaut, co-presented by ArtsMemphis Bravo in March; the Found Footage Festival at the Young Avenue Deli in April; Belgian cinema presented in collaboration with the Memphis in May International Festival at Malco Theatres’ Studio on the Square and the Brooks Museum of Art and the Dance Film Series presented in collaboration with Project: Motion at the Evergreen Theatre in May; the Global Lens Film Series presented at the Brooks Museum of Art from June through August; the free summer Concert Film Series at the Levitt Shell; and Howard Rosenman's "The Hollywood Sell" co-presented by the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission / Memphis ED at the Memphis College of Art in September.
Other highlights from previous years include: a live Q&A session via internet with Francis Ford Coppola (which included special appearance by Sophia Coppola) after a screening of Tetro at the Brooks Museum of Art; David Lynch presents Interview Project with a live performance by musician Stoll Vaughan at the Brooks Museum of Art; screenings of animator Bill Plympton's feature films Hair High and Idiots and Angels at Malco's Studio on the Square, with Plympton in attendance for Idiots and Angels and presenting a free lecture at the Memphis College of Art about his work and career; Essential Art House Cinema screenings presented in collaboration with the Brooks Museum of Art, bringing restored high-definition transfers of Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1962), Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) and Fellini's La Strada (1954) to The Brooks and a new, restored 35mm print of Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) to Malco's Studio on the Square; and the World Premiere of Craig Brewer's $5 Cover at the Malco Paradiso, co-presented by Malco and the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission, which drew a crowd of more than 1,100 attendees and served the launch platform for the Indie Memphis' membership program.