Lisa Manthei

Pop Punk Fans, Rejoice!

When it comes to programming documentaries for the Indy Film Fest, we try to make sure all of the classic topics are represented, if at all possible. That means we like to have some history in there, something about family, maybe some sports, and hopefully something related to the arts. We’ve been lucky in the last few years to get some really solid submissions from or about artists. But, personally, I most enjoy the ones about music.

Last year, we showed After So Many Days. A year or two before that, we had Boom! A Film About the Sonics. And, this year, we’re lucky enough to have Bleeding Audio, a documentary that especially speaks to my little 14-year-old, early 2000s, pop punk loving heart.

If you’re like me, and you loved the Warped Tour when it was in its prime and couldn’t get enough of all of the pop punk, emo, scene bands out there… This one’s for you. The film itself is about a band called the Matches but it’s also filled with interviews from so many names that’ll likely get you really pumped. They’ve got Nick Hexum of 311, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, the Plain White T’s, Motion City Soundtrack, and so many more. (I mean, truly, I was not prepared for all of these folks to be included!)

But back to the band of the hour! The Matches found quite a bit of fandom during their heyday, so a good portion of this documentary is about the history of the band and how they eventually landed a record deal. But, there’s so much more to this one. The film also delves into the struggles the band faced and why, despite their record deal, they just couldn’t seem to make a living doing what they loved. You’ll learn more than you could have imagined not only about four goofy and humble guys but also about the music industry itself and what many bands are up against as they try to make it.

Given that this was definitely my scene (or…my jam?!) back in the day, I somehow missed out on The Matches. But, trust me when I say, you don’t need to know anything about the band to enjoy this one. I found myself nostalgic for a band I knew nothing of, and, to me, that’s the mark of a truly successful music documentary.

This documentary also explains why tours are so important to musicians out there, so until we are able to get out there and safely support artists by listening to some live music again, maybe this fun film will hold you over!


Make ‘Em Laugh

It’s been an interesting year-plus, right? Well, don’t worry; we at the Indy Film Fest got ya. We have a number of shorts and features that will likely make you laugh…or, at the very least, put a smile on your face! (Quite a few can be found in our comedy shorts block, Seeing the Humor in It, but there are many to be found elsewhere as well!)

To start, I’d like to introduce you to one of the ones that made me laugh the most, courtesy of two foul-mouthed old women! Meet Gramma & Ginga: The Movie! This documentary short is about two sisters who accidentally found internet stardom a few years back due to their antics and their foul mouths which their family rightfully found hilarious. If you had never heard of these delightful women like I hadn’t, I can guarantee you will be both shocked and endlessly entertained by the things they say! (They’re goals, let’s be honest.)

Next, another documentary short. This one, called Snowy, is about a pet turtle who knows nothing but his sad, lonely tank and his caretaker who does the best he can to care for him. I know, I know…this can’t POSSIBLY be a comedy, right? Right. But, I’d argue that it’s charming as all get out and is one of the documentary shorts that made me smile the whole way through. (Uncle Larry means well and wants the best for Snowy, I promise!) Trust me on this one. The end scene is everything.

Finally, I want to showcase a mockumentary that comes to us from the land down under. Introduction to Genre: An Introduction is as ridiculous as the name suggests. The short is all about nine different film genres, in just the most over-the-top and reductive ways. I dare you not to laugh, especially when they get a genre you’re particularly fond of.

If those aren’t enough for you, I totally get it. But, fear not! When speaking with the other Indy Film Fest programmers, I was given a handful of other gems to recommend. For US narratives, we have Inspector Ike, David, Paco, Wendy/Gigi, and My Dinner with Werner. If you’re more a fan of the world cinema selections, you might try Sticker. Or, if like me, you’re a big fan of documentaries, I assure you that Workhorse Queen and Hockey 24: A Film by Canada will absolutely put you in a good mood when you finish watching them!

Now, go forth and enjoy yourself!

The Ones You Can’t Stop Thinking About

I, like most film nerds, really love those stories you just can’t stop thinking about after having seen them. For me, two of those this year were Messania’s Story (a documentary short) and Road to Vrindavan (a documentary feature). 

When I first watched Messania’s Story, I went into it entirely blind, meaning I chose not to read the information or spoilers provided. It was one I watched early on in our screening process (a process that takes many months), and I have not stopped thinking about it, even to this day.

The story focuses on an elderly Kenyan woman named Messania as she tells her story of growing up. When she was young, a girl’s worth was tied to who she married. And who she married was determined by her female circumcision (“the cut”). It’s what they all knew, it’s what they all believed, it’s what they all supported and performed for many, many years. Messania tells her life story and how “the cut” changed it. Really, the rest is too good for me to give away right here (but you can find more info by clicking around on our film listings and schedule), but I’ll end my praise with this… The shots are perfect, the story is moving and empowering, and the re-enactments are anything but cheesy (which is something I often fear in documentaries).

If Messania’s Story wasn’t enough for you, I’ve gotta recommend a documentary feature called Road to Vrindavan. This one made such an impact on me that I fought pretty hard for it to be in the festival. (The fight for it might not have been necessary, but I was impassioned!)

Road to Vrindavan is one of those documentaries that sets out to be about one thing but then changes course midway through as it’s being filmed. (Personally, I love that in documentaries, so that really worked for me.) The filmmaker is a former monk who returns to Vrindavan (where he spent a lot of time as a monk) to examine gender roles. He believes that women in India deserve education and opportunities to succeed, and he conducts many interviews with local villagers about the topic. But, things change when he’s essentially asked why HE, a man, is making the documentary. Is it his story to tell? (Very fair point, let’s be honest.) It’s at this point that he starts to examine more closely what needs to change on the side of men in order for these women in India to succeed and thrive. We get a lot of stories similar to this one, but it’s when he starts to examine what needs to happen from men that makes this documentary stand out as one I found worth fighting for and that I think about often.

Obviously, it’s my strong suggestion that you watch these two films, but my real hope is that you also find some films in this year’s Indy Film Fest that you can’t stop thinking about! (And if or when you find those, reach out to us on social media about them!)


You Learn Something New Every Day

As a kid, I always dreamt I’d be a film critic. I sought out all the classics and DVRed them, and I made sure to catch Ebert and Roeper’s reviews. By sheer happenstance of loving to volunteer, I found myself with the opportunity to first volunteer for the Indy Film Fest a few years back and then eventually screen films for it and ultimately become the Assistant Documentary Programmer, specializing in the documentary shorts.

I joke sometimes with my fellow programmers that I am only in this for the glory, but the truth is that I’m infatuated with how many unique stories I get to come across that are reality…happening right now…all around us. I’m legitimately learning something new every time I sit down and watch new films that need to be screened for the festival. (Side bar: if this is something you’d geek out about too, we’re always looking for more screeners!)

So, for my first blog for the 2021 Indy Film Fest, I wanted to highlight a few of the stories that I felt shaped me the most and taught me the most this year.

First up? Bury Me At Taylor Hallow, found in our The Long Goodbye shorts block.

Bury Me At Taylor Hallow showcases the process of one man getting a conservation burial site established in Tennessee. (And believe it or not, we had several shorts submitted for consideration about “green burials” this year!) Let me be the first to say that I had NO idea this was a thing. And you know what? Consider me sold! Who wouldn’t want to be given back to the earth in a natural way, while also helping conserve land in a park-like setting that your loved ones can visit?! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be thinking this, but here we are!

The next film I want to highlight is called The Scarecrows and can be found in the Before Midnight shorts block.

The Scarecrows is largely about a dying town. (Great, lots of docs are, right?) This one in particular is about a remote village in Japan that is dying out due to an aging older population and younger populations moving to cities. And what makes it most interesting? The “scarecrows” or life-size dolls that are crafted by a dollmaker in the village to represent those who have passed on. The dolls FILL the village, anywhere you could look! Bet you had no idea you’d learn about THAT when you considered supporting this year’s Indy Film Fest, did ya?! (Also, who’s down to visit this town now?)

Finally, I want to highlight Bundini which can be found paired with Welcome to Monterey.

Bundini is about Muhammad Ali’s hypeman. I mean, first of all, did you know “hype man” was a legit profession?! Second of all, had you ever heard about the man Ali himself said “made him The Greatest”? While the film itself could be entirely about their relationship, it’s not. It goes to show how interesting and inspiring Drew “Bundini” Brown truly was. As someone who doesn’t necessarily love history, I ate this story up, as did many of our screeners. I’m sure you’ll feel pretty hyped up about it, too! (…Sorry…)

If we’re being honest, I could list so many more unique stories I learned about and continue to think about months after originally screening for this year’s festival, but I’ll leave it with just those three prime examples.

Now, go forth and learn about something else you had no idea about until you tuned in and turned on that doc short!