2021 Festival News

Film Across Generations and Continents

The year 2000 was kind of a fabulous year for film. At least as I remember it. I had all the time in the world and watched practically everything that came out and I could see in Ann Arbor that year. It was the year Christopher Nolan’s Memento blew everyone’s mind with it’s trippy innovative timeline and super intense acting, High Fidelity was the romantic comedy of the moment,  Kenneth Lonergan broke onto the indie film scene with You Can Count on Me and won at Sundance and peak Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou? came out with a killer soundtrack. Yet, what I remember most about that year is a small Taiwanese film called Yi Yi (A One and a Two). Nothing particularly spectacular happens in this film and it’s almost 3 hours long. But I had never before felt so immersed in a film before. I had never before felt such a strong pull to not want to leave the world Edward Yang had created and wanted a film to keep going. Twenty years later it’s still one of the best films I have ever seen. 

To encounter a film directed and obviously influenced by Edward Yang twenty years later was delightful. Having it be directed by someone living on a completely different continent, who would have been 15 years old when this film came out put a huge smile on my face. The twin brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri place their film in Lagos, Nigeria and completely immerse the viewer in its environment that by the end of the film not only do you feel like you know these characters, but also this place, and this world. If Ebert was right, and film is an empathy machine, I think the best way to make full use of film as a medium is to watch films from and immerse yourself in places you have never seen before. If you have never seen a film from Nigeria, Eyimofe (This is My Desire) is a very good place to start!

10 Day Festival Starting… NOW!

Hello film fans! I’m Dan Moore, Executive Director of Indy Film Fest. I first attended our festival in 2006 which happened to be the first year we expanded from a 3-4 day festival all the way up to a full two-weekend, ten day celebration of independent film.

This year our festival has been taking place over a full 3 weeks to give lots of time to check out all 40+ features and shorts blocks. But for those of you Indy Film Fest regulars who, like me, know us as a 10-day festival with hard decisions to make every day about which films you’ll see before the end of the festival… you should feel right at home now because that’s how much time is remaining through our last day on May 19.  That’s still plenty of time to make use of an all-access digital pass for only $65 (or $55 if you’re outside of Indiana!).

So what should you watch?  A great place to start is the tippy-top of our virtual festival page with the This Week Only section where you’ll see 5 films available only though May 12:

Bleeding Audio

From inspiring triumphs to heartbreaking setbacks, Bleeding Audio relives the explosive career of The Matches and explores what it means to succeed in the digital age of music. (dir. Chelsea Christer)

Workhorse Queen

It’s not all glitz and glamour in the drag queen world. This doc tells the story of Mrs. Kasha Davis and what it takes to be a successful, working drag queen. (dir. Angela Washko)

This Is Where I Meet You w/Other Fish

If you are in your 20’s and feeling lost, what better place to find yourself than a beautiful seaside location with lots of interesting strangers open to conversation and some fun? (dir. Katharina Ludwig).  Screens with the short Other Fish (dir. Kurtis Bowersock).

The Catch

A troubled woman returns to her estranged family in coastal Maine. With her lobsterman father caught up in a turf war at sea, she and an ex-boyfriend make plans to hijack local drug runners. (dir. Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer).  Be sure to check out Film Yap’s interview with director Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer and stick around after watching for the Q&A!

Water Like Fire

A young surfer makes up for lost time with her estranged brother after he winds up in the hospital after a hit-and-run. (dir. Mitchel Viernes)

This is Where I Meet You

You know that time in life when you are out of formal education, you have done what was required of you, you have followed the steps society has set out for you? And then there is that immense feeling of “Now What?” The debut feature by Katharina Ludwig This is Where I Meet You is about capturing that very moment in life. Charlotte is an actress, just having gone through a pretty bad audition. She is on her way to a minimally planned vacation with her boyfriend. I love how you can see that transition from tense work mode to full on relaxation, anything goes, openness of being on vacation take place in Charlotte’s posture and attitude. Instead of being upset that her boyfriend has mostly abandoned her, she takes time to explore new found relationships with no judgment or preconception with the self-proclaimed shaman Benno and her new yoga instructor Tami. This film is for anyone who loves making connections with new interesting people, for anyone who likes traveling and living through new experiences, for anyone in their 20s or anyone who fondly remembers the feeling of being in their 20s. It’s a film for anyone who has missed all of that during the last year, and wants to experience it again. At least vicariously and for 80 minutes!

Our Nomadic Tales

Chloé Zhao’s historic win along with the rest of the awards Nomadland picked up on movie’s biggest night made me think of a couple of the films we have coming up as part of this year’s 18th Indy Film Fest. Like Nomadland, both of these features have a fictional story that’s surrounded by and mixed with many unexpected true-life stories from non-actors mostly portraying themselves during filming.

First off we’ve got Uisenma Borchu’s film Schwarze Milch [Black Milk] which tells the story of a woman returning from Germany to visit her nomadic family in Mongolia. She struggles to connect with her sister especially after decades — most of their life — apart. While it shares the gorgeous outdoor views in a land filled (though sparsely) with true nomads, this is definitely no Nomadland. Intimate scenes within the yurts as well as the rough and occasionally graphic reality of living in isolation make this much more of an Indy Film Fest film. Inspired partially by the personal story of the writer/director, it goes in dreamlike directions as it deals with what it means to be a woman in different cultures. The director joined our World Cinema Features programmer Ana Barbir this past weekend for a great conversation about the film and her life which is included during its April 29 – May 6 run at our festival.

Our other close to authentic nomadic feature is Teddy, Out of Tune. With a piano strapped to the back of his truck, a street musician named Teddy drives 2,000 miles north to Canada on an emotional mission to spread his mother’s ashes. Along the way he encounters a peculiar mix of friends and strangers that allow him to share more about his complicated history with mental health and abuse. A nod to the film’s mix of the true and the fictional, we’ve paired this film with the short Introduction To Genre: An Introduction.

If shorts are more your speed, our Going Places Shorts Block might be right up your alley. These 8 stories include traveling to find the right place to settle down for a life or a conversation, some short car rides across unexpected routes, and an epic true journey to reunite with a dying father with a hearty crustacean as a passenger. Like almost all our shorts they’re available anywhere in the US from April 29 – May 19.




The Future of Movie Watching

For Indy Film Fest and other film festivals, a big part of the experience is being able to discuss movies with other folks who have been attending the festival. There is also the element of being able to meet filmmakers in person at audience Q&As, panels, parties, and just wandering around the venue.

I have been attending the festival since 2005. Several of us who have been going to the festival for a while have made meaningful connections, even friendships, over the years. Other than getting involved with the festival as a volunteer, I’ve interviewed filmmakers, and even built up my own network of filmmakers and film fest enthusiasts on social media.

Even though we won’t be in person other than our drive-in movies Thursday nights, I encourage all who love independent films to watch what they can and when they can between April 29 to May 19. There will still be Q&As, albeit virtually, and we will still be talking about the films on the Indy Film Fest’s social media, including on this website.

We are also already starting to plan an in-person festival for 2022 (with safety as a priority), and possibly other in-person events between now and next spring, to be determined.

While I don’t pretend to know what will happen with mainstream theaters, I am fairly confident that as long as there are independent filmmakers who want to tell their stories — especially if they’re a little out of the mainstream — and audiences who want to see and talk about those films, eventually we will want to see each other in person again.

Representation Matters

As a cisgender, white, heterosexual woman, I won’t claim true understanding outside my individual bubble of lived experience. I do, however, feel it’s important to see stories from differing perspectives to expand our awareness of humanity as a whole. It is also important for people to see themselves represented in film and media. In mainstream film, trans stories are hard to find and when one appears, the parts are often played by cisgender individuals. This festival season we have been privileged to receive three submissions by filmmakers who believe in presenting strong trans narratives in documentary and fiction.

Being Sascha is a fascinating exploration of gender identity and expression from the viewpoint of Sascha who is trans non-binary. Sascha reveals the pathway to realizing their identity and also their experience in society as a person who does not present as “obviously” a boy or a girl.

A central theme in this documentary short is the importance of visibility. The more one sees others like themselves, the freer they feel to accept and show the world who they are. Through visibility, these differences can become more normalized in society. Sascha also poses the question, just because a person visually presents one way, do we really know who they are and how they identify? Sascha has a strong voice and is a cool and insightful human. This documentary is a must-see and I dare you to come away from it without some expansion in your thinking. On top of having winning content, this film is shot in such an artful way with a score to match.

Being Sascha is paired with the documentary feature, Mom & M, a slice of life of a modern American family. We are introduced to Elise, a social media influencer, Nikki, an MFA student and writer, and their adopted daughter, Sansa, who is battling leukemia. As they deal with Sansa’s illness, Nikki comes out as transgender. Nikki and Elise have real, honest conversations about what these experiences and changes mean for their family, individual identities, and show us the strength that can be found in one’s chosen family.

Juliet, an American Spectrum short within the Growing Up Block (this short is only available in Indiana) tells the story of Serena, a shy trans teen who is preparing to try out to play the lead in her high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. This story is a tender, intimate look into Serena’s experience with constant bullying, the lack of acceptance and understanding by her peers, and finding the strength to pursue her dreams despite these challenges. Fantastic cinematography and a direct focus on the character and her perspective allow the viewer to feel along with Serena.

I am excited for you to experience these stories and I hope you will see yourself in some of the narratives presented in this year’s festival.


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!


Inanimate Objects Come to Life

Have you ever had weird thoughts? Sure, who hasn’t? But here is something you may never have thought about: What if your hairdryer had thoughts? What if it really liked you? And wanted to right your wrongs? What if it not only figured out how to think, but how to move? Well, wonder no more. Indy Film Fest’s 2021 edition has a French film that asks (and answers) all of these questions: Chorus Girl. But that’s not all. While we are on the subject of inanimate objects come to life, what if a strawberry was aware of all the animals trying to eat it? Check out a local Indiana short called Berry’s Voyage.

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!

There’s More Than Corn In Indiana

Most of us Hoosiers in Indiana know that there is a lot of German heritage in our state. Lots of towns throughout the state have a German festival or some kind of Oktoberfest. But have you heard of Strassenfest? No? Oh my are you in for a treat. Let one of this year’s Indiana documentary features, Strassenfest and the Area’s Reemerging German Culture, be your guide.

Travel with me down to Jasper in southern Indiana. This documentary brings you in gently with Strassenfest in full swing. There’s beer and brats. There’s lederhosen and maypoles. Then bam! You are hit with the amazing German culture they have. The festival is huge, the German language had such a dominant presence in the community for so long, and did someone mention nuns and like a legit monastery?

This doc brings you so much! Never has the idea, there’s more than corn in Indiana, been more true than in this fantastic doc. You won’t want to miss it at this year’s festival.

I’m so pumped about Strassenfest and the Area’s Reemerging German Culture! So much so I’ve already started planning my trip to next year’s Strassenfest. Who’s with me? I’ll make sure to rent an extra big airbnb just in case.