SIDEWALK 2008: THE INDIES STRIKE BACK

Originally ran on FilmThreat.com on 10/07/08

Ow. Wait… yeah, ow. Just trying to get into a comfy sitting position here as I begin to recount my past few days in Birmingham, Alabama at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival – the festival’s tenth year in existence and my fifth year attending. I’m still licking my wounds from days just passed, but this bottle of wine I found in my festival goodie bag is serving as a panacea. Last year I decided to see what happened if I experienced a sober Sidewalk film festival and while good times were had, I decided this year to return to the booze soaked shenanigans of legends told. Well… not that hardcore, but I am feeling the post-festival burn. Of course, that may just be because I’m getting old.

Jury Doody
I don’t know if I’ve explained this in previous stories, but the way the jury screenings go, at least for this festival, the jurors are supplied with screeners with the films they need to see beforehand – just to help ensure that they do what they need to do. In years past, I’ve always received a good portion of the screeners I’ve needed and then the rest of the films I would have to catch at the fest. This has been cool with me – some movies play better with an audience, but the only possible problem that could pop up is a scheduling conflict. Say, if two movies I need to see are playing at different theaters at the same time – that would leave me effed in the bee. This hasn’t happened to me in the past, but the possibility of it happening was always there.

However, this year, being on the Narrative Feature Jury once again, I was supplied with absolutely everything I needed to see pre-festival. So I just hunkered down and blasted through flicks like any self-respecting movie nerd would. And that left me with an open weekend – I could catch docs I wanted to see, as well as some of the special screenings, or even if there was a shorts block I wanted to catch… I could. It was perfect – I had done my job and I could experience some of the rest of the festival. And it was definite good times. There were more features packed into this short weekend than there ever were before, so there was plenty to see. Birmingham is very fortunate to have Sidewalk.

Air Drunkards
A couple of weeks before the festival I was informed that my travel mate would be “Blood Car” filmmaker Alex Orr. Those that read my infrequently updated MySpace blog will recall that “Blood Car” made it into my Top 10 fave flicks of ’07, so I was honored to share travel time with the creator of such an impressive film. And, in my mind, I figured that someone who had made such an unruly little movie would be fun to hang out with.

Was right. Later on in the weekend I would comment to my girlfriend that Alex had been a great travel partner. She commented back by saying, “He reminds me of you.” That was a compliment and a modation all in one shot. Impressive.

My poison of choice while I’m traveling is normally vodka, but a vodka-induced misadventure the weekend previous found me going with something a little more friendly.

Beer.

Some sleep was squeezed into the travel day, but for the most part it was all about beer drinkin’ and movie talkin’. Definitely one of my more pleasurable flights, but still not as epic as the flight to SXSW a few years ago where I was hanging out in the back of the plane with one of the stewardesses as she kept feeding me free beers. Aye, that was a furiously fun trip.

Back in the Ham
Touched down in Birmingham early evening on Thursday and so officially began my fifth year at Sidewalk. We were soon greeted by a friendly face that would become very familiar as the fest continued throughout the weekend – this was Thomas, Sidewalk volunteer, festival van driver and all-around awesome guy. At some point during the weekend, I’m unsure exactly when or why, but I was informed that I had coined the term “Captain All Over It.” It is now that I would like to knight Thomas as the official “Captain All Over It” for his consistent awesomeness throughout the festival. You could hear people singing his praises far and wide.

Stopped by my hotel really quickly to freshen up, delouse, have more drinks at the bar and reconvene with my girlfriend, Amanda. I met Amanda two years ago at the festival, so Sidewalk is a kind of anniversary for us. She’s originally from Alabama, and at that time was living in Birmingham, but this last March I aided in making her a Los Angeleno and we got a place together. So she went back to Birmingham a week before the festival this year so she could get in visit time with friends and family before I got into town and festival shenanigans began.

The Thursday night pre-festival party is always the most exciting as it’s when I get the chance to see and catch up with the festival staff and local filmmakers whom I haven’t seen in a year. It also affords me the opportunity to meet some of the visiting filmmakers with movies in the festival. It’s fun to meet and talk with the newbies, but being on the festival jury I have to watch what I say and that can be difficult depending on how drunk I am. But I’m a pro, so there were no worries.

The evening’s first party took place at a gallery space, I believe, and then was followed up by a get-together at popular local hang out and show venue Bottletree. Being that I had already had a full day’s drink in me, I had planned to try and make an early night of it. At 10:30 when I started calling everyone “Batman” at the top of my lungs, that plan was followed through.

Nicest Buns in the U.S.
No, not mine, however my buns could definitely be considered in the top-running. The nicest buns in the U.S. – perhaps even the world – belong to Vulcan, a statue in Birmingham’s Vulcan Park. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and the largest metal statue ever made in the United States… and for some reason he doesn’t have any pants on. Yeah, he’s got a little skirt thingy going on to hide his junk, but it does very little to hide the largest cast iron buns in the world. The buns are so impressive that even the manliest of manly men gotta shout!

It was at Vulcan Park where we all reconvened for the filmmaker brunch, a cool little get-together that allows everyone to introduce themselves while trying to nurse hangovers with some good grub. The difference this year is that I got to meet up with Film Threat contributor turned filmmaker Don Lewis. I’ve raised hell with Don at a lot of film festivals, but never at this one and it had been a couple years since I had seen him, so this was a very special occasion for sure. Don’s latest short film, “Drag King,” made it into the festival, so he had flown in to check out the Sidewalk scene. If you’ve read his recent blog entries, you’ll see that he wasn’t disappointed.

Each year, after the filmmaker brunch, the festival always takes people over to Sloss Furnaces to pour iron. It’s a neat little field trip and I did it the first year I attended the festival, but have missed it every year since due to a massive hangover and/or the desire for more rest and despite all my best intentions to pour iron once again this year, I had to miss it in order to rest up and prepare for the rest of the weekend’s activities.

Air Drums and Good Friends
Ari Gold’s “Adventures of Power” served as the opening night film and it is the kind of movie that’s perfect for opening this film festival – it’s light, fun and goofy… just like Alan Hunter…

I keed! I keed!

A festival like this one, that is so warm and inviting, doesn’t really want something heavy or dark, so “Adventure of Power” worked out great, even though it wasn’t really up my alley.

In the film, Ari Gold plays an air drummer who, mocked by his peers for taking part in this unusual pastime, travels cross-country to take part in an air drumming competition.

Again, the light, goofy nature of this film is sure to please someone – some people were laughing at my screening – but I just thought the storytelling really needed a major overhauling. I wasn’t buying any of it, and for the most part, the humor was just way too goofball for me.

Decided to skip the party that night in favor of a private get-together with an old friend. For my first few years at Sidewalk, Kelly Marshall was in charge of PR and hospitality and through our festival adventures have become good friends. It was a mellow evening of beer drinking and storytelling, which was more than alright with me as there was plenty of festival partying still ahead, not to mention all the movie watching that would commence the following afternoon.

Movie time in part dos of SIDEWALK 2008: THE INDIES STRIKE BACK>>>




Posted on December 26, 2008 in Features by
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