Indie Film Fest encourages underrepresented local voices to shine

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“Toro De Oro”, a Spanish-language film by director Pedro Nunez, won the “Best Film” category of the Grand Jury Award. (Photo by Boi Ngoc Thai/Downtown Devil)

Indie Film Fest held its fourth-year annual festival in downtown Phoenix, bringing the community together over the weekend to celebrate its in-person return.

After a year of going online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indie Film Fest returned to downtown Phoenix to shine a light on local and international stories this past Thursday through Saturday.

“There were too many situations where women filmmakers, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community weren’t represented at film festivals,” said Matty Steinkamp, ​​the founder of Indie Film Fest. Indie Film Fest creates a platform for independent filmmakers and also “sheds light on groups of filmmakers who are typically unselected or underrepresented in the film festival market,” Steinkamp said.

Independent filmmakers often struggle to find funding and other support for stories featuring underrepresented groups, a study of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California on the obstacles to filmmaking have shown.“Access to funding becomes an important pathway not only to employ more underrepresented directors, but also to see more diverse characters in film,” the study asserts.

Indie Film Fest sought to create a space where independent filmmakers could thrive, including those not traditionally represented in film.

“We want to create a true independent film festival that celebrates those stories, those filmmakers who fund themselves personally and still do the magic that totally moves audiences as we’ve seen,” Steinkamp added.

The three-day festival held well-attended screenings each evening, as well as panel discussions, workshops, cinema walks and an awards ceremony on Saturday evening.

Kash Cole, the co-director of the Indie Film Fest, said: “The community opens its doors to us, which allows us to shoot these beautiful films and these beautiful places, and when you add beautiful people to that, I think you have a Perfect Moment.”

Indie Film Fest opened a free outdoor screening for the public on Roosevelt Row on Friday, February 11. The breezy outdoor space created space for social distancing and welcomed both indie film buffs and a spontaneously curious crowd. Between the three days of the festival, over 1,000 people attended to show their appreciation for local artists and filmmakers.

“We appreciate the downtown Phoenix community that comes out to support us because without them it’s just us sitting around watching a bunch of movies,” said Adan Madrigal, director of the Roosevelt Row CDC. “The fact that we can bring the community together and watch these movies together makes it even more special.”

Indie Film Fest did not catch the attention of the community alone, however. Indie Film Fest has partnered with many local businesses including Roosevelt Row CDC, Strawberry Hedgehog, youthe PHX garden, and the Churchill, to contribute to the success of the festival by providing a “community” experience for downtown audiences. KWSS 93.9 FM Radio, a local independent broadcast station, has partnered and sponsored the festival since its first year to promote the festival.

“With the promotion and with the help of the radio station and just everyone participating, I think it’s going to pick up some momentum,” Dani Cutler, a KWSS radio presentersaid of the festival’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film selections at Indie Film Fest 2022 came from a wide range of categories, from dramatic and documentary features to short films and music videos from local and global creative storytellers.

There was 30 selections out of 200 nominations and 10 awards granted to films entered, the festival website shows. Participating creative storytellers impressed organizers this year.

“The artists, the filmmakers featured in our festival this year have taken us to a new level,” said Steinkamp. “They propel the festival to the rank of a major independent film festival.”

The final screening and awards ceremony took place in the courtyard outside the majestic castle of the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library on Saturday 12 February.

At the ceremony, the festival announced four Grand Jury Awards, including the “Best Documentary” award for “Voices of The Grand Canyon” by director Deidra Peaches. Told from the perspective of Native Americans, the film evokes conversations about the conservation of Grand Canyon National Park.

Award-winning directors, including Peaches, will have complete freedom in the use of their festival grant funds, Steinkamp said.

Nearly a third of Arizona films participating in the festival were locally crowd-funded, Steinkamp pointed out.

Hopefully the festival and the grants will help alleviate some of the barriers that aspiring filmmakers face, including funding, that can prevent their work from being seen. There’s a lot of talent that needs to be seen in Arizona, according to audience member and aspiring filmmaker Shamiqua Reed.

The 2022 Independent Film Festival is a sign of good things to come, connecting the community through a shared appreciation for new artistic voices and meaningful local stories.

“It’s not just three people organizing the festival this year,” Steinkamp said. “We had a whole community. And it will continue to grow like this. »

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