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All Jambored up: The Indie Memphis 09 Experience

October 13, 2009
7025_658446765306_6509651_36829761_7448862_nArik Sokol, Skizz Cysyk and Cory McAbee at the grave of Elvis during Indie Memphis 2009.

In what will go down as one of my favorite fest experiences, Indie Memphis 2009 kicked off last Thursday with a standing ovation at the documentary “Shooting Robert King” and a successful screening of “That Evening Sun.”

I met up with the Atlanta Film Fest crew (their fest is in April, fyi) and ate out before heading to the fest parties for that evening where we ate more thanks to a mashed potato bar, but it was Friday when things really began kicking.

As a Hometown juror for the fest, I spent a good part of the morning finishing up screening films, but once done headed out on a three hour tour (which I thought was an iconic pop reference/joke but was quite mistaken) of Memphis complete with a guitarist tour guide and a magic mystery tour bus. Living 90 minutes from Memphis and driving around in the rain I worried that I may have made a mistake. But the trip ended up being an awesome bonding trip for several of us. Ending at Sun Studios for a tour, we learned more than any of us ever wanted to know about Elvis.

Afterwards, at the filmmakers luncheon, we caught up with Elvis Mitchell and Ray McKinnon and Toby Leonard at Central BBQ for a full smack down on some serious ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. It was a gluttonous fest and oh so yummy (coming from someone who doesn’t even eat ribs). It was nice to meet and talk Oxford with McKinnon who hasn’t been back in town since he filmed “The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag.”

On Friday, I began actually catching some films including Michael Harring’s “The Mountain, The River and The Road” (Joe Swanberg cracks me up in the movie), and Cory McAbee’s “Stingray Sam” (changed my life), then “Paranormal Activity” (fun) which Craig Brewer scored for the fest by calling up Paramount. Brewer said he felt like the mac after they said yes and he well should – it was a good score for the fest and helped create even more buzz than normal on the Twitterverse. (My review of the film is coming out in the Town on Thursday).

I caught the tail end of the ever popular house party that Chris McCoy hosts each year and is always great but realized it was 2:30 a.m. and I was wiped out so went home early even though the party seemed awesome and still going full steam ahead.

On Saturday the ever-amazing jury wrangler extraordinaire, Arik Sokol, gathered us up to break down the rules including the always popular explanation of being “all jambored up.” Indie Memphis Executive Director Erik Jambor (see the connection?) joined us to say hi and as always seemed calm, cool and collected in the middle of chaos.

Afterwards I caught Kris Swanberg’s film “It Was Great But I Was Ready To Come Home” which I kinda fell hard for – a documentary style film that explores female relationships in an honest way, the film had a good screening and great Q&A with Swanberg. Originally from Germantown (Memphis), Swanberg had her mom with her at the screening. Later I continued to bump into her and kept professing how much I liked her film. I am sure she thinks I am a freak. Oh wait.

I caught a few other films on Saturday including my first experience with McAbee’s first feature, “The American Astronaut” which played on a new print and was only the second time to be shown as it is now. I enjoyed the film – but it is hard to watch “Stingray Sam” first and then “American Astronaut.” I recommend the reverse order.

Afterwards a few of us skipped out on the big Warehouse party and took in a quiet drink before heading to crash. Chris Holland, Charles Judson, Erik Jambor and Ruckus and Lane Skye and I talked fest planning (which I am sure bored the heck of the Skyes who are filmmakers).

On Sunday after jury deliberations, Skizz Cyzyk and I began a day-long journey to try and make it to Graceland. Beginning at 11 a.m. we mostly traipsed around waiting for others before eating with some friends and then, finally, finally making it there. Along the way we wrangled the wrangler Sokol and filmmaker Cory McAbee and the four of us set off to explore the Elvis home. What we quickly discovered – $28 later – is that it is much more fun to make up facts about Graceland than to enjoy the audio tour.

Afterwards the awards at Hi-Tone began where what seemed like at least a 100-150 of us waited while eating pizza and enjoying the bar for Jambor and Les Edwards to kick off the festivities. For whatever reason, all the jurors decided we needed to be funny – which I was not other than accidentally – but all had a fun time giving out awards to some great films and filmmakers. To end the trip a few of us decided to wander downtown Memphis and ended at the classy Ernestine and Hazels and some jazz before I departed as the first in the group to break away.

The fest is continuing through out the week and quite a few great repeats and some new films are still set to play including tomorrow night’s “God’s Architects” by Zack Godshall. For more on the Indie Memphis schedule, check out the B-Side calendar listings.

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