Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Choose901 Staff Picks: Indie Memphis Film Festival 2019

One of the coolest film festivals around is about to kick off its 22nd year of celebrating the best and boldest in independent film. The Indie Memphis Film Festival is happening October 30th – November 4th bringing six days of films, live music, discussions, and parties to multiple venues.

There’s a wide range of screenings to take in: animation, music videos, documentaries, features, and shorts by filmmakers from near and far. There are comedies, dramas, and horror offerings, plus some highly anticipated special screenings like Harriet and Just Mercy, as well as The Dead Don’t Die and a 30th-anniversary screening of Mystery Train— both with Jim Jarmusch in attendance. In fact, there’s so much to choose from that you really should cruise around the schedule and film guide ahead of time and make a plan of attack.

To help you get started, some of the staff here at City Leadership / Choose901 are sharing some of the screenings that have piqued our interest. Here’s just a handful of the films we’re looking forward to:

NIKKI: Always Open, The Eureka Hotel

I’m super excited about this film, set at the Eureka Hotel, a historic Midtown landmark, once deemed “Memphis’ Oldest and Best Colored Hotel”.  The upscale hotel, a red brick Victorian style home that once sat on Lamar, has since been demolished. If its walls could talk, the stories and secrets of the African American elite would be exposed. Director Jamey Hatley, who was the winner of the inaugural Indie Memphis Black Filmmaker Fellowship, was selected by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) the fellowship funder, to develop a feature-length version to follow up this prequel. Rich storytelling and Memphis history told through the lens of a local soon to be legendary African American female director: I AM TOTALLY HERE FOR IT! It is definitely a dramatic treat you don’t want to miss.


LORNA: Varda by Agnes

Varda by Agnes is the final film from Agnes Varda, a pioneer of the French New Wave film movement and one of the foremost feminist filmmakers of the 20th century. This autobiographical documentary explores her life and work from her own perspective, offering a unique and privileged insight into her creative instincts and compelling storytelling abilities. Film buffs are sure to be captivated by this fascinating self-portrait of a true icon.



I am looking forward to seeing the film Swings. There are many misconceptions regarding mental illness, and oftentimes people feel as though they cannot be honest with their peers and themselves about their struggle. However, I love how this film highlights one ballet dancer’s battle with bipolar disorder, and the obstacles she must overcome while pursuing her dreams and passions. Ballet dancing and mental health awareness… a compelling combo, if you ask me!

JEFF: Blue Chips

I’m a huge basketball fan and really enjoyed the 30 for 30 that ESPN did on the Shaq & Penny Orlando Magic era. A fictional movie starring those two tied to college basketball recruiting sounds like something I’d love.


KATE: Border South

Politics aside, Bernie Sanders’ recent message to fight for those who are different from us resonates with me. It also dovetails nicely with my primary reasons for reading and watching movies: to experience the lives of those who are different from me. Border South is the first feature-length film by Raúl O. Paz Pastrana, a Mexican-Immigrant filmmaker whose work explores themes of belonging and alienation in immigrant communities. The trailer captures the humanity, humor, and tragedy that are present in all of our lives, and magnified by the drama and danger of a border-crossing into the United States.

JOI: Atlantics

Being young and in love is something everyone can relate to and Atlantics brings that connection to film. I really just want to know who Ada is going to choose. The young construction worker she truly loves or the man she has been arranged to marry? I’m a sucker for a good love story. Follow your heart, Ada!!


TRAVIS: Bakosó: AfroBeats of Cuba

As a DJ, I’ve always been interested in the impact that Africa has on Central American and Caribbean music and the music of the world for that matter. While I’ve just skimmed the surface listening to icons like Davido and Western African artists, I’m interested in Bakoso because of the deeper cultural dive into Afrobeats and the lasting, hopeful connection of Africa to Cuba and the Caribbean. This film looks like it goes beyond visual captivation into entrancing the viewers through song and dance.

SHELBY: Lil Buck: Real Swan

This may sound weird, but I feel connected to Lil Buck and it’s not because we both hail from the Mid-South. Despite our different journeys, we found dance as a means for communication when there are no words. It’s our diary. It’s our open book, and it’s our way of saying “Here I am.“—and with that being said, I want to know who Lil Buck is.


EMALEA: Just Mercy

It is always a risk when a really good book is made into a movie but if there is any story that deserves to be represented in both mediums it would be Just Mercy. As a lover of non-fiction, I am excited for a legal drama whose characters push the boundaries and speak to the realities and flaws in the United States justice system. Additionally, who’s gonna say no to watching Michael B. Jordan in this??


LISA: Horror Noire

First off, I highly recommend every single Hometowner screening in support of our talented local filmmakers, and the After Dark Shorts are always an interesting bunch. Aside from those, I’m intrigued by the documentary Horror Noire. I’m curious about the depth of the history of Black Americans in the genre. I’m interested in the journey from hardly being represented to overcoming caricature to reaching some of the more complex, game-changing storytelling that we’re seeing today from creators like Jordan Peele.



The Indie Memphis Film Festival takes place October 30 – November 4. Tickets for individual screenings are just $10 each, or you can enjoy the full festival experience by getting a festival pass which gets you access to up to 12 films each day, early seating, and entry to festival parties and the hospitality tent during the weekend block party. Get details and purchase tickets and passes at


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