Seth Gadsden doesn’t call Indie Grits a film festival anymore.
“It’s a festival,” the event director said. Period.
Indie Grits is still built around film, because it’s anchored to the Nickelodeon Theatre, but it has grown in offerings so much that to just call it a film festival would be limiting.
There’s art, music, food, games, after parties, puppet slams and a variety show packed into four days, in addition to the 17 feature films, 69 shorts and 6 music videos shown on screen.
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The film offerings this year have expanded as well. To go with the theme of “Visiones” – a nod to the explosive growth of the Latino community in South Carolina and its cultural influence – film submissions were opened to Mexican, Central and South American filmmakers.
The festival traditionally has focused on artists from the Southeast, but organizers decided to play with the idea of Southernness “and stretching what that means,” festival co-curator Amada Torruella said. Exploring the concept of being “globally Southern” ended up making the film lineup better, Gadsden added.
“By opening it up to South American entries, we had to be more picky about the films from the Southeast. It made everything stronger.”
We’ll get to the events and the art in a minute, but first, here are some films not to miss:
If you like: Cultural anthropology movies
See: “The Modern Jungle”
“The Modern Jungle” is an intimate documentary of the Zoque, an indigenous people of Mexico. The film follows Juan, a shaman suffering from a hernia that his incantations cannot treat, and Carmen, who lives simply in harmony with the land her martyred husband paid for with his life. Simultaneously, “The Modern Jungle” is a story about consumerism and modernity in a region known as La Selva Negra or “the black jungle.”
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, April 22
If you like: Adult Swim on Cartoon Network
See: “Happiness Bomb: A Chicken Pox Now!!”
Five tales from a cartoon world starring a group of puppet actors, narrated by a donkey named Nod. It’s trippy, strange, colorful, sometimes confusing and, dare we say, happiness-inducing?
When: 10:10 p.m. Friday, April 21
If you like: “CSI”
See: “Room of Bones”
Forensic anthropologists search through El Salvador’s mass graves hoping to identify remains from decades of gang violence. They store their chilling finds in a small room nicknamed “The Room of Bones.”
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22
If you like: Chatting up your Uber driver
See: “Your Ride Is Here”
Over the course of one night in Nashville, Tennessee, a jaded rockstar-turned-Uber driver shares his car with a talkative trainee as they take in passengers and drive each other crazy.
When: 9 p.m. Thursday, April 20
If you like: Food Network
See: “La Comida de los Cocineros”
At just six minutes, this documentary short is a peek into the lives of five immigrant cooks living together and working in an upscale North Carolina restaurant, illustrating a specific intersection of food and culture.
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 19; 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20; and 3 p.m. Saturday, April 22 (at Richland Library)
If you like: The Deathly Hallows animation scene from “Harry Potter”
In this experimental, animated short based on a classic Mexican folktale, three brothers try to cheat death.
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20 and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, April 22
If you like: Blasts from the past
See: “All Skate, Everybody Skate”
Topsail Island, North Carolina’s resident postmaster, Miss Doris, is in her late 70s and runs a 50-year-old roller skating rink by night, bringing a small-town tradition to new generations.
When: 2 p.m. Friday, April 21 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23
KEYNOTE LECTURE FROM FAVIANNA RODRIGUEZ
Interdisciplinary artist Favianna Rodriguez is the festival’s artist-in-residence and will give a keynote lecture to kick off Indie Grits.
Rodriguez lectures globally on the power of art, cultural organizing and technology to inspire social change. In 2009, she co-founded Presente.org, a national online organizing network dedicated to the political empowerment of Latino communities. Her work deals with migration, global politics and economic injustice.
6 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St. Short film screenings to follow. $15, Nick members; $20, nonmembers.
NOCHE DE VISIONES
If you only go to one Indie Grits event, it should be the opening night block party. Artists will be exhibiting work in the streets and in several gallery spaces, and there will be food by Tacos Nayarit, Pereira Bakery and Jasmine Santiago’s Cuban Specialties. Soul singer Curtis Harding will provide live music beginning at 7:30 p.m., and alt. country group Lambchop will perform at 8:45 p.m.
6-10 pm. Thursday, April 20 on the 1600 block of Main Street. Free.
FOOD TRUCK PARRANDA
You will not find another event in Columbia with not one, not two, but three taco trucks. The Parranda will have a total of 10 food trucks, as well as live music. If you love Latin American cuisine or think you might love it, head to this event.
Noon-5 p.m. Saturday, April 22 on the 1000 block of Hampton Street (between Richland Library and St. Peter’s Church). Free.
If that’s not enough food, there’s the Sunday barbecue with tasty grub from The War Mouth and vegetarian options from Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe. It’ll be a relaxed affair and yet another chance to stuff your face and listen to live tunes.
Noon-4 p.m. Sunday, April 23 at The War Mouth parking lot, 1209 Franklin St. (Parking at 2404 Main St.)
INDIE BITS SHOWCASE
Come play video games, board games, card games and virtual reality. The “Visiones” theme is visible here, too. Indie games from El Salvador? Why not?
Noon-8 p.m. Thursday, April 20-Saturday, April 22; noon- 6 p.m. Sunday, April 23 at 1216 Taylor St. Free.
If you go
Indie Grits Festival
WHEN: Thursday, April 20-Sunday, April 23 (limited events Wednesday, April 19)
WHERE: Anchored at Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St., but some events are in other venues.
COST: Varies. Here’s a sampling: $10, general admission; $8, Nick members (for film events only – does not include Weekly Revue and Puppet Slam); $5, students (box office only). Festival pass available for purchase. Some events, like opening night along Main Street, are free.