Indie Grits has grown from a film-centered happening to a catch-all of cultural expressions, from music to puppetry.
The reliable quality and range of film features is still there this year, while the curatorial and geographic footprint of this annual event, twice named one of the Coolest Film Festivals in the world by MovieMaker Magazine, is expanding.
Beyond downtown Columbia’s border, Indie Grits is spreading its activities into North Columbia with its Two Cities project, which is meant to shine a light into a often overlooked section of the capital city.
Here are some Indie Grits events that span the gamut from arts to entertainment for video game fans to hardcore film enthusiasts and music lovers — and this isn't even close to all of it.
The one thing you won’t be able to find at Indie Grits is boredom.
If you're a film buff
Indie Grits is showing 86 films this year, more than ever before, says Katie Alice Walker of KAW Communications, who works with publicity for the festival. And a lot of those are shorts, which are grouped into blocks with a theme. All film events will be at the Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St. Tickets are $11, with discounts for Nick members and students.
"Southern Scenes" shorts block. While all of the films shown at the festival have a connection to the South — whether through the subject matter or the maker — one program of shorts will really let you dig into what makes up this region. All of the films in that block explore perspectives from towns across the South, including Columbia ("Sunlit" by Gerry Melendez), Atlanta ("Levitate, Levitate, Levitate" by House of June), Austin ("Atlantic City" by Miguel Alvarez), and Hokes Bluff, Alabama ("Socks on Fire: Uncle John and the Copper Headed Water Rattlers" by Bo McGuire). Showings are 1 p.m. Friday, April 13, and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 14.
If you want a straightforward narrative, you could get in on screenings of:
"Farmsteaders," a 57-minute documentary about a farmer working to resurrect his late grandfather's land, provide for his family and imagine a better way to feed people. 7 p.m. Friday, April 13.
"Luke & Jo," a feature-length narrative about a troubled screenwriter who, against his wife's wishes, goes to Hollywood for a last-ditch effort to sell his latest script. When a heavy-drinking singer nearly plows him down with her car one night, the two form a deep emotional bond. 5 p.m. Thursday, April 12. With "Bless These Sounds Under the City."
"Late-Night Mixtape," a short-film program billed as "an hour of undiluted merriment" for your "inner absurdist" to "get in touch with your ridiculous side." Showings are 10:15 p.m. Thursday, April 12, and 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 13.
If offbeat and nonlinear film is more your thing, you'll want to check out these short-film programs:
"Body Chronicles" films share a preoccupation with the human form, along with the abuses, violations and manipulations it endures. Showings are 2:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, and 9:15 p.m. Friday, April 13.
"Acts of Vulnerability," a deeply felt collection of authentic actions. Showings are 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14.
"Travel the Earth," which travels from the Texas Panhandle to the southern rim of Japan. Showings are 3:10 p.m. Saturday, April 14, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15.
If you're all about girl power
One unique element of the festival this year is the number of female filmmakers showcased.
More than 50 percent of the films at Indie Grits were made by women. According to the organizers, that percentage outpaces other film festivals.
Here are a few to get you started:
"The Traveler Takamure" by Jing Niu. When filmmaker and Indie Grits alum Jing Niu discovers a lost book by poet and feminist Takamure Itsue recounting the 750-mile pilgrimage she completed in 1918, Jing quits her job, packs her bags, and embarks on an epic journey to Japan to retrace Takamure’s footsteps. Part of the "Travel the Earth" shorts program. Showings are 3:10 p.m. Saturday, April 14, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15.
"Growing Girl" by Marnie Ellen Hertzler. Timely social issues are put into the context of a corporate wasteland of toxic masculinity as a woman’s PowerPoint presentation on snakes jabs at that male-dominated culture and disrupts the bro routine. Part of the "Acts of Vulnerability" shorts program.
"Krista" by Danny Madden. This film centers around a young actress who is harassed in the streets. “Her performance in class becomes a vehicle for the volcanic emotions she would otherwise have to keep bottled up inside,” says organizer Amada Tourella. Part of the "Acts of Vulnerability" shorts program.
If you're just there for the tunes
Another one of Indie Grits primary attractions is the diversity of music it brings together. The festival has become something like Columbia’s version of the prominent Austin, Texas, festival South by Southwest.
Indie Grits’ 2018 celebration welcomes 30 bands across the four days of the festival.
“I'm thrilled that Seth Gadsden (a festival organizer) and Indie Grits went with me on this idea to expand the music end of things into its own mini-fest running throughout the four days,” says Indie Grits music curator Jordan Lawrence. “In approaching this task, I thought it was crucial to match Indie Grits' always-impressive diversity with a lineup that's far-flung but also has through lines holding it together.”
Love, Grits & Hip Hop. Indie Grits has partnered with Love, Peace, and Hip Hop to bring Deniro Farrar as the opening night’s headliner in the Skyline Room at Tapp’s Art Center. The gruff and wise raps of this Charlotte, North Carolina-born emcee have drawn praise, while his willingness to experiment with the bounds of trap rap sets him apart.
Paleface, who came to prominence in the ‘90s as a Beck contemporary, highlights the second night of music with his worn and raucously joyful songwriting at Tapp’s Fountain Room. Over in the Space Hall of Tapp’s, heavy grindings and swamp riffs will be pounded out by metal bands WVRM, Bathe, and Black Tusk.
7 p.m. Thursday, April 12, to 1 a.m. Friday, April 13, at Tapp's Arts Center, 1644 Main St. Tickets are $10 at www.tappsartscenter.com or www.indiegrits.org or $12 at the door. One ticket grants admission to the Space Hall, the Fountain Room and the Skyline Room.
Sunday Dinner: The family-friendly closing ceremony of Indie Grits features more food for your ears, including the new blues of Amythyst Kiah and Dom Flemons, the Grammy Award-winning founder of Carolina Chocolate Drops. The modern jazz and hip-hop stylings of The Beast open the day. In anticipation of inclement weather, the event has been moved from an outdoor area in North Columbia to the Music Farm, Lawrence said Thursday.
1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at Music Farm, 1022 Senate St. Free.
If you look for unity in art
A mission of Indie Grits is to look at the diversity of the Southern experience. You can get an even more local perspective by getting out the Two Cities exhibition in North Columbia.
A cohort of North Columbia-based artists in various disciplines engaged with community members over the course of the months leading up to Indie Grits to create new works.
This is a diverse event that includes works of art in photography, painting, film and video, and even an aquaponic garden.
“Two Cities is exploring how racial and socioeconomic factors define our experiences and interactions within our shared city,” Tourrella says.
If you want something off-the-wall
Indie Bits. If video games are more your thing, Indie Bits brings all sorts of gripping experimentation to its arcade this year such as Voiceball — “It’s like foosball you play by singing (and) yelling,” says Cecil Decker of Indie Bits. Arcades are noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13, at Tapp's.
Indie Bits youth workshops teach kids to create interesting toys, instruments and games out of household objects. 3-5 p.m. Thursday, April 12 (ages 6-12), and Friday, April 13 (ages 12-18), at Richland Library Main, 1431 Assembly St. Register with firstname.lastname@example.org.
VR Gallery. One virtual reality game is played around 40 live cacti, and another “is set in a neurocosmetology lab where black women are pioneering techniques of brain optimization and cognitive enhancement.” 5-9 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at 4021 Monticello Road.
The far ends of Indie Grits offerings are up for your pleasure:
Two Cities Puppet Slam. Puppets for grown folks. 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at Hyatt Hall, 4005 Monticello Road. $10 at indiegrits.org.
The Weekly Revue’s Church of Karaoke. Are you serious about karaoke, it's practically a religion? This is your jam. Don't feel like singing? Think crazy karaoke with a hefty side of sacrilege. Happy people-watching. 9 p.m. Friday, April 13, at Hyatt Hall, 4005 Monticello Road. Doors and drinks at 8 p.m.