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Indie Grits opens today. Here’s what not to miss

Known as the unofficial watering hole for Indie Grits filmmakers, musicians, and festival-goers alike, The Whig will open its doors for a late night of drinks, food, and pleasant company.
Known as the unofficial watering hole for Indie Grits filmmakers, musicians, and festival-goers alike, The Whig will open its doors for a late night of drinks, food, and pleasant company. Submitted

Sure, you can watch a lot of films at the 13th annual Indie Grits film festival.

It is, at its core, one of the coolest film festivals in the world, as designated by a magazine who knows these things.

But Indie Grits has grown beyond a film festival and offers programming for folks of all ages and interests. There are more than 100 films for film buffs to enjoy, opportunities to learn more about the process of filmmaking and how to help emerging filmmakers in the community.

This year’s four-day event includes 18 musical performances, 20 blocks of short films, three free community events, a late night dance party and a free arcade of interactive media.

Indie Grits Labs combines the organization’s media education programs and its annual fellowship program with the Indie Grits brand. The festival has grown even bigger featuring the annual premieres of its own productions and new Filmmaker Focus program — a professional development track running through the heart of the festival.

Filmmaker Focus is a new offering at Indie Grits this year, a free series of programs open to the public, aimed at supporting filmmakers currently working in the documentary and the doc-narrative hybrid field. Indie Grits has identified the need to be more than an exhibitor of emerging and established Southern voices and is working to create an open space for dialogue and collaboration in which filmmakers can find support in every level of their projects from pre-production to post. Work-in-progress screenings, panels, workshops, and more make this festival track a unique, resourceful experience for filmmakers and film-lovers alike.

Indie Grits started as a DIY festival for a tight-knit and dedicated audience. It has grown into a staple of Columbia’s cultural life, giving novice to advanced media makers from across the Southeast a venue for sharing their interest in independent media making, while also giving thousands of visitors and locals access to a progressive cultural life unmatched in the Southeast.

Indie Grits filmmakers alumni have showcased their films at festivals such as SXSW and Sundance, and Indie Grits was twice named one of the 20 “Coolest Film Festivals” in the world by Moviemaker Magazine in 2012 and 2014.

Among the events this year is the Rural Project, which is 12 short documentary films produced by Indie Grits Labs that focus on the issues facing small town and rural communities in the Southeast in the 21st century. These films will screen during The Rural Project Premiere on the opening night of the festival, March 28 at the Nickelodeon Theatre, and during The Fist & Spoon Fair on March 30 in Boyd Plaza at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Schedule of events

Opening Night in Cottontown. There will be live music featuring more than 10 bands at Indah Coffee, Curiosity Coffee Bar, and The War Mouth. Columbia Craft Brewing Company will be making a special Indie Grits beer, available at all satellite spaces and at the Nickelodeon Theatre throughout the festival. March 28, 5-10 p.m. Curiosity Coffee Bar, 2327 Main St.; The War Mouth, 1209 Franklin St.; Indah Coffee, 2238 Sumter St. Free.

Indie Bits. Indie Bits is an arts and education organization that aims to design and promote inclusive gaming experiences for all. Indie Bits cultivates thoughtful production, education, and community oriented expression with regard to games, technology advancement, social outreach, and code-based learning. Indie Bits feature digital, physical, and virtual media ranging from casual to experimental. March 28-31, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 1216 Taylor St.

The Fist & Spoon Fair. Food trucks, a regional zine showcase, puppets, films, live music, and more. CMA galleries will be open for free throughout the duration of the party. There will be two Puppet Slams (not appropriate for children) at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (cost $10); Hip Tags Screening (an intriguing orphan film mystery with 1970s Columbia as its main character) at 6:30 p.m.; and the Rural Project Screening at 7 p.m. March 30, 5-9 p.m., Columbia Museum of Art, 1515 Main St. Free.

Overdue Grits. For adults 21 years and older; A gritsy edition of Richland Library’s Overdue — live music, art, interactive games, food, and drinks. Join us after hours at Richland Library for a night of tunes, tech, crafts, and so much more. Get inspired with interactive artwork from some of South Carolina’s best creatives. March 29, 7-11 p.m., Richland Library Main, 1431 Assembly St. Free.

The Weekly Revue. Toby Lou returns for this raucous New Orleans variety show designed and hosted by Lou “to edify and romance the people,” features special guests, live music, comedy, and more. 8-9:30 p.m. March 29, The Pastor’s Study, 1635 Main St. $10 general admission (free for festival pass holders).

After Party at The Whig. Known as the unofficial watering hole for Indie Grits filmmakers, musicians, and festival-goers alike, The Whig will open its doors for a late night of drinks, food, and pleasant company. Midnight March 29, The Whig, 1200 Main St.

Kindie Grits. Presented by the South Carolina Governor’s School of Arts and Humanities, this is an event for kids and families. Participants will utilize everything from markers to magazines, glitter, and other crafty tools to create imaginative stop motion animations together. All of this is led by an Indie Grits alumni filmmaker who always deliver a fun morning of creativity and filmmaking. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. March 30, Richland Library Main, 1431 Assembly St. Free.

Closing Night Dance Party. For adults 21 years and older; Dancing, live music, drinks, and interactive games. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. March 30, 1216 Taylor St. $5 at the door.

For the film buffs

Of course a big part of Indie Grits is the films. There will be more than 90 films from media makers throughout the country and offer a combination of documentary, narrative, animation, experimental and music videos. Here is a peek at some of the feature films, which are shown at The Nickelodeon Theatre:

“Always in Season.” How far would you go to get to the truth? That’s the question Claudia, mother of the late Lennon Lacy, puts to viewers of this documentary, which studies the lingering historic traumas and their effect on the present day. Though authorities ruled Lennon’s death by hanging a suicide, Claudia, an African-American woman and longtime North Carolina resident, suspects it was a racially motivated lynching. Directed by Jacqueline Olive. 7 p.m. March 29. 88 minutes.

“When Lambs Become Lions.” From the producers of the Oscar-nominated “Cartel Land,” this documentary feature follows a small-time ivory dealer in the Kenyan bush, who fights to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade. Directed by Jon Kasbe. 4:30 p.m. March 30. 76 minutes.

“Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind: The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Story.” This documentary portrait follows Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson — the North Carolina trio that came to comprise the Carolina Chocolate Drops — refurbished a 19th-century musical style for 21st century listeners, and in doing so earned a Grammy, as well as legions of adoring fans. Directed by John Whitehead. 3:30 p.m. March 31. 83 minutes.

“The Unafraid.” Shot over four years, this observational documentary feature follows Alejandro, Silvia, and Aldo, three DACA recipients for whom attending college in their home state of Georgia is all but impossible, given the government’s refusal to grant them entry or offer in-state tuition. Directed by Heather Courtney and Anayansi Prado. 4 p.m. March 28. 87 minutes.

“Pig Film.” In an empty world, a solitary woman mechanically follows the protocols of a factory hog farm. Her labors are sporadically punctuated by musical rhapsodies as she moves toward the impending end. Is it the end of the world, a program malfunction, or the beginning of a film? Directed by Josh Gibson. 4:30 p.m. March 28. 60 minutes.

“This Taco Truck Kills Fascists.” “No guacamole for immigrant haters.” That’s the message New Orleans-based performance activist José Torres-Tama hopes to spread through his Revolutionary Taco Truck Theatre. Drawing its title from musician Woody Guthrie’s famous motto, “This Taco Truck Kills Fascists” is the true story of an immigrant artist of color struggling to raise his two boys and to champion the voices of the marginalized in Trump’s America. Directed by Rodrigo Dorfman. 6:30 p.m. March 28. 61 minutes.

“Gimme a Faith.” In this documentary self-portrait, engineer-turned-filmmaker Hao Zhang, a recent transplant to the United States, finds solace in the company of a devout group of fellow Chinese expats, who — in the heart of the Bible Belt South — have embraced an evangelical Christian faith seemingly at odds with their roots. Directed by Hao Zhang. 2 p.m. March 29. 83 minutes.

“Lumpkin, GA.” This documentary feature — a lyrical exploration of indifference and isolation in today’s divided political climate — zeroes in on a poverty-stricken community in rural Georgia that plays host to one of America’s largest immigrant detention centers. Directed by Nicholas Manting Brewer. 6:30 p.m. March 29. 38 minutes.

“While I Breathe, I Hope.” What does it mean to be young, black, and a Democrat in the heart of the American South? That’s the question at the center of this documentary portrait of Bakari Sellers. A rising star in the progressive political establishment, Sellers’ 2014 bid to become South Carolina’s lieutenant governor — as well as his activism following the shooting deaths of the Emmanuel 9 in Charleston — serve as the backdrop for this moving feature. Directed by Emily Harrold. 8:30 p.m. March 29. 72 minutes

“America First: The Legacy of an Immigration Raid.” It’s been a decade since Postville, Iowa, suffered the largest immigration raid at a worksite in US history — 389 immigrants were arrested in the biggest kosher meatpacking plant in the country. As Donald Trump revives aspects of George W. Bush’s immigration enforcement policies, this documentary sheds light on the repercussions of such massive raids. Directed by Andrea Patiño Contreras and Almudena Toral. 1 p.m. March 30. 39 minutes.

“Black Mother.” Soulful and profound, filmmaker Khalik Allah offers a stark meditation on faith and Jamaican identity, juxtaposing scenes of the country’s churches and holy spaces with those of its sex workers, and presenting a series of searingly powerful images that will burn themselves into your memory. Directed by Khalik Allah. 10:45 p.m. March 30. 77 minutes.

“White Ravens: A Legacy of Resistance.” This contemplative documentary is about the indigenous Haida Gwaii people of British Columbia told from the perspective of a young Haida poet. The film bears witness to the transgenerational trauma of colonization as survivors, their children, and grandchildren struggle with the effects of substance abuse, suicide, and interfamily trauma. Directed by Georg Koszulinski. 12:30 p.m. March 31, 85 minutes.

“Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story.” In 1955, when racial segregation defined the South, two groups of 12-year-old boys stepped onto a baseball field in an act of cultural defiance that would change the course of American history. Directed by Jon Strong. 1 p.m. March 31. 88 minutes.

“Jaddoland.” In this documentary portrait, filmmaker Nadia Shihab returns to her hometown in the Texas panhandle to visit her mother, an artist from Iraq; her mother’s increasingly isolated life — and dynamic creative process — become the object of her attention. Directed by Nadia Shihab. 3 p.m. March 31. 90 minutes.

Lezlie Patterson, special to GoColumbia

If you go

Indie Grits Festival

When: March 28-31

Film passes: Festival passes are $100 for Nickelodeon Theatre members and $150 for the general public. Passes grant you full access to the festival— film screenings, puppet slams, music, and more.

Festival tickets: $11 general admission; $8 Nickelodeon members (price does not include the Weekly Revue, Puppet Slam or music events); $6 student (available at the box office only. Price does not include the Weekly Revue, Puppet Slam, or music events). Individual event tickets are $10.

For more information: For a complete schedule, including times and locations for all events, and to purchase tickets, go to www.indiegrits.org/festival.