Commercial Appeal Film Critic John Beifuss Honored at Indie Memphis Film Festival Awards Ceremony


Film critic John Beifuss was honored with the Indie Memphis Vision Award at the awards ceremony last Saturday night at Circuit Playhouse. The Vision Award is given to “someone who has made a lasting impact” on the Indie Memphis Film Festival and the Mid South cinema community as a whole. Presenter Ryan Watt, the festival’s executive director, presented the award, called Beifuss “Memphis’ pre-eminent film journalist and critic” and praising his “dedicated coverage of the film festival as well as independent film in general, giving the art of filmmaking and unwavering presence in the press due to his efforts.” The normally unflappable Beifuss’ voice cracked with emotion as he accepted the award. After the takeover of the Commercial Appeal by Gannett earlier this year, Beifuss was taken off the film criticism beat and reassigned as an entertainment reporter, leading to a letter writing campaign and social media protests from his readers.

Film critic John Beifuss accepts his Vision Award at the Indie Memphis Film Festival's awards ceremony on Saturday, November 5 2016 at the Circuit Playhouse. - BREEZY LUCIA
  • Breezy Lucia
  • Film critic John Beifuss accepts his Vision Award at the Indie Memphis Film Festival's awards ceremony on Saturday, November 5 2016 at the Circuit Playhouse.

Other awards at the 19th annual festival includes Deb Shoval’s AWOL receiving both the Best Narrative Feature and the Audience Award, Maise Crow’s Jackson receiving both the Best Documentary Feature and the Audience Award, and Ala Har’el’s LoveTrue receiving both the Best Departures and Audience Awards for experimental features. This is the first time in the history of the festival that three films have won both audience and jury awards.

The Hometowner Feature awards went to Madsen Minax’s Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum and the Audience Award went to Kathy Lofton’s I Am A Caregiver. The jury awarded Best Hometowner Narrative Short award to Graham Uhleski and Daniel Ray Hamby’s “Doppleganger”, while Best Hometowner Documentary Short went to “A.J.” by Melissa Anderson Sweazy and Laura Jean Hocking. Hocking also won the Hometowner Narrative Short Audience Award for “How To Skin A Cat”, which she co-directed with C. Scott McCoy (which, full disclosure, is this columist’s filmmaking nom de guerre). The winner of the Hometowner Narrative Short Audience Award was "The Rugby Boys of Venice" by Jared Biunno. Special Jury Prizes when to Kevin Brooks for his skateboarding short “Keep Pushing” and actress Gabrielle Gobel for her role in “Teeth”.

The Indie Award went to Sarah Fleming for her roles as first assistant director and cinematographer on multiple productions in the festival, although the presenter did single her out for serving on the crew of Free In Deed while both six months pregnant with her first child and sporting a broken foot.

Early estimates suggest a record turnout for Indie Memphis 2016, which spanned seven days and screened films at downtown’s Halloran Centre, Overton Square’s Circuit Playhouse, the Malco Ridgeway Cinema, and Collierville. For more information on Indie Memphis’ year-round programming schedule and a complete list of the winners, visit the Indie Memphis website.

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