C. Scott McCoy and Laura Jean Hocking's full-length music documentary Antenna and Alan Spearman's South Memphis-set short doc As I Am were double-winners at the 15th Indie Memphis Film Festival, which presented its awards at a closing ceremony Sunday night.
Antenna won Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature and a Special Jury Award for Local Significance from the Hometowner jury. As I Am took in two Hometowner awards, Best Documentary Short and the Audience Award.
The ceremony was hosted by producer Savannah Bearden and featured video clips from the local Corduroy Wednesday filmmaking group, which spoofed the upcoming presidential election with a fictional election for Indie Memphis executive director. Filmmakers G.B. Shannon, Edward Valibus Phillips, and Ben Siler portrayed challengers to "incumbent" Erik Jambor, who went above and beyond this year by overseeing the biggest and best Indie Memphis yet despite having his first child — a daughter, Simone — just two days before the festival began. (Simone made a cameo at the ceremony, in the arms of mother happy mother Robin Salant.) Helping in the expansion is primary sponsor Duncan-Williams, Inc..
"I've told Erik, we're going to continue to make this bigger and better every year," Williams himself announced at the ceremony's outset.
The most memorable acceptance speech came from Kentucker Audley and Caroline White, the "stars" and co-producers of Audley's intensely personal Open Five 2, which won the award for Best Hometowner Feature.
"I think I'm the only person on the stage that likes the movie," Audley cracked after White was struggling for words to explain the film.
The festival introduced a new award this year, the Indie Memphis Lifetime Achievement Award, which was given to late Memphis filmmaker Rod Pitts, who passed away this spring and whose lone feature as a director, What Goes Around ..., received an encore screening at the festival.
The award was introduced by filmmakers Craig Brewer and Chris McCoy, who remembered Pitts as a promising filmmaker on his own as well as a tireless advocate and contributor to the work of other aspiring local artists. The award was accepted by actor Marcus Seaberry, who gave a brief, emotional speech on Pitts behalf.
"Yesterday was the first time I'd seen What Goes Around ... since he passed and I didn't know how I'd handle it, but it was joyous."
Outside of local work, the top awards went to actor/director Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag for Best Narrative Feature and Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me for Best Documentary Feature.
The festival's longstanding Soul of Southern Film Award went to Pilgrim Song, a Kentucky-set film from West Virginia-based filmmaker Martha Stephens that was also produced by the local Paper Moon Films. (And, on a personal note, Pilgrim Song was probably my favorite in-competition film I was able to see at this year's festival.)
FULL LIST OF INDIE MEMPHIS 2012 AWARDS
Narrative Feature Awards:
Best Narrative Feature — Red Flag
Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature — Quartet
Nice Shoes Award — Sun Don't Shine
Duncan-Williams Screenwriting Award — Red Legs
Special Jury Award for Cinematography — Pavilion
Best Documentary Feature — Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Special Jury Prize for Documentary Feature — Very Extremely Dangerous
Best Documentary Short — Mr. Smith's Peach Seeds
Special Jury Prize for Documentary Short — Abuelas
Audience Award for Documentary Feature — Antenna
Audience Award for Documentary Short — Cardboard Titanics
Short Films Awards:
Best Short Film — Throat Song
Best Animated/Experimental Film — The Hunter
Special Jury Prize for Cinematography — Suspended
Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Performance — Robert Longstreet (for Cork's Cattlebaron and What Happens When Robert Leaves the Room)
Audience Award for Narrative Short — Morning Stroll
Best Hometowner Feature — Open Five 2
Best Hometowner Narrative Short — Pretty Monsters
Honorable Mention for Best Hometowner Narrative Short — Twine Sleep
Best Hometowner Documentary Short — As I Am
Audience Award for Hometowner Film — As I Am
Special Jury Prize for Local Significance — Antenna
Festival Committee Awards:
First Annual Indie Memphis Lifetime Achievement Award — Rod Pitts
Soul of Southern Film Award — Pilgrim Song
Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award — Reconvergence