UNA hosts 25th George Lindsey Film Fest

Tiffani Adams, Volunteer Writer

The 25th Annual George Lindsey UNA Film Festival has wrapped up its four-day production showcasing talents across the world. The film festival was held March 2 -5, and during those four days numerous viewings, panels and celebrations were held to honor George Lindsey and emphasize UNA’s “Year of the Woman.”

The George Lindsey Film Festival is the longest running film festival in Alabama. Professional films from various regions and different categories were showcased in The Alley Cat to display the numerous talents of young, aspiring filmmakers. These films ranged from horror to documentaries with the purpose to entertain and educate. The panels and workshops were held in the Mane Room and aided in connecting these individuals to industry professionals in an informal setting.

Michael Johnson, chair and assistant professor of Film Production, produced this year’s festival, and has been the official planner since 2016. Johnson screened every film before deciding if it will be showcased and worked with several UNA departments to make final decisions. The message of the festival has always been to appreciate unique cinematic arts. Johnson said he is proud of the inclusivity and women empowerment represented in this year’s message.

“We have a number of film festivals trying to reach parody,” Johnson said. “[We are] trying to get more films directed by people of color. Trying to really have a focus on that because not only is it just underrepresented in media, but in the profession itself.”

Johnson wants to include more students in the production of the film festival in later years to create community with other filmmakers from across the globe and establish an appreciation of the cinematic arts.

Brenna Wardell, Associate Professor of Film Studies in the UNA English department, is the moderator and coordinator for the festival, and contacted the most about participating in them. Her passion about films makes her excited about potential new contenders.

“We celebrate the South and Alabama filmmakers,” Wardell said. “It is a great opportunity to earn awards- like financial help and recognition, which is really great. They go out into the world beyond Alabama and make a splash.”

Movies are not the only awarded subjects in the festival. Natalie Justus won Best Feature Screenplay at the award ceremony Saturday night for her screenplay “Death of a Bachelor”. It was her first time participating in the film festival, having only watched in previous years, and strengthened her connection to film and UNA.

“It’s nice to see a film community in this area and involved with the school,” Justus said. “At my school, it’s a very small program.”

While the festival is mostly held to view, celebrate, and learn about films, it is presented as a strong networking device. Audience members in attendance this year included: Sasha Levinson and Edie Hand. Levinson has worked with several Hollywood stars, participated in the Women Making Movies panel and received the award for Best Professional Documentary. Hand is a published author who personally worked with George Lindsey years ago and has made appearances on U.S.A Today.

Hand was in attendance to showcase her documentary “Women of True Grit” and seek out potential women filmmakers to implement her message and programs to. She was excited that this year’s festival celebrating UNA’s “Year of the Woman” gave her the opportunity to aid young women that aspire to create.

“You can’t get something done if no one believes in you,” Hand said. “We can do this for each other as a sisterhood- for women.” Lily Prater, a marketer for small film businesses, was seeking out clients. She had her own film premiered but was searching for talent for her company in Georgia.

“I would like to come back and bring my company,” Prater said. “We go places and strive for connections. Seeing as the community here is thriving, we would definitely like to come back.”

The success of the George Lindsey Film Festival is reliant on donations and grants of individuals passionate about film. A scholarship for film students at UNA was prepared in 2011 and named after Lindsey for his commitment to helping young and aspiring individuals. President Ken Kitts concluded the award ceremony (and final night) of the film festival by promising to honor George Lindsey and generate more funding for the arts.