Independent films and special guests highlight festival

When the Shoals community is not jamming to jazzy tunes at the W.C. Handy Festival, they are harnessing their inner cinephile during the George S. Lindsey Festival.

Entering its 21st year, the festival, getting its name from the actor who started it, continues to offer attendees free screenings to independent films from Alabama and beyond.

Now more than ever, independent filmmakers are starved for exposure, said Festival Co-Chair Michael Johnson. Theres so much great work out there, and it deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Besides the films competing in various categories, the festival will also screen 42 films shot in Alabama. The winner will receive the Clyde Sappo Black Sweet Home Alabama Award, named after one of Lindseys childhood friends.

One of the festivals defining features is allowing attendees to ask questions and discuss the films with filmmakers.

Our audiences love the ability to interact with filmmakers, who are always eager to talk about their work, said Festival Director Cynthia Burkhead.

She said the festival continues to be successful by providing southern hospitality to visitors with its free and open to the public policy.

It is this human touch that has allowed the festival to endure at a time when many festivals are going out of business, she said.

This years special guests include actor Arron Shiver (Boardwalk Empire, The Men Who Stare at Goats) and special effects coordinator Joe Pancake (Spider-Man, Transformers: The Last Knight).

Shiver will participate in the Actors who Direct/Directors who Act panel March 2 at 10 a.m. in Room 131 of the Communications building. His film Cortez, which is a finalist in the festival for best professional narrative feature, will screen at 11 a.m. in the Mane Room.

Pancake, who is Lindseys son-in-law, will host an SFX workshop on the creation of pyrotechnic and explosive effects in television and film March 3 at 11 a.m. in Room 124 of the Communications building.

Freshman Kiya Anderson said having special guests at the festival provides opportunities for students interested in entering the film industry.

“It gives us opportunities to see where we could possibly be (in the future),” she said. “It’s saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to just reach here. You can reach for the stars (and) right here’s a start.’”

Johnson said he is thankful to Lindsey for making the festival a reality.

“‘Radical probably isnt a word George would have used to describe himself, but its a radical act to start a film festival, he said. To give back to your community when youve already made it in the industry, its really a gift.

Films will continue to screen until March 3. The festivals awards show will take place March 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mane Room.

To view the schedule of film screenings and events for this years festival, visit