Independent filmmakers tour returns to Ritz Theatre

“Swim Team” is one of six independent films that will screen at the Ritz Theatre in Sheffield in the coming months. This is part of the Southern Circuit Tour for Independent Filmmakers, which the Ritz has been a part of for four years.

by Life Editor Tyler Hargett

The Ritz Theatre in Sheffield will begin screening independent films next month as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers.

The first screening will be Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. Admission will be $5 for UNA students and $8 for the general public.

The tour involves independent film directors traveling across Southern states to screen their movies in different cities and hosting a Q&A with the audience after each screening.

This is the fourth year the Ritz Theatre has been a stop on the Southern Circuit tour. This year’s series will consist of six films.

“A lot of the new independent releases never come to places like Florence or Sheffield, so this provides an opportunity for us to get access to it,” said Assistant English Professor Katie Owens-Murphy.

Owens-Murphy said after attending the circuit screenings last year, Mary Cooney, executive director of the Tennessee Valley Art Association, asked her to attend the selection conference for the upcoming circuit in Atlanta.

Choosing the films involved watching clips from 60 different films and negotiating between representatives, as all the films must be the same for all screening locations on the tour.

Cooney said Owens-Murphy was a good choice for a representative because of her passion for learning and the impact the circuit has had on her.

“She’s inquisitive, she wants to learn and she wants to know more about what’s going on in the world,” Cooney said. “I think she saw (last year) that these films brought that to our community.”

Owens-Murphy said besides getting to see great films, she also learned a lot through interactions with the directors.

“The filmmakers who toured with (the films) were so gracious, friendly, willing to interact with the audience and really wanted to hear what the audience thought,” she said.

Senior Ashley Garcia said she believes more students need to come to the tour.

“I love independent films and believe they deserve more attention and appreciation,” Garcia said. “Students need to visit more films at the Ritz, because not all learning takes place in a classroom setting.”

Owens-Murphy is one of the professors who has made attending the films extra credit for students, with an assignment of writing a one-page response to a film of a relevant topic.

“I think that independent films are a great way for those of us who don’t have a lot of money or time to travel to experience other peoples’ lives, other cultures (and) other moments in history,” Owens-Murphy said.

Cooney said the films give communities an opportunity to a look at issues going on around the world.

Senior Ashley Garcia said she believes more students need to come to the tour.

“I love independent films and believe they deserve more attention and appreciation,” Garcia said. “Students need to visit more films at the Ritz, because not all learning takes place in a classroom setting.”