Columbia Film Festival Gains National Attention

No Instant Grits

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For those of us not in the Columbia-know, the Nickelodeon Theater may sound like a Universal Theme Park attraction, but this weekend it hosts an attraction of a different kind. The “Nick” is home to the Indie Grits Film Festival, which has been named one of Movie Maker magazine's Top 20 Coolest Film Fests in the world for the second time. Now in its eighth year, Indie Grits focuses on bringing the best films related to the South to South Carolina’s capital. But Grits is more than just film screenings; it also involves music, education, and local collaborations.

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Indie Grits wasn’t always an international festival. When it started eight years ago, it was highly expiriemental and unknown. “Four years ago we just started adding more and more” says festival director Seth Gadsden. Film is the centerpiece of Grits, but “it’s slowly becoming more than just a film festival,” says Gadsden, who maintains that focusing on the filmmakers has been integral to Grits’ success. This year there are 14 feature films on the roster. Most films are documentaries, focusing on everything from drag musicals to ballerinas to Florida’s environment. There are also narrative films and non-competitive films, a series of shorts produced and funded through a grant program provided by the S.C. Film Commission and Trident Technical College. With a bevy of short films lined up also, there’s no doubt that there’s a film for every taste. Prizes range from $250-$1000 for awards from Young Grit for best student film to Top Grit, the best film at the fest.

Indie Grits also has non-cinematic entertainment planned, but rest assured it all relates back to film. “We don’t willy-nilly select bands and stuff, it’s important to have a why, it needs to be rich and meaningful,” says Gadsden of Grits’ growing festivities. Indie Grits has a musical lineup, including of Montreal, a Georgia-based indie rock band headlining this year. Musicians Girls of ROCK! will be performing at the opening party on April 11, and Love, Peace, and Hip Hop will be hosting a family day filled with inspiring R&B. An adults only vaudeville puppet show, Spork in Hand Puppet Slam will be shown April 12-13. Gadsden says, “It became a marquee event, we just expanded it, every show sells out.” And we can't blame them; who wouldn’t want to watch a live band accompany puppeteers who can finally cover adult material? The Slow Food Sustainable Chef’s Showcase will take place on April 13, and all dishes will use locally sustainable ingredients. Indie Bits, a video-game showcase will take place on the latter half of April 15. One day later, there’s a pizza party at the Whig, a popular Columbia bar. On April 18, Toby David will host his Weekend Revue at the Half and Half. David’s show is historically and religiously focused, and Indie Grits will be the first time the Revue has been on the road. “It’s somewhere in between preaching and Bukowski. It’s philosophical,” says Gadsden, who met David in New Orleans before getting him to perform at the fest.  
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There’s plenty for kids to do too. Indie Camp Remixed runs April 14-18 and gives teenagers the chance to create their own short films alongside festival filmmakers. Each day a different filmmaker will come and show their work, followed by a discussion. Then, the kids get to recreate the film. The camp is replacing Indie Grits’ usual school outreach program, as Columbia schools are having Spring Break the same week as the festival this year. The S.C. Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities is sponsoring a Kindie Grits event for kids. In addition to an animation workshop, there’s a make-your-own-video-game session. Gadsden also works with interns year long and loves to teach people about film.

Gadsden says this year’s festival is supposed to be the biggest ever. Last year over 8,000 people attended over the 10-day festivities. Gadsden is also hoping to push awareness of Indie Grits in the region. “If you ask someone regionally, they may not know who we are, but you go to L.A. and ask about Indie Grits and they know right off the bat,” he says. With thousands of attendees, alumni like documentary filmmakers the Ross Brothers, and a full spectrum of film related attractions, Indie Grits seems poised to expand every year.

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