Sidewalk Film Festival Recap
by Shermika Dunner
What’s 13 and gets bigger, better and wiser with each year? Sidewalk Film Festival, heralded as one of the greatest independent film festivals in the Southeast, welcomed moviegoers to Birmingham’s theater district August 26-28. I had the pleasure of attending and managed to see quite a few films that are either about the South or have a Southern connection.
“The Reconstruction of Asa Carter” is a documentary that profiles the life of Asa Carter, a KKK leader from Alabama who fibbed about being a Native American in a memoir he wrote. Utilizing the name Forrest Carter, he wrote “The Education of Little Tree,” which chronicled his life as a Cherokee orphan. To date, the book has sold over a million copies and is regarded as one of the first books in the Native American literature genre. The documentary’s subject matter is intriguing, considering Carter was the speechwriter for George Wallace, but lacks appeal and left many unanswered questions. The film did explore Carter’s life in the KKK but glossed over what happened after it was discovered he was not a Native American. I regret choosing this one over “Sahkanaga,” but that’s always the dilemma at film festivals.
Next up, “Leaving Selma” chronicles the events of Bloody Sunday and instantly whisks the viewer away to Jim Crow-era Birmingham. For those not familiar with Civil Rights history, Bloody Sunday is the day demonstrators who marched on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Selma to Montgomery March to advocate for the passage of the Voting Rights Act were stopped and beaten. The documentary, narrated by Andrew Young, includes interviews by the late Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham, John Lewis and many other participants in the struggle for Civil Rights. This film was emotional to say the least, but it was refreshing to see and hear from those who marched on such an important day in the South’s history. Their strength immediately captivates the viewer as they recount their experience.
As a fellow Alabamian, I know firsthand how hard it is for the state to move beyond its racial tensions. “Leaving Selma” eloquently captured the struggle for human dignity and is a must-see. I also saw a few local shorts by Alabama filmmakers, and although some lacked strong story lines and stellar acting, a few showed Birmingham’s rich scenery and diverse landscape. “Cardboard Titanics” is a 9-minute short that was extremely hilarious as participants build, row and race boats that are made of cardboard.
Overall, Sidewalk Film Festival is one you should place on your to do list for 2012. Or at least attend your own town’s film festival and see what the South has to offer on screen.
For photos and more on Shermika’s festival experience, visit her blog ArtBLT.