26 August, 2016

21 Films to See at the 2016 Sidewalk Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Festival turns 18-years-old and I am pleased as punch to be attending for my fourth year. This is easily one of the best festivals in the world, from the picture-perfect program to the intensely smooth operations that are stretched across 12 venues throughout Downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

I gush every year, and I'll continue to gush this year—do not miss this festival.

I've highlighted 21 films you should catch this weekend. I know, 21 is a high number, but don't blame me—blame the programming team led by Rachel Morgan and the filmmakers that hear great things every year and submit good works to this wonderful showcase.

Four films are marked as Can't Miss—"Cheerleader," "The Arbalest," "Contemporary Color" and "Fraud"—and once you see them, you'll know why. Check out the full list after the jump!

Opening Night: In a Valley of Violence

A drifter with nothing to lose aims his sights on the thugs who killed his dog and receives unlikely assistance from a young woman who runs the dusty town's hotel with her older sister.

Can't Miss: Cheerleader

One of the best indies to grace the festival circuit in some time, Irving Franco's feature debut possesses all the style and polish you would find in Nicolas Winding Refn's best work. Both visually and emotionally magnetic, "Cheerleader" takes you inside Mickey's head as she loses herself in a world of love, guilt and typical teen angst.

Can't Miss: The Arbalest

"The Arbalest" is a confessional recount of the reclusive private life of Foster Kalt, the world-renowned inventor of the Kalt Cube. The strange reflection pieces together strange events and romantic obsessions that compound in a disturbing invention despite his ten-year vow of silence.

Can't Miss: Contemporary Color

Ten of the country’s elite color guard teams—the flag-flipping, sequin-studded crème de la crème of the 'sport of the arts'—sync steps with musical luminaries for a bacchanalia of beats, sabre-spinning, and glitter cannons. Featuring live performances by David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, Money Mark & Ad-Rock, Zola Jesus, St. Vincent and more!

Can't Miss: Fraud

Controversial and labeled both fiction and non-fiction, "Fraud" is constructed from family footage found on YouTube and twisted into something entirely unique and unsettling.

The Fits

An 11-year-old girl joins a dance drill team at her local rec center but her newfound teammates and friends begin to suffer from terrifying episodes of fainting in this psychological drama directed by Anna Rose Holmer.

Girl Asleep

In this vibrant portrayal of Australian adolescence, Greta Driscoll's bubble of obscure loserdom is burst when her parents throw her a surprise 15th birthday party and invite the whole school! Perfectly content being a wallflower, suddenly Greta's flung far from her comfort zone into a distant, parallel place—a strange world that's a little frightening and a lot weird, but only there can she find herself.

Holy Hell

In 1985, recent film school graduate Will Allen became a member of The Buddhafield, a Los Angeles area spiritual group. Also acting as the group's official videographer, he began to document their activities, which centered on the mysterious leader they called Michel, or The Teacher.

Kate Plays Christine

Actress Kate Lyn Sheil prepares to play a news reporter who killed herself on television in 1974 in this hybrid narrative-documentary.


"KEDi" is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people’s lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can.

Little Men

Two teens develop a growing friendship in Brooklyn, while the feud between their respective parents (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle) continues to escalate.


"Ma" is a striking modern-day vision of Mother Mary's pilgrimage through the eyes of Ma (played by  director Celia Rowlson-Hall), a woman who must venture across the scorched landscape of the American Southwest to fulfill her destiny.

Other People

After a tough breakup, a struggling writer (Jesse Plemons) moves from New York to Sacramento to take care of his terminally ill mother (Molly Shannon).


Atlanta-based artist Susan Cofer invited Georgia-born filmmaker John Henry Summerour (“Sahkanaga”) to spend a year documenting Saultopaul, an 1100-acre farm in northwest Georgia populated by Longhorn cattle, gigantic rock sculptures and Carl, her husband in his 80th year.

But wait, there's more...

This festival, as usual, is loaded! Feature films and short films worth checking out abound in the slightly-more-than-two-day lineup. From acclaimed shorts like "The Quantified Self" and "The New Orleans Sazerac" to documentaries "Chicken People" and "Speed Sisters," everything you see here will be worth talking about afterward.
  • "Chicken People"
  • "Donald Cried"
  • "More than Music: Senegal"
  • "Morris From America"
  • "The New Orleans Sazerac"
  • "The Quantified Self"
  • "Speed Sisters"

For the full schedule, ticketing and more information, check out the website at www.sidewalkfest.com.

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