Honors go to top indie filmmakers

15th festival wraps up 4-day run

Alan Spearman of The Commercial Appeal, the revered local rock band Big Star, Memphis micro-budget filmmaker Kentucker Audley and the late Rod Pitts, a pioneer in the Mid-South African-American filmmaking community, were among the honorees Sunday night at the 15th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival.

Pitts, who died March 16 at the age of 37 after a series of long-term health problems, was honored with the first Indie Memphis Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to his family members and filmmaking colleagues. Pitts had been an active participant in the local film scene and a mentor to younger African-American artists, in particular, for years.

The Indie Memphis festival began Thursday and continued through Sunday at various Midtown venues. Attendance at the festival's films, panels, workshops and technology-oriented "Innovation" programs was close to a record 11,000, said Indie Memphis board president Iddo Patt.

Created by Brooklyn-based filmmakers Danielle McCarthy, Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori, "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" — a long-awaited documentary about Big Star, the Memphis pop-rock band that achieved legendary status long after the commercial failure of its 1970s recordings — was named Best Documentary Feature. A Special Jury Prize for Documentary Feature was given to "Very Extremely Dangerous," a harrowing portrait of cancer-stricken Sun rockabilly artist Jerry McGill. The film was created by Ireland's Paul Duane and Memphis' Robert Gordon. The Best Narrative Feature Award went to the partly made-in-Memphis "Red Flag," a comedy about a filmmaker on a road trip through the South.

In the Hometowner category, which recognizes the work by Memphis-area filmmakers, winners were Audley's "Open Five 2" (Feature), Spearman's "As I Am" (Documentary Short), which also won an audience award, and "Pretty Monsters" (Narrative Short), by Ryan Parker and G.B. Shannon.

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