When you’re finishing a movie, the rest of the world fades into white noise. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about where the film would show and who would see it, but I wasn’t prepared for the festival circuit.

I’ve worked at huge fests, and I was discouraged that the art that we put hours into would be served as a part of a buffet. The idea that everyone there put as much into their film as we did made the thought of people consuming them back to back with no time to digest even more unpalatable. But when I saw my film included at Indie Memphis—one of the strongest programmed ever—I realized that these films could not be passively received, let alone by an audience as passionate as the one in Memphis.

Upon arriving in town, I took my compatriots over to the corner of Beale and Main and made them listen to Jimmie Rodgers sing “Blue Yodel No. 9” off my iPhone. We had an amazing meal at Cozy Corner—the banana pudding, my God! Later, as I was introducing my film, Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes, I mentioned that I based my musical on the songs of Nashville resident John Prine, and the audience cheered. This proved to me that I was home. What makes Indie Memphis special is that it maintains the charm of a local festival while offering an eye toward the global. My favorite working director, prolific South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo, had his four most recent films highlighted. Khalik Allah’s glorious

Black Mother screened in the departures section. New York’s Notes on an Appearance and Jobe’z World brought some big city slickness. Some of the biggest films of the year (Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk and Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You), smaller films like Rukus, Amy Seimetz introducing Barbara Loden’s Wanda, Zia Anger turning a talk into a work of art, a panel on Elvis, fabulous local live music… there was something for everyone. I can’t tell you the number of epiphanic moments that involved someone remarking on how special the entire experience was—in a quiet, humble way, too—the kind you know is going to stick with you your whole life.

While Indie Memphis has been on my radar for years, as it has for any moviemaker who keeps up with the circuit, I must acknowledge the new artistic director Miriam Bale, who in her first year built a utopia of art and diversity. At the awards, she professed, “When your festival is diverse, you don’t have to focus on diversity—you can focus on art.” That’s just what everyone did at Indie Memphis 2018. MM

Indie Memphis 2018 ran from November 1-5, 2018. Featured image: The red carpet rolls and a block party tent is pitched outside the Circuit Playhouse at Indie Memphis Film Festival 2018. Photograph by Andrea Morales.