The 25th annual Sidewalk Film Festival is right around the corner, and Birmingham could not be more excited. In fact, four of the films that will make an appearance at Sidewalk were made by Birminghamiams! We met with the directors and producers of Don’t Die, Shuttlesworth, Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre and Jasper Mall to learn more.
Don’t have your tickets to Sidewalk Film Festival yet? What are you waiting for! Visit the Sidewalk Film Festival website to get your tickets + see the full lineup of films.
Sidewalk Film Festival will be held August 21-27
Since it’s debut in 1998—25 years ago—Sidewalk Film Festival has been the premier event for Sidewalk, a federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging filmmaking in Alabama and building audiences for independent films. Each year, more than 15,000 enthusiastic attendees come to Sidewalk Film Festival to see the work of filmmakers from around the world.
“Sidewalk—both the festival and the cinema—brings films to Birmingham that otherwise wouldn’t make it here. Their programming is inspired and thoughtful and it’s an event we look forward to every year.”Bradford Thomas and Brett Whitcomb, Directors, Jasper Mall
This year, Sidewalk Film Festival will take place between August 21 and August 27, and will be held at several venues throughout The Magic City, including:
- Alabama School of Fine Arts
- Alabama Theatre
- Birmingham Museum of Art
- BJCC Forum Theatre
- First Church Birmingham
- Kress Building Ballroom
- Lyric Theatre
- Sidewalk Cinema
“I’m of the opinion that all residents in and near Birmingham should consider participating in the Sidewalk Film Festival. This event offers a wonderful opportunity to have an enjoyable experience, appreciate cinematic works, connect with creators, and explore the city.”T. Marie King, Co-Producer, Shuttlesworth
Don’t Die (2023)
Synopsis: Jenks has been pushed to the brink by a system that does not care about him. Desperate for life-saving medicine, he resorts to robbing a small-town drug store. But when he injures a mysterious woman involved in a black market pharmacy, his attempts to save her life may end up jeopardizing his own.
Not only was Don’t Die directed and produced by a cast and crew of local Birminghamians, but it was filmed in Birmingham (and the small town of Petersburg, TN) as well!
“This is the 8th of my films to screen at Sidewalk, which I’m very proud of. This is also the biggest film I’ve ever brought to the fest, and we’re screening in the biggest venue I’ve ever screened in, so, if I’m honest here, I’m definitely feeling some nervous energy. I’m really grateful for Sidewalk’s part in sharing our work with audiences, but also for the relationships the festival has fostered. I’ve built close friendships and lasting partnerships with people I’ve met at Sidewalk. Not only is Sidewalk a celebration of cinema, it’s a party. It’s a melting pot of cultures and belief systems. It’s a family reunion. It’s a vessel for empathy and understanding.”Benjamin Stark, Director, Don’t Die
The 2022 documentary Shuttlesworth premiered on Thursday, December 15th to a captivated audience at Birmingham’s historic Carver Theatre. Presented by Alabama Public Television, Shuttlesworth examines the life of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, from his segregated upbringing in Oxmoor Valley through his advocacy with Bethel Baptist Church, the Birmingham Campaign and beyond.
Shuttlesworth was produced by Birmingham residents T. Marie King and J. Whitson.
“As a Birmingham native, filmmaker, and social justice activist, being asked to contribute as a producer to a project that highlights the legacy of someone as significant as Fred Shuttlesworth in the fight for human rights was an honor in itself. However, the true source of pride and fulfillment came from seeing people embrace the documentary and gain a deeper understanding of Shuttlesworth’s message and the broader struggle against segregation. The realization that your work has helped educate and enlighten others about this important historical figure and his nonviolent confrontation approach, which aimed to set a precedent for the entire nation, adds immeasurable value to the experience of producing the documentary.”T. Marie King, Co-Producer, Shuttlesworth
Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre (2023)
Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre examines the history of Birmingham’s Lyric Theatre, from its early days as a Vaudeville Theatre, its four-decade period of vacancy and the theatre’s restoration in the 2010s.
The documentary was directed by Norton Dill, a filmmaker, musician and storyteller from Birmingham.
“The Lyric Theatre is the perfect place for Restoration to premier. I hope the audience will experience the magic of being in that theatre while they are watching its story unfold.”Norton Dill, Director, Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre
“Sidewalk Film Festival is recognized as one of the best film festivals in the country. There’s something very special about seeing new, independent films in a theatre with a live audience. Equally important is the fact that these filmmakers—young and old—need support and encouragement to continue their storytelling. Films by independent filmmakers are radically different from those made by the big studios, and it’s very important for us to ensure that the voices of independent filmmakers continue to be heard.”Norton Dill, Director, Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre
Jasper Mall (2020)
Released in 2020, Jasper Mall is a documentary examining the economic hardships of the once-thriving Jasper Mall in Jasper, Alabama—about 45 minutes northwest of Birmingham. The documentary follows the day-to-day operations of the remaining store-owners as well as the mall’s most frequent visitors, including a group of mall walkers.
The documentary was directed by Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb—two local Birmingham filmmakers—and is playing as part of Sidewalk Film Festival’s 25 Years of Sidewalk celebration.
“Making a documentary so close to home allowed us to completely immerse ourselves in the mall. This allowed us to drive to the mall whenever we wanted to open ourselves up to whatever was happening that day.”Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, Directors, Jasper Mall
“Sidewalk was one of the first film festivals we ever played at so it holds a special place in our hearts. Jasper Mall’s initial film festival run was cut short by the pandemic so we’re excited to have it screen in front of an audience.”Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, Directors, Jasper Mall
BONUS: Alabama Shorts
Don’t Die, Shuttlesworth, Restoration: The Life and Stories of the Lyric Theatre and Jasper Mall aren’t the only locally-made films shown at Sidewalk Film Festival this year. Throughout the week, dozens of Alabama-made shorts will be presented at the festival.
- Alabama Film Spotlight Night: Shorts — Monday, August 21 from 7:00PM to 8:07PM, Sidewalk Cinema Theater A and Sidewalk Cinema Theater B
- Driven By Design: Inside Crimson — Directed by Angel Caro
- This Is Not A Sport Film — Directed by Lily Ahree Siegel
- Ambrosia — Directed by Isebella Miller, Gabe Braden
- Monograph: Patricia Halsell-Robinson — Directed by Lisa Cordes
- Monograph: Last Call Baking — Directed by Kelsey Harrison Ianuzzi
- Pilot At the Bottom of the Lake — Directed by Robert Clay
- 35205 — Directed by Ilya Blokh
- Saturday Alabama Documentary Shorts — Saturday, August 26 from 10:10AM to 11:51AM, BJCC Theatre
- Driven By Design: Inside Crimson — Directed by Angel Caro
- Ann Hodges and The Alabama Meteorite — Directed by Anissa Latham
- Remembering John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital — Directed by Theo M Moore
- Pete Datcher: Keeping the Past Present — Directed by Anissa Latham
- The Volunteer — Directed by David Brodie
- Warrior Retreat — Directed by Drew Callner
- Sunday Alabama Narrative Shorts — Sunday, August 27 from 10:15AM to 12:13PM, BJCC Theatre
- Faultless — Directed by Andre Ladon
- Birdsock Academy — Directed by James Sharpe
- Ozymandias — Directed by Beau Shepherd
- Lonesome — Directed by James Fitch
- Palette of Tears — Directed by Sam Prim
- Bare — Directed by Nathan Kovar
- Erased — Directed by Marcus January
- Yellow Wallpaper — Directed by Ricky Rhodes
- Primeval Currents — Directed by Jasper Lee
- Don’t Look in the Closet — Directed by Skylar Patterson
- Shafted — Directed by Emerson Collins, Del Shores
- No Comment — Directed by Michael Greene
See these films and more at Sidewalk Film Festival, August 21-27
Over 250 films will be shown during the course of Sidewalk Film Festival, and that’s not all. The week-long extravaganza will feature discussion panels with directors, delicious food + drink options from local vendors and—of course—the exciting Opening Night After-Party with live music, dancing and so much more.
“Sidewalk is the best annual event in the city, bar none. It’s movie Christmas! That’s why everyone greets each other by saying ‘Happy Sidewalk!’ If you like watching movies, it’s a wonderful weekend of cinema where you can see every kind of film, usually months before they hit theaters or streaming services. But if you’re interested in making movies, it’s absolutely essential. Every year, I wind up meeting a handful of people at Sidewalk that I’ll go on to collaborate with on some sort of project. Birmingham’s film community is really thriving these days, and Sidewalk is the weekend where it all comes together in a magnificent way.”Jeremy Burgess, Writer & Producer, Don’t Die
What is your favorite part of Sidewalk Film Festival? Tag us @bhamnow to let us know!