Road Trip: The Sidewalk Film Festival Celebrates Films, Culture, Community, and Fun

Movie-goers pack the Alabama Theatre during the 2017 Sidewalk Film Festival. Movie-goers pack the Alabama Theatre during the 2017 Sidewalk Film Festival. The Sidewalk Film Festival

It’s a special year for The Sidewalk Moving Film Festival – one of the state’s biggest and best film festivals, and an event that’s certainly worth a road trip from the Tuscaloosa and Northport area to Birmingham. 

Sidewalk is The Magic City’s best-known spotlight of some of the year’s best independent films, all screened in the heart of Birmingham’s historic theater district, including the historic Alabama Theatre and the recently restored Lyric Theatre. This year, Sidewalk celebrates its 20th year with a lineup of activities, music, local food and of course, great films. 
 
Executive Director Chloe Cook says that this year’s festival is going to be fantastic. 

“Our lineup of films is better than ever, with a fantastic opening night film, White Tide: The Legend of Culebra, that proves real life is always stranger than fiction,” Cook said. “It gives us an opportunity to celebrate a Festival alum, Bryan Storkel, who's screened with us numerous times over the past 10 years.”  
 
If you’ve never been, The Sidewalk Film Festival provides a great sense of community, art, and fun that is uniquely Alabama. Why should you go?  Well, here are a few great reasons: 
 
The Films 

Every year, around 50 feature films and 100 short films are screened – selected from over 1,000 submissions. And the films cover virtually every genre – from drama to comedy to horror, as well as documentaries and children’s movies. Films that make the festival circuit may not necessarily make it to our local multiplexes. These are the celebrated, off-the-beaten-path films that you won’t get to see anywhere else. 
 
The Parties 

In addition to great films, Sidewalk is also a place for great parties. Okay, yes, the whole thing is one giant downtown block party, but specialized events keep the weekend jumping. There’s the Filmmakers’ Welcome Reception on Thursday, August 23, The Opening Night After Party on August 24, and The Saturday Night After Party on August 25.  

The Community 

The atmosphere is perfect for movie-lovers to discuss films they’ve seen (and hope to see). Sidewalk fosters a community feel, gathering folks from all over for panels and workshops held during the weekend. These panels are accessible to the public.  

The Culture 

Sidewalk’s film line-up takes place mainly within two beautiful Alabama landmarks: The Alabama Theatre, which has been a staple of Birmingham’s culture and history since 1927, and the historic Lyric Theatre, which was built in 1914 as a vaudeville theater, hosting acts like The Marx Brothers, Mae West, Will Rogers, and Milton Berle. The Lyric was closed for decades, and it finally reopened after an extended renovation project in 2016. 
 
The Special Treatment 

One of the special options to Sidewalk is its VIP Pass, which gets you into screenings first. But it also gets you access to the VIP lounge, as well as to special gatherings and parties with special privileges. 
 
If you love cinema, there is no limit to the excitement of The Sidewalk Film Festival – and there is no event in the state quite like it. There’s a reason many Alabama patrons make this pilgrimage every single year. I’ll be there, and I hope you will be, too. 

The Sidewalk Film Festival will take place August 24- 26 in downtown Birmingham. For more details, including tickets, visit sidewalkfest.com.  

Jerry Roberts is a movie critic and movie fan who believes in Birth-Movies-Death. He is the historian for armchaircinema.com and armchairoscars.com, and he has a blog at overthinkingoscar.wordpress.com.  

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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