Indie Film Fest spotlights diverse experiences downtown

Movie-goers caught a glimpse of diverse experiences in iNDIE FILM FEST over the weekend. (Kayleigh Gallager/DD)

iNDIE FILM FEST, held at the FilmBar over the weekend, captured controversial topics from immigration to female sexuality.

Festival director Pita Juarez created this festival to encourage film makers to make the film industry more inclusive, she said.

In 2016, Juarez and her partner Matty Steinkamp created a film called “You Racists, Sexist, Bigot,” and traveled throughout the country participating in film festivals. Steinkamp received most of the recognition even though he co-directed the film alongside Juarez.

“We saw a lot of responses were geared towards Matty Steinkamp, even though I was the co-director as a Latina woman of color,” Juarez said. “That was definitely a problem.”

Juarez and Steinkamp realized that there was little acknowledgment of minorities in film, so they decided to create their own film festival, Juarez said.

Juarez said she understands the expectations and cost for filmmaking are high, which can be a burden for some storytellers.

“We shouldn’t set those high expectations on people because there are so many amazing storytellers out there who don’t have resources” to tell their own stories, Juarez said.

One film, titled, “Esperanza’s Turn,” directed by Melissa Gregory Rue, is about the life of an immigrant child laborer in America who defeats her bullies with the use of her imagination. Esperanza is an imaginary character who Rue created in order to help construct a realistic storyline.

“Esperanza came to me and said, ‘hey knock knock, somebody needs to be talking about this, (and) somebody needs to be raising awareness,’” Rue said.

Child labor is still common especially when working on a farm in the United States according to the Association of Farmworker Opportunity. Under the United States’ Fair Labor Standards Act, child labor within the agriculture industry is justified if any child 16 years old or under is paid by every finished product.

“There still a form of slavery in this country; no one talks about it,” Rue said. “You don’t read about it in the nightly news, but there are thousands of children like Esperanza who are putting food on the tables of everyone in this country and being treated like trash.”

Director Brooke Trantor’s “Oh Baby!” raises awareness of women’s sexuality. The main character Jane goes on a Bumble date hoping to have sex despite being pregnant.

The purpose of the film is to have women be comfortable with their sexuality without “diminishing what pregnancy is,” said Trantor. “It shows a very beautiful, authentic thing as opposed to something that needs to be hidden until the baby is born.”

Kate Morgan Chadwick, co-writer of “Oh Baby!” was directly influenced and inspired by Trantor’s previous films leading to their production, she said.

Audience member Kayla Stimbert attended with a friend with no real expectations of what she would see, she said. The only knowledge Stimbert had about the indie films was that the films were supposed to be deep and send a message.

“I think it shows a lot of different perspectives which you don’t necessarily get to see in Hollywood,” Stimbert said.

In downtown Phoenix there are opportunities to be a part of these events as well as sending your message. The Phoenix Indie Film Makers Meetup Group is a collection of working members who support each other in making films according to Meetup. There are opportunities posted on the website to be an actor, director, producer, screen-writer, and filmmaker.

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