Memphis' Morgan Jon Fox, who debuted the final version of his years-in-the-making documentary This is What Love in Action Looks Like at Playhouse on the Square Friday, was the big winner at the closing night awards ceremony of the 14th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival.
Fox's film, which documents the plight of a Memphis teen forced into a church-based “gay de-programming” institution and the surprising evolution of the institution's director, picked up two awards from two different juries: It picked up a Special Documentary Jury Award and Best Hometowner Feature, the latter coming with a $1000 cash prize presented by the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.
“I've shown several films here and the feeling I get having a premiere here is different than anywhere,” Fox said after picking up the special jury award. He went on to express his appreciation for having a home “so loving and supportive.”
It was a dramatic weekend for Fox, who had surprised the audience — and his boyfriend — before Friday night's screening with a public marriage proposal.
Produced by Savannah Bearden, this year's awards ceremony was a big step up from past affairs, with live skits and “Occupy Indie Memphis” video segments produced by the local Corduroy Wednesday filmmaking crew that riffed on the Indie Memphis debuts of such obscure filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier. There was also live music by the local band Sultana.
Other Memphis-based award winners included Fresh Skweezed, a rich, seriocomic film set in a trailer park, which won the Best Hometowner Short award. The jury praised Fresh Skweezed for its story and production value.
Filmmakers Ryan Parker and G.B. Shannon also picked up $1000 from the film commission, and brought up their young star for recognition. They later returned to the stage to pick up the Audience Choice Award for Hometowner films.
The documentary Stepping: Beyond the Line, from filmmaker Dee Garceau received a Special Jury Prize. Among shorts there were also Special Jury Prizes awarded to Dan Baker and Chris Pollack's John Gray (for production design) and Of Love and Sea Monsters (for animation), from filmmakers Tiffany Baker, Jessie Kotis, and Robbie Siskin of the Memphis College of Art.
The film Bad Fever, a non-local feature which stars local filmmaker Kentucker Audley received the festival's Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award, an award presented by festival organizers.
The Audience Choice Award for Best Short went to Home Game, a film from the New York-based Memphis native Suzannah Herbert, while the Audience Choice Award for Documentary Feature went to the otherwise out-of-competition Undefeated.
Other award winners were:
The festival's traditional 'Soul of Southern Film' Award, now sponsored by the Oxford American magazine, went to the Louisiana-set Lord Byron. The award came with a $1000 cash prize.
Another new award, the Duncan-Williams Scriptwriting Award went to Alison Bagnall, the director/writer of The Dish and the Spoon, an odd couple road movie of sorts starring recent indie-scene stalwart Greta Gerwig. The scriptwriting award came with a $1000 cash prize, courtesy of Duncan-Williams, the festival's new presenting sponsor.
Heaven+Earth+Joe Davis, a portrait of an eccentric MIT academic won Best Documentary Feature. Come On Down and Pick Me Up won Best Documentary Short, and the doc short Kudzu Vine picked up an additional Special Jury Award.
Best Short Film went to Pillow. Best Animation/Experimental Short Film went to The Bird Upstairs. The shorts jury awarded two Special Jury Awards, to Two-Legged Rat Bastards (for storytelling) and to Ed Lowry for acting in two films (Pillow and Ballerina).
The Audience Choice Award for Narrative Feature went to the otherwise out-of-competition Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the latest film from the Duplass brothers, which is set for a wide release next spring.
There was a special award presented to filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for their Paradise Lost trilogy. Sinofsky was supposed to be in attendance but had to cancel his trip to Memphis at the last minute for health reasons. The newly free Jason Baldwin accepted for them.