September 24, 2021

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Sidewalk 2021: Some of the hottest tickets at the Birmingham film festival

6 min read

Sidewalk Film Festival 2021 is underway in Birmingham, and you’ve got work to do if you want to stay up on the best the fest will offer this weekend.

The festival has another jam-packed schedule, featuring titles that could draw lines stretching around their respective theaters in downtown Birmingham partially due to limited capacity this year, so it’s best you plan accordingly.

Below are some of this year’s most in-demand screenings. Remember: You better arrive early.

Important reminder: Proof of vaccination or a negative test result must be shown to attend Sidewalk 2021. Masks will also be required in all venues. No exceptions, according to Sidewalk. Read more about the festival’s health protocols.

RELATED: COVID-19 has forced independent theaters and festivals like Sidewalk to adapt

TELEVISION EVENT

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre, Lyric Theatre

Sidewalk’s opening night film. Jeff Daniels’ electric documentary chronicling the making-of and aftermath of the 1983 television movie “The Day After,” a network TV phenomenon that aired in the midst of a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union and in more than 39 million households. Th film recounts the story of the improbable anti-nuclear television film, its making and its cultural and political impact, the individuals involved in the film’s production and the town in which it was made.

From Sidewalk program director Rachel Morgan: “So Sidewalk opening night’s selection is a film about a film about nuclear war? Yep. After the last 18 months the Sidewalk programming team felt that a film about a shared cultural event, one that united the country and changed national policy, was apropos for Sidewalk’s opening night return to downtown Birmingham. Plus, ‘Television Event’ is packed with nostalgia and oddity and even some humor. Join us on opening night for a shared cultural event about a shared cultural event and a reminder that we’ve lived through scary-as-hell dark times before and made it out the other side.” Featured in the film are “The Day After” director Nicholas Meyer and former ABC broadcast journalist Ted Koppel.

KID CANDIDATE

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Where: Boutwell Auditorium Exhibition Hall

Jasmine Stodel’s documentary about a 24 year-old artist and musician in Amarillo, Texas, who makes an unorthodox run for city council after his Harmony Korine-inspired spoof campaign video goes viral.

WHIRLYBIRD

When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Where: Lyric Theatre

Set in 1980s and ‘90s Los Angeles, director Matt Yoka’s film highlights how reporters Bob Tur and Marika Gerrard revolutionized breaking news with their brazen helicopter reporting. The couple captured footage from the L.A. riots, the O.J. Bronco chase, Madonna’s wedding to Sean Penn and beyond. Sidewalk: “Culled from the duo’s video archive “Whirlybird” is an L.A. story of a family in turbulence hovering over a city unhinged.”

THE NOVICE

When: Saturday, 12:15 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre

Lauren Hadaway’s film follows a queer college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team and undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, no matter the cost. Intent on outperforming her teammates, she pushes herself to her limits, while alienating everyone around her in the name of success.

THE CAPOTE TAPES

When: Saturday, 2:40 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre

Using newly discovered tapes of interviews that The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton conducted with Capote’s friends after his death, along with animation and new on-camera interviews, Ebs Burnough’s film investigates the iconic Alabama-born author’s legacy, focusing heavily on the impact of Capote’s explosive unfinished novel “Answered Prayers.”

LFG

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Lyric Theatre

Three months before the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the players filed a class-action, gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, setting the stage for Andrea Nix and Sean Fine’s documentary that interweaves transcendent athletic performances with the players’ ongoing pursuit for equal pay. Features interviews with Megan Rapinoe, Jessica McDonald, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Sam Mewis.

HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT & FRIENDS

When: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.

Where: Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema: Theater A

In the summer of 1986 John Heyn and Jeff Krulik filmed Judas Priest fans in a concert arena parking lot in suburban Maryland. Thirty five years later, “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” is hailed as one the greatest short rock documentaries ever. This marks an anniversary screening, to be followed by a ton of surprises.

SOCKS ON FIRE

When: Saturday, 5:10 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre

A poet’s cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Ala. Bo McGuire’s film won the best documentary award at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The Sidewalk/Shout screening will be preceded and followed by surprise performances so be sure to arrive on time and stay in your seats when the credits roll.

KUBRICK BY KUBRICK

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre

A rare look at the life and films of legendary director Stanley Kubrick like you’ve never seen before, featuring a litany of unheard interview recordings from the Kubrick himself conducted over the course of 20 years. Gregory Monro’s documentary also features archival footage of Sterling Hayden, Peter Sellers, Tom Cruise, Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson and Malcolm McDowell and more. A must for film buffs.

CATCH THE FAIR ONE

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: Lyric Theatre

Director Josef Kubota Wladyka’s revenge thriller executive produced by Darren Aronofsky follows a Native American boxer (played by real-life US boxing world champion Kali Reis) searching for her missing kid sister. She becomes intentionally entangled in a human trafficking operation in an effort to retrace the steps of her sister and work her way up the chain of command to pinpoint those responsible.

THELMA & LOUISE

When: Sunday, 3:10 p.m.

Where: ASFA Dorothy Jemison Day Theater

The screening marks the 30th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s Oscar-nominated film about best friends who set out on a road trip that takes some dangerous turns once one of the women shoots and kills a man who attempts to rape her friend in a bar. Stick around for a roundtable discussion with feminist scholars.

THE LOST LEONARDO

When: Sunday, 3:20 p.m.

Where: Lyric Theatre

From Andreas Koefoed, the inside story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold at $450 million. From the moment the painting is bought for cheap at a shady auction house, and the restorer discovers masterful Renaissance brushstrokes under the heavy varnish of its cheap restoration, the painting’s fate is determined by an insatiable quest for fame, money and power. As its price soars, so do questions about its authenticity.

THE BETA TEST

When: Sunday, 6:15 p.m.

Where: Alabama Theatre

Sidewalk’s closing night film. From program director Rachel Morgan: “Afterall, we love a mean-spirited satirical dark-as-heck comedy… and Virginia Newcomb. Plus we’re also pretty fond of writer-director-actor-extraordinaire Jim Cummings. What happens when a happily (?) married, ladder-climbing Hollywood agent receives a mysterious letter containing a proposition for an anonymous sexual encounter with an “admirer”? Things get super out of hand. Packed with murder, mystery, horror tropes, hackers, Weinstein references, neurotic humor and compulsive teeth whiting, ‘The Beta Test’ is strange, funny, occasionally borderline-surreal and wholly original.”

ALABAMA SHORT FILMS

Don’t miss the work of our state’s brightest filmmaking talents with the narrative and doc blocks this weekend. The first short doc block takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Alabama Theatre. Catch the first wave of narrative shorts Saturday at 7:20 p.m. in the ASFA Dorothy Jemison Day Theater. See the second batch of docs Sunday at 2:45 p.m. in the Boutwell Auditorium Exhibition Hall, and then the second narrative short block on Sunday at 7 p.m. in the ASFA Dorothy Jemison Day Theater.

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