Birmingham’s 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival embraces ’80s-inspired films

Birmingham’s 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival embraces ’80s-inspired films
The Sidewalk Film Festival will be Aug. 23-25 across 12 venues in downtown Birmingham. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

If one sentence can sum up the theme of the 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, this one from the festival’s website is it:

“Generation X clearly had a massive influence on independent film content this season.”

This year’s festival will feature a number of ’80s-inspired films, including “I Want My MTV,” a documentary by Tyler Measom and Patrick Waldrop that will be shown Friday night to kick off the weekend. Organizers say many films this year have focused on, or been obviously influenced by, the “Greed decade.”

“I’m really excited about it,” said Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival. “We’ll be screening more than 350 films over the course of the next seven days, with the bulk of those screenings happening this Saturday and Sunday. There’s lots of content — way more than you can possibly see in one weekend, but you are encouraged to map out things you think would appeal to you.”

A preview of Sidewalk Film Festival 2019 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The films will be screened simultaneously in 12 venues Saturday and Sunday, including some films showing in the festival’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema in the basement of the Pizitz building on Second Avenue North.

“If you don’t like what’s showing at one theater, you are encouraged to get up and go try a different film in a different venue over the course of the weekend,” Cook said. “We’ll be showing the latest and greatest in independent feature films as well as shorts across all genres, including documentaries, episodic content and XR (Extended Realities) content.

Cook said XR programming consists of a mixture of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) content, bringing audiences the newest innovations in immersive digital storytelling.

“This year we’re running those things two-fold where you can do our XR Cinema, which is where you are in the experience you are watching but you’re not able to manipulate that experience in as many ways, and then we have our regular XR programming where you can choose the length of time that you spend in that experience, and it’s a little more individualized,” Cook said. “You’re going to put on the headsets in either scenario and we’ll be showcasing some of the newer technology that’s less accessible to the general public.”

The Sidewalk Film Festival, which Alabama Power is a sponsor of, began in 1999 as a way to encourage filmmaking in Alabama and build audiences for independent films. Cook, who has headed the festival since 2009, said festival volunteers continue to amaze her.

“The festival always gives me the feels because we have about 750 volunteers that work with us over the course of the week to make the festival happen, doing everything from picking up filmmakers at the airport to tearing tickets to selling tickets to running venues,” Cook said. “It really is a huge collaborative effort. I just think it’s such a cool thing that happens in the city of Birmingham.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, including where to buy tickets and see a schedule, visit

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