The University of North Georgia's School of Communication, Film & Theatre is holding its 2023 Georgia Film Festival on Friday and Saturday at the University's Gainesville Campus.
The seventh annual edition of GFF includes 46 films over two days. The full schedule and tickets are available on the festival website.
"We seek to showcase the best independent films made by filmmakers in Georgia and the Southeast, and this year's lineup is our strongest ever," Dr. Jeff Marker, CFT director and GFF co-executive director, said. "We received so many high-quality submissions, we were able to be very selective. It was painful to say no to some of the films we decided not to program, but we only have so much time. Those we selected are truly outstanding."
One highlight of the festival is the opening night film, "Silver Dollar Road," from Academy Award nominee Raoul Peck. The documentary feature follows the story of the Reels family. The matriarch, Mamie Reels Ellison, and her niece Kim Renee Duhon, two fierce and clear-eyed women, tell the story of bending to safeguard valiantly their ancestors' land and their brothers and uncles Melvin and Licurtis, who were wrongfully imprisoned for eight years — the longest sentence for civil contempt in North Carolina history.
This documentary, based on the 2019 ProPublica article, highlights the covert ways the legal system has been exploited to keep Black land ownership fragile and the racial wealth gap growing. The GFF screening is within days of its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Our audience will be among the first in the world to see the film," Marker said.
The Nighthawk Shorts block on Friday evening is always a GFF favorite among students and the UNG community. Most of the Nighthawk Shorts are produced by students in UNG's film and digital media bachelor's degree program and feature actors from the Gainesville Theatre Alliance.
"We're excited to share the best work from this year's UNG submissions. It is quite beautiful to see the creativity that happens when students in these programs collaborate," Alicia Marker, co-executive director of GFF, said.
The festival's feature film selections also include two documentaries, "Surviving the Silence: The Untold Story of Two Women in Love Who Helped Change Military Policy" and the family-friendly "Where the Butterflies Go," and Bryan Tan's riveting psychological thriller "She Watches Blindly."
GFF prides itself on supporting emerging filmmakers, particularly students. The festival offers a College Shorts block featuring films made at schools around the state or by Georgia natives studying elsewhere, as well as a High School block showcasing some of the impressive work being done at Georgia high schools.
"Education is built into our mission, and we're happy to provide a forum for young filmmakers, right alongside artists making Georgia's best film content," Jeff Marker said.
The festival ends on Sept. 16 with "It's Only Life After All," directed by Alexandria Bombach, a documentary about Georgia's own Indigo Girls. Blending 40 years of home movies, raw film archive and intimate present-day verité, the movie is a poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls — the iconic folk-rock duo. The film is a timely look into the obstacles, activism and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.