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  • Cache Castelow

Indie Film Fest: A Retrospective


Made In Her Image caught up with Phoenix Indie Film Fest to discuss this year’s partnership, the importance of diversity and inclusion in film and more.


Phoenix Indie Film Fest is the home for breathtaking independent films, dynamic documentaries and groundbreaking short stories. Artists across the globe come together once a year in February to showcase their creativity. In 2020, our very own founder of Made In Her Image, Malakai, walked away with the award for Best Director. This year, MIHI had the honor to officially partner with Indie Film Fest for a virtual three-day experience in February 2021 that enabled filmmakers to screen their films in the global marketplace. MIHI community leader Cache Castelow had the pleasure to interview the Indie Film Fest organizers, Pita Juarez, Kash Cole, and Matty Steinkamp, to discuss diversity in film and the highlights of the festival.


Cache Castelow: How long have you been partnering with Made In Her Image?

Indie Film Fest: We started our film fest in 2019 and from the beginning we wanted to work to help Made in Her Image. In year one we featured young Made In Her Image filmmakers’ short films as an entire block on day two. Then in year two we made it official that we would be donating portions of our sales to Made in Her image [by] giving one dollar per ticket sold to the organization. In year three we wanted to step it up a bit and due to the pandemic and not having venue costs we donated 100% of ticket sales to the organization, as well as an entire night that was curated by Malakai featuring women of color filmmakers. This was by far our best year to date with the highest quality in filmmaking from indie artists from around the world.

CC: Was there anything new about the partnership this year?

IFF: This year’s collaboration went well beyond the donations and selections. Our teams came together and brought Indie Film Fest to a global market like never before, reaching ten different countries and hundreds of people across the U.S.


CC: Were there any filmmakers of color or women filmmakers who stood out to you this year?

IFF: Lathenia Janae with her music video and short doc was a great highlight of the fest, especially with Tippy Tippy Top winning Best Music Video.

CC: Why is diversity important in films and in film festivals?

IFF: For us it’s more of finding safe spaces for all artists to thrive regardless of social or economic status, where they're from, or what demographic they're placed in. We want an inclusive group of films that can show the true beauty of the world we live in. And that goes far beyond what is on the screen; we are a filmmaker- and storyteller-centric film festival. We see there are many voices and perspectives being missed, unheard, and sometimes excluded in many other festivals, and we feel it’s our duty to highlight these voices.


CC: Have you noticed an increase in submissions from women filmmakers and filmmakers of color due to the MIHI partnership?

IFF: To be fair, from the beginning we have always had a larger percentage of films showcased [that are] produced and directed by women filmmakers and people of color [but] unfortunately we don’t see that representation necessarily in the submissions. We do a lot of work to make our fest the most inclusive, which requires us to go outside the submission pool and to give submission waivers to films we feel will best fit our fest.


CC: Which MIHI film stood out to you the most and why?

IFF: Power of Hope was my favorite, not only because of the beautiful story but for what it meant for so many young aspiring filmmakers: to dare to dream big, to think outside the box and that anything is possible.


CC: How do you keep diversity in mind when you select films for the festival?

IFF: In many ways because our selection jury is diverse, this allows us to have a more [well-] rounded and inclusive program of films. Being intentional about our jury has made the selection and outreach process so much of what we wanted for this festival to be: a place for talent, a place for everyone.


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