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The 23rd Sidewalk Film Festival will present more than 250 films in Birmingham’s historic theater district

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (WIAT) – The Sidewalk Film Festival returns as it celebrates 23 years in Birmingham, as well as a homecoming in Birmingham’s historic theater district.

The festival will run from Monday 23 August to Sunday 29 August and will screen more than 250 films. The first event begins Monday night at 6 p.m. and will feature “Alabama Filmmaker Spotlight: Alabama Documentary Shorts,” a compilation of short documentaries created by Alabama residents. While events will run throughout the week, the weekend will feature most of the screenings.

Last year the festival was held at Grand River Drive-In in Leeds to provide a safer environment with the COVID-19 pandemic. This year they are going back to their Theater District roots and will be hosting events at the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema at The Pizitz, the Alabama Theater, the Lyric Theater, First Church Birmingham, the Alabama School of Fine Arts, at the Dorothy Jemison Day Theater, in the recital. Hall and amphitheater, as well as the Steiner auditorium at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

The official banner of the Sidewalk Film Festival 2021. (Courtesy of Trottoir)

Festival organizers recognize that the pandemic is not over and will work to keep filmmakers, volunteers, audiences and staff safe.

Chloe Cook, executive director of Sidewalk, said when they made the decision to return to the Theater District, the number of people vaccinated was increasing and the number of cases was decreasing. Since then, the Delta variant has increased the number of cases, but Cook said they were unable to upgrade the event to drive-in format. Instead, they employ all possible strategies to ensure the safety of those present.

“We are limiting capacity at all venues to provide a space for social distancing, we ask all attendees to wear a mask when attending any interior element of the festival, and we have established several partnerships with agencies in the region. to help participants get tested, get vaccinated and learn about the health crisis while they are there, ”Cook said.

In an announcement on Saturday, the Sidewalk Film Festival said all attendees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have received a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test within 48 hours of entry to the event.

The Sidewalk Film Festival website lists the following health and safety precautions:

  • All screening venues will be limited to 50% of their capacity
  • The Alabama Theater and Lyric Theater have been hired for the opening night film to provide space for social distancing
  • The Opening After Party will take place outdoors
  • The Saturday evening will take place in the Boutwell auditorium at 25% capacity
  • All staff, volunteers and clients will be required to wear a mask indoors
  • Free disposable masks will be available at all sites
  • Better quality Sidewalk brand masks will be available for sale
  • The Sidewalk Film Center and HVAC Center have been upgraded to include a UV filtration system on all units, and they only use MERV-13 filters
  • They are teaming up with Birmingham AIDS Outreach to organize a free vaccination clinic at the Sidewalk Cinema before the festival and during the festival weekend.
  • They are working in partnership with the Jefferson County Department of Health on COVID-related public service announcements during the festival and at the movies
  • They are partnering with the UAB School of Public Health and the Jefferson County Health Department on a festival panel to dispel myths about COVID-19

“We understand if some of our long-time attendees are uncomfortable attending this year due to COVID, and we look forward to the time when we can welcome them with open arms (and hugs) when the virus hits. under control, ”Cook said. .

Asked what makes this year’s festival special, Cook said the Sidewalk Film Center theater will be fully operational for the first time in the festival’s 23-year history.

“The film program is unique each year and we are particularly proud of this year’s lineup, which includes over 250 films of all genres, leaning a little more towards documentaries this year than in previous years,” he said. she declared.

The festival will include many events, such as screenings, panels, question-and-answer sessions, parties and an awards ceremony. The festival website recommends that participants plan ahead and use their online schedule to decide what they want to see or participate in.

The map showing the locations, parking and amenities of the festival. (Courtesy of Trottoir)

Since the festival will be spread throughout the theater district, foot traffic is to be expected. To help attendees navigate the festival footprint, Cook said they use large signage to orient themselves, free shuttle services between the north and south ends of the footprint, and a partnership with scooters / BOLT bikes / mopeds for individual transport on site.

A variety of food trucks will also be on hand to provide attendees with additional dining options between films, such as Aww the pods, Cantina on wheels, Porky’s pride and Eugene’s hot chicken.

The website lists the following as things to bring to the festival:

  • Everyone should bring an open mind and an adventurous spirit
  • A mask or cloth that covers your nose and mouth
  • Sunglasses, umbrella / raincoat and comfortable shoes are recommended
  • A debit / credit card for cashless transactions

The website tells customers not to bring bad attitudes, weapons of any kind, or drugs.

Despite the challenges that have arisen over the past year and a half, Cook said there were some bright spots.

“We have felt a lot of support from our community during this time, with several sponsors signing up before we could commit to what specifically this year’s festival would look like,” she said. “Hundreds of people joined our new cinema when we couldn’t even open our doors and, once again, we saw countless members of the community volunteer for our annual festival. “

Asked about the future of Sidewalk, Cook said the festival has no plans to go anywhere.

“Our house is in the theater district and we hope to be able to return to the district next year and for many years to come,” she said.

The festival offers a variety of passes and tickets to allow attendees to optimize their experience. Tickets can be found here.

Day passes cost $ 35 and will allow a participant access to all screenings on the selected day. The weekend pass costs $ 95 and will give access to all weekend screenings, including the opening night movie and after-party. The VIP pass costs $ 270 and will provide a participant with an unlimited festival access experience, including access to a VIP lounge with free drinks and early access seating.

The festival also offers single tickets. General admission tickets cost $ 10 and are good for any movie, but with the lowest seat priority. Festival Spotlight Series tickets cost $ 15 regular and $ 5 for VIP pass holders. These tickets are for special films that highlight a flagship category (Alabama Filmmakers, Life + Liberty, SHOUT and Black Lens). Premium single tickets cost $ 15 and will guarantee access to a particular block of films or short films.

For more information on the festival, Click here.


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