JUSTIN GOES TO THE GEORGE LINDSEY UNA
By Justin Bowler
I recently had the opportunity to attend the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival in Florence, Alabama. Before this festival, I had never heard of Florence, AL. So, the chance to see a bit of inner-America was a welcome offer. Understand, there aren’t any direct flights to Florence. In fact, to get to Muscle Shoals, you must take one of those tiny planes whose rows consist of one seat, then the isle, and two more seats. The plane wasn’t so small that they needed to ask the passengers their weight so they could distribute it evenly throughout the plane, but it was only a notch or two above. However, just because you have not heard of Florence or its film festival, you should not dismiss this hidden powerhouse.
With feature premieres, films in multiple languages, and several international entries, this film festival is so much more grandiose than its simple name would imply. It is named after George Lindsey, Goober Pyle from The Andy Griffith Show, and the University of Northern Alabama. But, if that underwhelms you, then you are simply ignorant of how impressive this festival is. Let me fill you in.
Past guests include the likes of Bob Gale, Billy Bob Thornton, and Ernest Borgnine to name a few. In addition, they provide cash prizes (up to $2000) and reimbursement to filmmakers on accommodations and travel. Actual trophies are given in all of the categories which not only include best feature, best short, and the like, but also include best male performance, best sound, or best editing. Furthermore, while the town may seem sleepy by big city standards, do not assume they don’t know or love film. I was incredibly impressed with the attendance of the screenings and Q&As. College students, industry, and local townsfolk all came out in equal numbers to enjoy them.
The only down side was the lack of attendance at the awards ceremony by the winning filmmakers. I’m guessing most of the submitting filmmakers underestimated this film festival and the enthusiasm that this town exudes. So, sadly, the majority of the winning filmmakers were not present to accept their awards. Fortunately, there were acceptance speeches that were pretaped for the attending audience to enjoy. Overall, this is a top-notch festival that will soon garner much more notoriety within the film community and the entertainment industry. Look out Sundance.