Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti launches with drive-in theater, livestream events

The inaugural Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti (IFFY) was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's scheduled to launch in a slightly different format Aug. 20-22.


Originally set to launch in April at Riverside Arts Center, the film festival has been transformed into a three-day event with an outdoor drive-in film presentation near the Ypsi water tower Aug. 20 and livestream events Aug. 21 and 22.


Event organizer and Ypsi resident Donald Harrison says he is trying to focus on what he and co-organizer Martin Thoburn were able to accomplish rather than the things they weren't able to do, including their original plans to throw after-parties and involve local students.


"I feel like we're bringing something positive to the community," Harrison says.


He notes that while many events have gone completely virtual since the pandemic hit, it was important to distinguish IFFY from those events by presenting the drive-in portion of the film festival, thanks to a partnership with the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority (DDA).


While Harrison's aim is to expand minds and expose Ypsilanti residents to independent film, he also aims to make the event accessible, with a pay-what-you-can model for ticketing.


IFFY kicks off Thursday, Aug. 20, with the drive-in show featuring "Midwest Products," a program showcasing short films by Midwest filmmakers, in the Normal Street parking lot at Cross Street. The event will be free to the public as space permits. Sound will be broadcast by radio.


The festival will host two programs each for the next two days. On Friday, Aug. 21, a program called "Skin. Sound. Synth" will livestream at 7 p.m., with a focus on short films featuring "science-fiction and Afro-futurism," Harrison says. At 9 p.m. the same night, IFFY will livestream "The Best of Ottawa Animation 2019," a touring program that Harrison and Thoburn brought to Ypsi in a live event last year.


On Saturday, Aug. 20, the "Midwest Products" showcase will livestream at 7 p.m, followed by "Flip the Script" at 9 p.m., a program featuring short films that Harrison describes as "mind-expanding and trippy."


Ticket proceeds from each livestream event will benefit a local nonprofit organization, including Riverside Arts Center, We the People Opportunity Farm, and the Detroit Impact Center.


Besides the Ypsilanti DDA, the film festival was also made possible by local sponsors including Dolores, the Tap Room, Washtenaw Community College's Digital Media Arts program, Eastern Michigan University's School of Art and Design, VG Kids, Original Moxie, Fantasee Lighting, and Revalue.


"We're proud of how locally supported we are," Harrison says. "IFFY is something born out of Ypsi and Ypsi-centric. This has not been the ideal way for us to launch something new, but we want to build for the long term and grow this as people get excited about what we're doing. We're open and curious to see what conversations and possibilities there are in Ypsi in years to come."


More information and a link to pay-what-you-can tickets are available here.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of IFFY.

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