Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti to return with drive-in event this month

The Independent Film Festival Ypsilanti (IFFY) will return for its second year with an outdoor screening of short films at 9:30 p.m. June 24, and plans to come back bigger and better in 2022.

The festival was set to launch in April 2020 as a multi-day, in-person event at Riverside Arts Center, complete with after-parties. However, organizers had to scramble to rethink the concept when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down public events. Organizers finally landed on having one drive-in outdoor screening and several live streaming events in late summer 2020.

However, adapting the show to an outdoor format was challenging, says event organizer Donald Harrison. 

"One thing we learned last year is that some films don't [look] so great in the drive-in setting when there are streetlights and a different setup than an indoor cinema," Harrison says. "This year, we've chosen films to make sure they're going to work really well in the drive-in setting."

Harrison says the IFFY organizers and the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority (YDDA) got "great feedback" from running the drive-in event last year, and the YDDA was eager to sponsor a similar event this year.

"It's a great way for us to keep IFFY going in year two," Harrison says. 

Keeping it small this year also allows organizers to focus on returning to the original vision of a multi-day event inside in a theater, something Harrison says he hopes will "grow into a beloved, local, annual event." In support of that vision, IFFY organizers are working on applying for nonprofit status for the organization.

"Next year, our plan is to do what we set out to do last year, but with new films, new programs, and new energy," Harrison says. "We're excited to focus on something bigger for next year when we can do it the way we envisioned it."

This year's short films come from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, the U.S., and Canada. A Scottish film called "Around the Block" has a local connection that Washtenaw County residents may appreciate: the subject is Ann Arbor-based sidewalk artist David Zinn.

"The programming will be dynamic and eclectic, and some of the films will push buttons," Harrison says. "We're still in a pandemic, and there are films that address that, and films that address police violence from the perspective of a young Black man. I think there will be laughing and crying and everything in between."

The 2021 IFFY Drive-In starts at 9:30 p.m. June 24 at downtown Ypsi's South Huron Street parking lot, between Washington Street and South Huron Street just south of Michigan Avenue. The film festival is free, but RSVPs on IFFY's Facebook event page are encouraged. If someone can't snag a parking spot, Harrison says they are welcome to bring a chair or blanket and a radio to catch the drive-in.

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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