Tony Youngblood here coming back from a long absence to tell you about the 2012 NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL, beginning today at the Regal Green Hills Stadium 16.
I helped Jett and Gareth engineer The Film Talk podcast live from the fest for the last two years. While they won’t be able to attend this year, I’ll be on hand to provide daily commentary.
The Nashville Film Festival (or NaFF) may not have the festival clout of Sundance or Toronto, but it’s still a solid regional festival with the potential to become a heavy hitter. Artistic Director Brian Owens helms a programming team that selects challenging, beautiful, and ripe-to-be-discovered films from around the world. You get a sense of personality in the selections, a focus, heart. Unlike many regional festivals, NaFF doesn’t simple cherry pick the highlights from the majors. They watch LOTS of films. They pick what they like. If Sundance passed, Sundance be damned. NaFF began in 1969 as The Sinking Creek Film Celebration, a champion of experimental films, and it still carries the bold, independent spirit of its roots.
Last year, we were treated with new films from auteurs like Monte Hellman, Catherine Breillat, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. At first glance, this year’s schedule lacks the big ticket items. But a closer look reveals a rich selection of world cinema. This may actually be the richest crop of films in the 5 years I’ve attended the fest. We have HEADSHOT, a new crime-noir from Thai master Pen-Ek Ratanaruang; ALPS, the new film from the director of DOGTOOTH; OSLO, AUGUST 31, the universally-acclaimed new film from the director of REPRISE; Canne’s Un Certain Regarde winner ELENA; and, proving that it’s not NaFF without a documentary by Steve James or Joe Berlinger, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, Berlinger’s doc about Paul Simon’s return to South Africa.
And there’s more. I saw Jennifer Baichwal’s awe-inspiring documentary MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES at NaFF 2007. After the film, Al Gore appeared out of nowhere and presented her with the Reel Current award. Jennifer is back this year with PAYBACK, a philoso-doc based on the Margaret Atwood book exploring ‘debt’ in its various forms.
There’s ADALBERT’S DREAM, a Romanian New Wave black comedy that I had the privilege to review for this week’s edition of The Nashville Scene. You can read that along with my review of the Mexican films ARTIFICIAL PARADISES and BURROS here.
And it wouldn’t be Music City USA without a crop of music films. THE GODMOTHER OF ROCK & ROLL: SISTER ROSETTA THARPE, LOUDER THAN LOVE: THE GRANDE BALLROOM STORY, and BRICK AND MORTAR LOVE (featuring Nashville record store treasure Grimey’s) strike me as the most interesting. The closing film, and one of the films I’m most excited about, is PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE, a biopic about the under-appreciated songwriter. He wrote RAINBOW CONNECTION for THE MUPPET MOVIE and co-scored (and starred in) Brian DePalma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which, by some stroke of genius is playing NaFF. Williams will attend the festival and (hopefully!) make an appearance at the sure-to-sell-out PHANTOM show.
On Wednesday evening in one of the hardest choices of the fest, the only screening of PHANTOM is pitted against the only evening screening of OSLO, AUGUST 31. Scheduling snafus happen at all fests, but they seem to happen particularly frequently at NaFF. On Monday, you must choose between the only evening screening of HEADSHOT and the only evening screening of PAYBACK. I always choose the films I want to see first and then figure out where they fall in the schedule. This year, my Saturday schedule had a 7 hour gap between the 1pm PILGRIM SONG and the 10PM V/H/S, a horror anthology directed by Ti West, Adam Wingard, and Joe Swanberg among others. On the other hand, my Sunday schedule was positively brimming, a hard choice at every time slot.
But schedulers can’t predict the tastes of every film-goer, and they are faced with the constraints placed upon them by the studios. Some films only allow a single screening. Some directors or actors can only be in town to present on a single day. But all in all, I managed to work in almost every film I want to see, even if it means I have to find some way to take off work on Thursday, April 26th to work in a few musts.
So many films, so little time. Watch this space in the coming days for my thoughts on the films of the 2012 NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL. And now, on to Green Hills to see my first film of the fest: ATTENBERG.
Tony Youngblood is a film and music snob and producer of the experimental improv music blog and podcast Theatre Intangible. His favorite films include Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray, Abbass Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician, Lee Chang Dong’s Oasis, and Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap.