In this week's Scene cover story, we preview more than 30 selections at this year's 2013 Nashville Film Festival, opening tonight and running through April 25 at Regal's Green Hills 16. To help you navigate the many choices, we provide a list of 12 films below (with trailers) we strongly recommend you don't miss. And these are hardly the only films worth seeing: you'll find many more — including some we didn't screen at press time yet look extremely promising — in the whole package.
NASHVILLE 2012 (6:30 p.m tonight; also 9:45 p.m. Friday, April 19) When people talk about Nashville being an "It" city, they're certainly talking about glitzier subjects than those portrayed in Nashville 2012, a 75-minute series of black-and-white shorts that chronicles the year. There's no food porn, indie rock stars or high-gloss prime-time soap opera at work here. Yet filmmakers Jace Freeman and Sean Clark's fly-on-the-wall focus on subjects from Occupy Nashville to speedway racers to local theater produces a portrait of the city infinitely more interesting by comparison. STEVE CAVENDISH
SUNSHINE BOYS (6:15 p.m. tonight; also 2 p.m. Monday, April 22) In Kim Tae-gon's accomplished feature, three friends meet up in Busan a year after graduating high school together, and the trio parties deep into the night, plied with a staggering amount of alcohol under sketchy circumstances. As an undelivered letter hangs like a cloud over the reunion, much goes unsaid and unexplained, and yet the tension, sadness and joy are palpable — intensified rather than diminished by inference and indirection. By the end, each friend carries his own private shame, but we've walked through his reasons for concealing it. The results are quietly devastating. STEVE HARUCH
THE HISTORY OF FUTURE FOLK (9:15 p.m. Friday; also 1:30 p.m. Tuesday) When a comet threatens to destroy planet Hondo, Hondonian Gen. Trius (Nils d'Aulaire) is sent to Earth to destroy the human race and prepare the planet for resettlement. But after landing in Brooklyn, he falls in love with music, changes his name to Bill and starts a family. When fellow Hondonian Kevin (Jay Klaitz) is sent to investigate, he too abandons his mission, and the two space aliens form an acoustic duo: Future Folk, natch. John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker's endearing low-budget sci-fi comedy leans more toward sweet than ironic, and Future Folk's music shtick — kind of a cross between Flight of the Conchords and Tenacious D — is pretty hilarious. Bonus points for a Dee Snider cameo. Definitely worth a look. JACK SILVERMAN
RHINO SEASON (12:15 p.m. Saturday; also 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25) Kurdish-Iranian poet Sahel (Behrouz Vossoughi) is released from an Iranian prison after serving nearly 30 years for writing poems considered "against the state." When he's released, he learns that his wife Mina (Monica Bellucci) thinks he's been dead for many years. The latest work from acclaimed director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time For Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly), Rhino Season is based on the true story of a Kurdish-Iranian poet known as Sadegh Kamangar, some of whose poems are used as narration, giving the film an impressionistic, dreamlike quality. It's an extremely dark and disturbing tale, but it's artfully told, and Turaj Aslani's cinematography is fabulous, with many of the scenes bathed in sepia hues that accentuate the characters' faded memories and broken hearts. Part of the festival's "Celebration of Kurdish Films," running Friday through Sunday. JACK SILVERMAN
BREAKFAST WITH CURTIS (3:30 p.m.; also 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21) Strongly recommended to fans of Richard Linklater's Slacker or Robert Altman's woollier ensemble pieces, Laura Colella's balmy, ingratiating feature has a bohemian household's loquacious leader (Theo Green) making conciliatory gestures to the neurotic neighbor kid he inadvertently traumatized five years earlier. The twist is that Colella cast her own squirrelly housemates (and house) essentially as themselves and fabricated a movie around them; the result is a sweet, amusing summer breeze of a movie that's like stumbling upon a neighbor's moonshine party. Suggested tagline: "More fun than ping-pong without panties!" JIM RIDLEY
I AM DIVINE (9:30 p.m. Saturday; also 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21) Jeffrey Schwarz follows his documentaries on adult film star Jack Wrangler and Celluloid Closet author Vito Russo with a figure who, appropriately, combines smut with queer activism: Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine. Divine seems so fully formed in her earliest work with John Waters that it's easy to underestimate the lengths she went through to create her unique, disgusting and sexy persona. The film fills in those gaps nicely, with insightful interviews with Divine's mother and high school girlfriend, as well as interviews with Waters, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Michael Musto, Bruce Vilanch and more. LAURA HUTSON
KON-TIKI (7 p.m. Sunday; also 4:15 p.m. Monday, April 22) Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl's legendary 1951 balsa-wood raft journey across the Pacific is an old-fashioned epic of the highest order — immense, exciting, and full of determined, foolhardy, irony-free characters drawn in broad strokes. Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg's film follows earnest Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) as he goes about putting together a (mostly) amateur crew designed to prove that pre-Columbian Polynesians could have made this treacherous journey across the seas with the basic technology available to them. But for all that, the film (like Heyerdahl's original book and documentary) is very much about the pluck and drive of white Europeans. Don't worry too much about issues of representation, however: This gorgeous, absorbing film is very much worth seeing — especially on a big screen. BILGE EBIRI
THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC! (8:30 p.m. Sunday; also 12:30 p.m. Monday, April 22) Though he was born a count to an aristocratic family in prewar Germany, Chris Strachwitz would eventually become one of American roots music's greatest champions. As the founder and president of Arhoolie Records, Strachwitz has made preserving and promoting a wide variety of folk music — from Delta blues to Cajun, Dixieland to bluegrass, Tejano to sacred steel — his sole mission in life. Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon's documentary features a treasure trove of footage of Arhoolie artists such as Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Big Mama Thornton, Clifton Chenier and Flaco Jimenez, not to mention commentary from Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Richard Thompson. A must-see for roots music fans. JACK SILVERMAN
STORIES WE TELL (7 p.m. Monday) Not to be missed. Actor-director Sarah Polley (Away from Her) mixes documentary and dramatic recreation — using her own family history as material — to examine decades-old secrets about her parents' past.
AFTER TILLER (8 p.m. Monday) Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, only four doctors in the United States continue to perform third-trimester abortions. Filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson document all four in this wrenching, candid documentary that will leave you with a lump in your throat no matter where you stand on the abortion debate. The access the doctors and patients provide is at once captivating and repellent, and the film's compassion only serves to bring the audience in closer — this is by no means a pro-anything film. The subject matter is powerful enough to speak for itself. LAURA HUTSON
GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (9 p.m. Monday) A grail item for the many fans of Japan's Studio Ghibli, this seldom-shown 1988 anti-war drama by master animator Isao Takahata exists worlds apart from the gentle visions of Hayao Miyazaki. It's a grim and ultimately wrenching drama in which a teenage boy tries to keep his little sister alive in the aftermath of the World War II firebombing of Japan. "Yes, it's a cartoon, and the kids have eyes like saucers," the late Roger Ebert wrote, "but it belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made." Not to be missed. JIM RIDLEY
IL FUTURO (9:15 p.m. Monday) A strange and wonderful mix of Italian kitchen-sink drama and Sunset Boulevard-style black humor, with an undercurrent of otherworldly weirdness and gladiator-movie kitsch, Il Futuro is unlike any other movie you've seen. Bianca and Tomas are Roman teens whose world jolts when their parents die in a car crash. In a fog of grief — which manifests as blazing, surreal sunlight — Bianca (Manuela Martelli) enters a steamy sexual union with reclusive former film star Maciste (Rutger Hauer). Chilean director Alicia Scherson, working from a novel by the legendary Roberto Bolaño, takes a Roman apartment block into Outer Limits territory and back again. In English and subtitled Italian. DANA KOPP FRANKLIN