We're in the last two days of the 44th annual Nashville Film Festival, and it looks like a winner: bigger crowds than usual for the post-weekend selections — e.g., a near-sellout for Monday's early-afternoon screening of Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling's This Ain't No Mouse Music! — and huge audience responses to a broad variety of films, from The History of Future Folk and East Nashville Tonight to Sarah Polley's engrossing Stories We Tell and the rousing adventure Kon-Tiki. If viewers could have, they would have married Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's lovable coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back, based on the cheers that greeted last night's full-house screening.
Today, you can see the entire Ulrich Seidl Paradise trilogy (Love, Faith, Hope) starting today at noon; you can also catch promising entries such as Nairobi Half-Life, A Lovely Day and The Land of Eb. Word of mouth is strong on Magic Camp (4 p.m.), and we've also spotlighted some other titles of note below:
• I USED TO BE DARKER (2:30 p.m.) Matt Porterfield's Putty Hill was one of 2011's best-reviewed indie releases; Porterfield follows it with a drama about a Northern Irish girl whose visit heightens tensions among her Baltimore family. Produced by Ryan Zacharias and co-produced by Brooke Bernard, the team behind Brent Stewart's Nashville-shot feature The Colonel's Bride, James Clauer's eagerly awaited When the World's on Fire and Michael Tully's upcoming comedy Ping Pong Summer with Susan Sarandon and Amy Sedaris.
• A RIVER CHANGES COURSE (6 p.m.; also 12:15 p.m. Thursday, April 25) Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at this year's Sundance, Kalyanee Mam's film examines the ruthless effects of global commerce on three Cambodian families, each feeling the pressure of deforestation, overfishing and cheap labor.
• THE KINGS OF SUMMER (7 p.m.; also noon Thursday, April 25) A terrific cast — Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly, Hannibal Buress — heads up Jordan Roberts-Vogt's hit Sundance comedy about three teenagers who decide to build a house and live in the wild.
• MUSIC CITY U.S.A. (7:30 p.m.; also 2:15 p.m. Thursday, April 25) One of two docs in this year's fest training the lens on Nashville music, Chris McDaniel's enlists a celebrity roster including Vince Gill, Pam Tillis, Larry Gatlin and Montgomery Gentry. Paul Cain and Jeffrey Stanfill did the cinematography.
• A TEACHER (9 p.m.; also 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25) An Austin high school teacher (Lindsay Burdge) spirals into freefall after an affair with a student (Will Brittain) in Hannah Fidell's award-winning SXSW drama.
McCULLIN (2 p.m.) "Even my darkroom is a haunted place," says Don McCullin in the opening scenes of the documentary film about his life's work — photos of war-torn landscapes and people. McCullin speaks with disarming calm about shots he's taken of women holding mattresses on their heads to deflect bullets, or Congolese children being dragged behind vehicles and skinned alive. The film, directed by David Morris and Jacqui Morris, is a profile of an extraordinary artist and his moving, ambitious work, but it's also an effective treatise on the importance of candid photojournalism. LAURA HUTSON
POST TENEBRAS LUX (6:30 p.m.) You'd think it'd be hard for certified Mexican oddball Carlos Reygadas to go much further off the deep end after films like Battle in Heaven or even the relatively placid but otherworldly Silent Light. But here he is again, dancing on the edge of coherence like a Surrealist hermano to Terrence Malick. This is a film (sort of) about domestic anxiety, and it begins with the filmmaker's children at sunrise, in a kind of nod to the birth of the universe. Almost immediately after, a CGI red devil invades the home of an upper-middle-class family as they sleep. It's a highly original, allegorical, sensual and heretical film; you might not like Lux, but I guarantee you won't soon forget it. In subtitled Spanish. MICHAEL SICINSKI
PIETA (10 p.m.) The latest feature from Korea's Kim Ki-duk won the top prize at last year's Venice Film Festival, which is baffling: It's an unsubtle, knuckleheaded film about a thug (Lee Jeong-jin) who makes his living destroying the limbs of those who run afoul of his loan-shark boss. One day, a mysterious old woman (Jo Min-soo) tries to insinuate herself into his life, by cleaning up his hovel and making him soup. "Go away, crazy bitch!" is his oft-repeated reaction to her inexplicable kindness. Who is she? Director Kim had a few promising films in the early Aughts, most notably the Buddhist parable Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring. But his general mien is a kind of Neanderthal pseudo-formalism that revels in violence only to "apologize" in the final minutes. Ugly stuff. In subtitled Korean. MICHAEL SICINSKI