On the Billboard country chart, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack continues its reign as country’s unlikeliest success story of the moment. This summer, you can see the movie inspired by the record inspired by the movie. Down from the Mountain, an O Brother performance film shot last year in Nashville by D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back), will be one of the featured selections at the Nashville Independent Film Festival (NIFF) June 6-10.
“We’re really excited to have this film, especially for what it means to Nashville’s music community,” says Brian Gordon, the former San Francisco International Film Festival programmer who succeeds Michael Catalano as the NIFF’s executive director.
Down from the Mountain documents a concert last summer at the Ryman Auditorium that assembled the artists on the movie’s soundtrack, including Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Ralph Stanley. (Not shown, oddly enough, is Dan Tyminski’s pivotal version of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Pennebaker told an audience in Austin last month that the number was cut from the documentary after O Brother creators Joel and Ethan Coen said they didn’t like it.)
Down from the Mountain caps one of the strongest slates of films in the recent history of the 32-year-old festival. This year’s NIFF will have fewer films than last year’s backbreaking 275 selections in five days. But Gordon and festival director Kelly Brownlee say the emphasis will be on quality over quantity, with the reduced number of films permitting luxuries such as multiple screenings. Thus far, confirmed entries include:
♦ Our Song, an acclaimed drama about three teenage friends in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights by award-winning filmmaker Jim McKay (Girls Town);
♦ Southern Comfort, this year’s Grand Jury-winning Sundance documentary about a transgendered man facing cancer and prejudice in rural Georgia;
♦ Together (Tillsammans), a terrific South by Southwest hit about life in a Swedish hippie commune by Show Me Love director Lukas Moodysson;
♦ Bartleby, starring Crispin Glover, Glenne Headly, and David Paymer in a black-comic adaptation of the Herman Melville story;
♦ Outer Space, Peter Tscherkassky’s mind-blowing experimental film that turns clips from the Barbara Hershey horror flick The Entity into a found-footage assault;
♦ Gang Tapes, Adam Ripp’s shot-on-camcorder drama, which uses a Blair Witch-type pseudo-doc style to record the aftermath of a carjacking;
♦ Born to Lose, a tribute to punk legend Johnny Thunders by notorious D.O.A. documentarian Lech Kowalski;
♦ The Natural History of the Chicken, the latest seriocomic look at animal culture from Mark Lewis, director of the oft-bootlegged documentary Cane Toads.
The films were chosen from 875 submissions this year, and Brownlee says that with “some resource planning” the festival eventually wants to double that number. More selections will be announced soon. Also included this year will be retrospective screenings of Nashville-related films and classic American independents. Tickets will go on sale in early May at www.nashvillefilmfestival.org.
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