Producer Christine Vachon, one of independent film's genuine heroes, has been added to the roster of visiting actors and filmmakers next month at the Nashville Film Festival. Her appearance at the 35th annual festival, which starts April 26 at Regal's Green Hills megaplex, bolsters a strong lineup of foreign and indie films that would have been unthinkable here a decade ago.
An early champion of queer cinema and filmmaking outside the mainstream, Vachon stood behind such seminal early '90s indies as Tom Kalin's Swoon and Rose Troche's Go Fish (which will screen at the festival). She produced all of Todd Haynes' features, including the recent Far from Heaven, as well as Kids, Happiness, Boys Don't Cry and Robert Altman's The Company.
Vachon will be on hand to accept the festival's Freedom in Film Award, given for a career's dedication to First Amendment principles. Previous winners include Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon and director Charles Burnett.
She joins a sprawling guest list that includes documentarian Bruce Sinofsky (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), actor Patrick Swayze (One Last Dance), actor-director Rick Schroeder (Black Cloud), music industry raconteur Phil Kaufman (Grand Theft Parsons), and musicians Bernie Leadon and Bonnie Bramlett. Other featured guests will be announced soon.
With almost all the films announced, the 2004 schedule heavily favors music documentaries and features, which is turning into the festival's niche identity. Subjects range from honky-tonk heroes Billy Joe Shaver and Gram Parsons to techno pioneer Bruce Haack, with side explorations into Central European folk music, jazz, the impact of John Lennon's "Imagine," even a shrieking chorus of burly Finns in the indescribable Sundance hit Screaming Men.
Of particular interest will be Station Inn: True Life Bluegrass, a feature-length documentary on the history of the cozy 12th Avenue bluegrass hall, and Pre-Madonna, Demetria Kalodimos' portrait of the hippies and exhibitionists who made up Music Row's outlaw fringe before Waylon and Willie became Waylon and Willie.
Hardcore movie lovers may be even more encouraged by the lineup of favorites from the current festival circuit. Acclaimed documentaries, features from Europe and the Middle East, and hot cult items highlight the NFF's recently announced schedule:
♦ The Five Obstructions, in which gleefully sadistic director Lars von Trier (Dogville) challenges his hero, Danish experimental filmmaker Jorgen Leth, to remake his 1967 short "The Perfect Human" five times under an arbitrary set of impositions.
♦ Slasher, a comic doc that recounts a Memphis car lot's high-pressure weekend sale-a-thon. It's the first feature in six years by John Landis, director of The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon's Animal House.
♦ Control Room, Jehane Noujaim's documentary look inside the workings of the Arab news network Al-Jazeera at the height of the U.S. invasion.
♦ Saved!, a controversial comedy with Jena Malone and Mandy Moore, in which a teen queen at a straight-laced Baptist high school becomes a pregnant pariah.
♦ The Saddest Music in the World, the riotous new feature by Canada's retro futurist Guy Maddin, about a glass-legged beer heiress (Isabella Rossellini) who pits country against country in the outlandish competition of the title.
♦ Bright Leaves, which follows documentary essayist Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) through his family's tangled roots in the North Carolina tobacco industry.
♦ Haute Tension, a frenzy of slasher-movie splatter courtesy of France's Alexandre Aja, with two women on weekend holiday terrorized by a relentless attacker (Gaspar Noé stock player Philippe Nahon).
♦ Hair High, veteran animator Bill Plympton's macabre new comedy, which features the oddest voice cast to come down the pike in some time: Keith and David Carradine, Sarah Silverman, Dermot Mulroney and cartoonist Matt Groening.
♦ Deadline , about Illinois Gov. George Ryan's incendiary decision to halt all killings on his state's Death Row in the waning days of his term.
♦ The World's Greatest Sinner , the rarely screened 1962 cult movie by legendary character actor Timothy Carey, who plays an insurance salesman who changes his name to God and runs for president as a rockabilly cat in a gold-lamé suit. Carey's son Romeo will introduce.
The full list, including shorts, experimental films and animated offerings, will be printed soon on the NFF's Web site, www.nashvillefilmfestival.org. Still to be announced are the festival's workshops and panels, one of which will be the fruit of its new partnership with the Nashville Screenwriters Conference. Tickets go on sale for this year's festival midnight April 4 on the NFF Web site.
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