With 275 films to choose from throughout the Nashville Independent Film Festival’s five-day run, you’ve got some daunting choices to make about films, screening times, etc. Here to help you are the Scene’s Noel Murray, Jim Ridley, and Angela Wibking with a select (but hardly comprehensive) list of daily festival picks. As always, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance and lining up at least 20 minutes ahead of time to get a decent seat.
Wednesday, June 7
Mud Season (3 p.m., Screen 4)
A lonely Vermont deer hunter accidentally kills the proprietor of a local brothel, and while avoiding the inquiries of the law and his neighbors, he finds himself taking care of one of the prostitutes that he inadvertently put out of work. The plot is a little creaky and developed at a syrupy pace, but this feature is worth seeing for the remarkable performance of Rusty DeWees, who plays the awkward, proud woodsman with a quiet sadness that’s hard to ignore. Writer-director Anthony Hall and his cowriter Rob Lewbel also deserve praise for rooting their tale of murder and romance in a New England small town that is so vivid, audience members may feel like they grew up there. Credit the brisk color cinematography, by Lewbel himself. Preceded by the short ”The Snow.“ N.M.
Animations II (6:30 p.m., Screen 3)
Great art draws the viewer in, as Cameron McNall proves in ”The Last Drawing of Canaletto,“ inspired by the work of 18th-century Italian artist Canaletto, whose shimmering studies of Venice remain the most famous images of that city. Combining claymation, model photography, time-lapse photography, and computer animation, the film puts the audience in the midst of a three-dimensional recreation of a Canaletto drawing. It’s joined here by several other ambitious films, including Chris Wedge’s Oscar-winning ”Bunny“; Steffan Schäffler’s claymation piece ”The Periwig-Maker,“ set in the plague years of London; and ”Tagebuch-Diary,“ a day in the life of a German man rendered in the intense, sketch-like style of director Vuk Jevremovich, whose ”Panther“ won last year’s festival prize for animation. A.W./J.R.
Under Hellgate Bridge
(6:30 p.m., Screen 3)
Also of note:
♦ Broke Even, a comedy-drama about three buddies who invest in a scheme involving the life-insurance policy of a dying patient. It stars Kevin Corrigan, Elizabeth Berridge, and Austin Pendleton; it’s preceded by Judy Chaikin’s short ”Cotillion ’65,“ which stars Kate Linder from The Young and the Restless; both Linder and Chaikin will attend. 9:30 p.m., Screen 15.
♦ Seven Girlfriends, a romantic comedy in which Tim Daly revisits his exes to find out why his love life is so lackluster. The cast includes Melora Hardin, Mimi Rogers, and Jami Gertz; the director is Paul Lazarus from TV’s Friends. 9:40 p.m., Screen 16.
Thursday, June 8
The Girls’ Room (4:30 p.m., Screen 4)
Irene Turner’s comedy uses The Breakfast Club as a generational touchstone, and at its worst it’s just as diagrammatic as that John Hughes clunker. But it has saving graces, no pun intended. In Amanda Beall’s sharp-tongued script, campus outsider Casey (Soleil Moon Frye, more punk than Punky) resents and envies her Suhthun-belle roommate Grace (Cat Taber). When Casey meddles in Grace’s wedding plans, Grace retaliates by insinuating herself into Casey’s crowd. First-time director Turner uses blackouts with so little finesse they resemble commercial breaks, and you could swear she’s being paid by the establishing shot. That said, her affection for college-age dreamers unset in their lives makes up for a lot of awkwardnessas does her real-life pacing of conversations and developing romances. And as Grace’s sweet-tempered fiancé, grown-up Stand by Me star Wil Wheaton is the man to call for anyone planning a Vince Gill biopic. J.R.
Tent Revival (6:30 p.m., Screen 3)
In this little gem from Jackson, Tenn., filmmaker Julian Williamson documents the tiny details that go into the presentation of an outdoor Christian revival meetingthe setting up of the tent, the transportation of a piano, the potluck supper, and the distribution of chairs. The actual preaching takes up only about five minutes of this half-hour film, which might be considered a failing, unless you consider that Williamson’s focus is more on the ritual behind the ritual. Thoughtful regional filmmaking has always been what this festival is about, and Tent Revival upholds that tradition beautifully. It’s shown as part of the ”Tennessee Film Night“ program, along with Dolly Carlisle’s Everybody Hollerin’ Goat, about Mississippi fife-and-drum legend Othar Turner, and hot music-video director Steven Goldmann’s short dramatic feature 50 Odd Dollars. N.M.
Dead Dogs (9:35 p.m., Screen 4)
Film noir has been flogged to exhaustion by indie filmmakers of late, but this tough, low-key character study shows there’s still juice in the genre. In Clay Eide’s debut feature, good-guy Tom (Joe Reynolds) thinks he’s straightened out his life by settling into the routine of a motel security-guard gig. All that changes with the arrival of his brother, a stick-up man who preys on convenience stores, and the girlfriend his brother stole from him. Suddenly the girlfriend looks pretty tantalizingand so does the motel safe, which falls under the watch of Tom’s kind, chess-playing night manager Gordon (Jay Underwood). Will Tom side with his outlaw brother in a heist caper and sell out his friend? If you’re a student of noir, you know the answer already; the suspense in this slow but forceful thriller comes from watching the characters’ choices constrict around their necks. Add strong acting by the principals and gritty black-and-white camerawork, and the result is a downbeat tale that offers plenty of shadow but nowhere to hide. J.R.
On Music Row (9:20 p.m., Screen 16)
We’ve heard good things about this Nashville-set and -shot TV pilot, in which five hopefuls seek stardom while sharing a house. Actors Robert Lynn and David Alford cowrote the script; they join a cast that includes Jennifer O’Neill and Lari White. Armanda Costanza directed. J.R.
Nice Guys Sleep Alone
(9:45 p.m., Screen 15)
Stu Pollard’s comedy, based on Bruce Feirstein’s ’80s bestseller, tests the Anal Magnitude Theory: that the biggest assholes end up with plenty of dates. Fed up with being lonely, the nice-guy hero (Sean O’Bryan) decides to act like a conceited jerkat exactly the time he meets a woman (Sybil Temchen) who wants someone kind. Is this autobiography? ”I don’t want to sound like I’m a complete loser,“ Pollard says, laughing. But he did set the film in his hometown of Louisville, which he describes as having a civic identity crisis. ”Louisville doesn’t know whether it wants to be Nashville or Indianapolis,“ the director says. Listen for two songs on the soundtrack from Nashville writers Carter Wood and Dave Berg. J.R.
Also of note:
♦ Zargul, Salmaan Peerzada’s three-hour Pakistani epic about a businessman who becomes an outlaw. It’s being released by Ann Gillis and Marvin Baker’s Venice Film Merchants. 5:30 p.m., Screen 16.
♦ The Name of This Film Is Dogme 95, an Independent Film Channel documentary on the cinematic ”vow of chastity“ whose adherents include Lars von Trier (The Idiots) and former Nashvillian Harmony Korine (julien donkey-boy). 7:30 p.m., Screen 4.
Friday, June 9
Young Filmmaker Programs (10:10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., Screen 15)
Among the contenders in the NIFF’s blocks of films by young auteurs: ”A Klompus Kind of Kristmas,“ made by Daniel Bissell and his buddies at Fairview High, in which a mad scientist plots to rid the world of Ben Affleck; and a group of student filmmakers falling prey to a butt-nekkid hillbilly inyou guessed it”The Bare Hick Project.“ But the chief newsgetter is ”Looking 4 God“ by 10-year-old Florida filmmaker Chaille Stovall, who somehow landed interviews with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Dalai Lama for his spiritual-quest documentary. While in Nashville, Stovall hopes to interview Vice President Al Gore, who’s as scarce around these parts as the Bare Hick. J.R.
Butterfly (1 p.m., Screen 3)
This problematic but endlessly fascinating portrait of Earth First! activist Julia ”Butterfly“ Hill is due to air on PBS’ POV series later this year, in a version roughly 25 minutes shorter than the one showing here. By all means, see the longer picture, which not only tells the story of Butterfly’s two-year-long vigil atop a California redwood tree, but takes the time to consider the opinions of the logging community, and the in-fighting within Butterfly’s own organization. If there’s a weakness to Doug Wolens’ documentary, it’s that Butterfly herself remains as elusive as her namesake. Still, the issues raised by Wolens’ film more than make up for the slightly disjointed narrative and the soft touch with which the title subject is handled. Preceded by the short ”Crossing the Line.“ N.M.
Animations (7 p.m., Screen 3)
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: A stand-up comic goes onstage and faces an audience that’s a pack of wild dogs. No, seriouslyboth comic and crowd are canines in ”Mutt,“ a claymation piece from Will Vinton Studios (of California Raisins infamy). Also on the bill: German director Andreas Aykade’s ”Ring of Fire,“ inspired by the Johnny Cash classic; and Mitchell Rose’s ”Elevator World,“ a treatise on the philosophical implications and class distinctions of life as an elevator ride. Adults only, please. J.R.
A Piece of Eden (9:30 p.m., Screen 16)
Visiting filmmaker John Hancock (Weeds, Bang the Drum Slowly) directed this family comedy about a New York PR man who leaves his firm to take over his dying father’s farm in Indiana. Frederic Forrest and Tyne Daly appear.
Also of note:
♦ Americanos: Latino Life in the United States, Susan Todd’s documentary about the impact and influence of Latino-Americans in American arts, politics, and education. 2:15 p.m., Screen 15.
♦ Desperate But Not Serious, in which two party girls drift through wild L.A. nightlife in a quest for an elusive Mr. Right. The cast includes Claudia Schiffer and Henry Rollins as a psycho bartender; the comedy was directed by Bill Fishman (Tapeheads). 4 p.m., Screen 15.
♦ The Last Best Sunday, a moody character study about a Hispanic teen fleeing a hate crime who hides out in the home of a girl with deeply religious parents. Featured are Douglas Spain, Angela Bettis, Kim Darby, and Marion Rosswho was, of course, a regular on Happy Days with director Don Most. 7 p.m., Screen 16.
♦ The Late Last Night, which refers to a young couple’s disastrous housewarming party, a darkly comic nightmare of sex, drugs, and remembered encounters with Bigfoot. Former Nashvillian Bill Timoney has a dream role: the husband of Ginger Lynn Allen. 9:40 p.m., Screen 15.
Saturday, June 10
Friends Seen and Unseen
(3 p.m., Screen 4)
This half-hour documentary may be the festival’s most eagerly anticipated film. The subject is the notorious Nashville radio preacher the Prophet Omega, who taped a series of unforgettably bizarre sermons in his apartment, Q-238, at 488 Lamont Dr. throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s. Passed from musician to musician in the mid-’80s, the broadcast tapes spawned a cult phenomenon that includes bootlegs, band names, samples on records by Adrian Belew and Melissa Etheridge, and celebrity fans ranging from The Rolling Stones to the three remaining Beatles.
Remarkably, though, no one had ever ascertained the identity of the vanished Prophet Omega until now. And the person who found it only adds to the mystery: WSMV news anchor Demetria Kalodimos, who, with partner Kathy Conkwright, wrote, produced, directed, and researched this labor of love for her Genuine Human Productions. ”Prophet Omega is truly a secret handshake among people,“ says Kalodimos, who first heard Omega through bluegrass picker Roger Resnick in 1986. ”Most people tell you they like the timing or the rhythm. Adrian Belew calls it ‘the smooth abuse of the English language.’ “
Kalodimos and Conkwright found quite a few ”Omegaphiles“ willing to talk on camera: T. Graham Brown, Marty Stuart, Al Kooper, even Billy Bob Thornton. Kalodimos won’t say whether she actually captured the Prophet on camera or not. But a still from the film gives us hope that friend Omega goes from unseen to seen. Either way, this should still attract every musician in town. J.R.
Fastpitch (3:45 p.m., Screen 16)
My pick as the festival’s must-see film is this informative and highly personal look at the declining sport of fastpitch softball, seen through the eyes of a New York artist who decides to spend his summer playing for the Ashland Bombers in Ohio. Jeremy Spear describes the history of the gameonce as popular as professional baseballand he spends time with both the scrappy, mostly unpaid teams (like his own) and the better-funded big-city teams that are threatening to choke off the sport’s grass-roots element. He talks to the large number of Native Americans who excel at fastpitch, as well as the surprising number of New Zealanders who dominate the game. And he shows enough of the Bombers’ quest for the national tournament to make Fastpitch entertaining strictly as a sportsflick. But it’s more than that: What emerges is a film about vanishing Americana, financial disparity, the line between hobby and obsession, and a pride in identity that transcends racial or regional affiliation. This pic is a marvel; don’t miss it. N.M.
Searching for Tony Joe
(4:15 p.m., Screen 15)
Four amateur filmmakers from Austin decide to spend their two-week summer vacation finding out whatever happened to obscure country songwriter Tony Joe White, who had hits with ”Polk Salad Annie“ and ”Rainy Night in Georgia“ and then faded from the scene in the late ’70s. Codirectors Joseph Strickland and Christopher Chaput are clearly influenced by documentarian Ross McElwee, and they pay homage to their predecessor by making their film as much about their journey as about Tony Joe White. Unfortunately, they and their two cohorts are typically too busy being cutesy to let the viewer really get to know them. Luckily, when they deign to cover their actual subject, Strickland and Chaput unearth some fascinating commentsfrom country scholars, family members of White, and White himselfabout fleeting fame and how tricky it is to write a hit song. The two halves of the film are meant to come together into a meditation on the pursuit of artistic creation, and thanks mainly to the forthrightness of Tony Joe White, the picture is clearer than it deserves to be. Preceded by the shorts ”They Knew Tex“ and ”Jonah and the Wail.“ N.M.
Art on Film (5 p.m., Screen 3)
If you missed last summer’s fascinating ”Degas in New Orleans“ art exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art, David Jones’ documentary short ”Degas in New Orleans: A Creole Sojourn“ covers much of the same ground. The great French Impressionist had close relatives in New Orleans and spent several months there in 1872. Most of the works he created during that time were portraits of the women in his familyand a lovely but tragic lot they were, as the film details. Stay for Nashville documentarian Tom Neff’s ”Louise Dahl-Wolfe: Painting With Light.“ Earlier this year, the Cheekwood Museum of Art mounted a retrospective of self-taught Nashville sculptor William Edmondsonwho owed his 1937 solo show at the Museum of Modern Art to photographer Dahl-Wolfe. The photographer was perhaps best known, however, for her fashion work for Harper’s Bazaar. Neff’s short doc brings the photographer’s life and career into sharper focus. A.W.
The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack (9:30 p.m., Screen 4)
One of the festival’s must-see films. Aiyana Elliott directed this absorbing documentary portrait of her father, folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the son of a Brooklyn dentist who reinvented himself as a rodeo raconteur and Woody Guthrie’s compadre. Using interviews with family and friends (including Kris Kristofferson and Dave Van Ronk) and superb archival footage from The Johnny Cash Show, among other sources, director Elliott testifies to her father’s genius as a performer. At the same time, she’s unsparing about the rootless ways that made him a distant dad. But Van Ronk puts the matter in stark terms: If he’d stayed home, Aiyana might’ve gained a good father, one of millionsbut the world would’ve lost the one and only Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Ramblin’ Jack is scheduled to appear; pay heed to the word ”scheduled.“ J.R.
Also of note:
♦ A Force More Powerful, which examines a century of nonviolent resistance, from Gandhi to lunchroom sit-ins. Those interviewed include 1960s Nashville civil-rights lions James Lawson and Diane Nash; Ben Kingsley narrates. 1:30 p.m., Screen 16.
♦ Homeland, by Jilann Spitzmiller, is a study of contemporary family life on a Lakota reservation in South Dakota. 2:30 p.m., Screen 3.
♦ The Simian Line, Linda Yellen’s drama about three couples whose fates are intertwined with a psychic (Tyne Daly) and a couple of ghosts (William Hurt and Samantha Mathis). Eric Stoltz, Lynn Redgrave, Harry Connick Jr., and Cindy Crawford are featured. 7 p.m., Screen 16.
♦ The Auteur Theory, Evan Oppenheimer’s black comedy about movies, murder, and the myth of directorial intent, which stars Alan Cox and Natasha Lyonne. 7:10 p.m., Screen 15.
Sunday, June 11
Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians (1:45 p.m., Screen 3)
The film is preceded by ”Earl’s Canoe,“ in which filmmakers Tom Vennum and Charlie Weber follow Earl, an Ojibwa from Wisconsin, as he constructs a canoe in the ancient ways of his tribe. A.W.
Smoke and Mirrors: A History of Denial (4:15 p.m., Screen 3)
Torrie Rosenzweig’s comprehensive account of the American tobacco industry’s rise and fall and rise again (in foreign markets) was one of 12 films remaining in the next-to-final cut for Academy Award nominees, and it would have been a worthy finalist. Starting with the foundation of this country on tobacco profits, Rosenzweig charts the way that smoking was innocently integrated into our everyday lives, especially with the rise of advertising in the 20th century. Then she shows what happened when scientists began to understand the health risks associated with tobacco use, and how the industry reacted first with understandable reserve and then with unforgivable deceit. The only thing really missing from Rosenzweig’s study is the voice of smokers themselves and a more probing look at the way that cigarettes have been stigmatized in the past few decades. But the rest of the story is covered fully and engagingly, with special attention paid to the way the most American of products has become our national shame. N.M.
Amargosa (6:30 p.m., Screen 4)
Advance word is strong about Todd Robinson’s documentary portrait of Marta Becket, a New York dancer who, at age 43, moved to the California desert to restore a tiny community’s dilapidated opera house. More than 30 years later, she continues to dance. Among the movie’s fans are two of our best local actors, Denice Hicks and David Alford, which means this is probably a must for lovers of theater and dance. J.R.
Kumar Talkies (8:30 p.m., Screen 3)
This feature-length doc examines a decaying movie theater in a small village in India beset by the forces of modernity and consumerism. Arrive early for the preceding short, ”Phone: A Cinematic History,“ which traces the use of the telephone in films throughout the years. N.M.
Also of note:
♦ Better Days, a screening of Michael Moore’s unseen sitcom pilot with Chris Elliott. 3:15 p.m., Screen 4.
♦ ”Why I Live at the P.O.,“ a short adapted from Eudora Welty’s classic short story. It’s part of a program of shorts including Glenn Marzano’s ”Stop Breakin’ Down“ and Mary Siceloff’s ”Water and Power.“ 3:30 p.m., Screen 16.
♦ Sordid Lives, a wacky farce about a funeral that throws a Texas town into chaos. The cast includes Bonnie Bedelia, Delta Burke, Beau Bridges in lingerie, and a tattooed Olivia Newton-John; the writer-director is Del Shores (Daddy’s Dyin’...Who Got the Will?). The movie is the centerpiece of the Gay/Lesbian Mini Fest, which includes Q. Allan Brocka’s animated Sundance crowdpleaser ”Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World.“ 6 p.m., Screen 3.
♦ Paranoid, a thriller about a stranded motorist at a creepy lodge by writer-director John Duigan (Flirting), with Jeanne Tripplehorn and Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner. 7 p.m., Screen 16.
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