If you weren’t among the more than 2,000 movie lovers at last week’s 26th annual Sinking Creek Film/Video Festival, you missed some 30 visiting filmmakers, two movies going into national distribution, surprise guests, a ton of barbecueand, oh yes, some terrific films.
Most of the media attention during the week was focused on visiting writer-director Joan Tewkesbury, in town to host the 20th anniversary screening of Nashville. By the end of the festival, Tewkesbury had been driven to the brink of exhaustion by a grueling schedule of press conferences, screenwriting and directing seminars, and TV and radio interviews. But she remained a good sport, even when confronted by questions like, “So what’s Nashville about?”
The biggest surprise, thoughother than the sold-out Tuesday-night screenings of regional and political films at the Darkhorse Theaterwas the unexpected appearance of Roger & Me director and TV Nation host Michael Moore. In town for reasons he wouldn’t divulgethough it’s safe to say he wasn’t shooting a GM commercialMoore showed up at Sinking Creek for the Nashville screening. “He kept saying how great the festival was and how much he enjoyed it,” says Sinking Creek executive director Meryl Truett, who ended up escorting Moore around Nashville.
As for the festival entries themselves, several films received enthusiastic audience response. One of the best was Terrence Ross’ , a grimly funny (and ultimately horrific) satire of black middle-class aspiration that won the Nat and Mary Jane Coleman Award for the most promising film by a new director. Lisa Cole’s depicts, with humor and startling poignancy, a luckless family adrift in a doggedly absurd Southern town, while Edgar Patterson Davis’ A Jury of Her Peers powerfully reveals the inner turmoil of a juror in a murder case through effective flashbacks and clever use of lighting and background shadows.
The hit of the festival, however, was Brian Springer’s Spin, a documentary assembled from more than 500 hours of live satellite feeds that never reached the rest of the country. Springer’s documentary will most likely never appear on network TV, cable or video, but those who saw it received chilling glimpses of the filtration of news through PR and media strainers: Larry King sucking up to all three 1992 presidential candidates, Pat Robertson gasping at a phone call from a “homo,” CBS’s Paula Zahn angling for a more upbeat slant on a story about a hospital in South Central L.A. Audiences discussed the film for days, and apparently the festival judges did also: Spin received Sinking Creek’s Absolut Best of the Festival award last Sunday night.
Evening programs drew the largest crowds. The Wednesday-night animation fest forced patrons to sit in the aisles, and hundreds turned out for animator Bill Plympton, whose live-action/animation feature J. Lyle was well received. More than 200 people attended screenings of Steve Chbosky’s seriocomic ensemble piece The Four Corners of Nowhere and Matthew Harrison’s skittery thriller The Rhythm Thief, both of which go into national distribution soon.
Sinking Creek was not without problems this year. Morning and afternoon shows were woefully underattended, and disappointingly few people showed up for the festival kickoff at the Wildhorse Saloon, held on a dismal, rainy Monday night. Lack of parking on the Vanderbilt campus continues to plague the festival, and projection problems and bad prints marred some of the screenings.
Still, it takes nothing away from this year’s festival to say that Sinking Creek’s finest years are yet to come. Every year the festival grows in stature and entertainment value, and it continues to attract better films and more guests. The nation is learning about Nashville’s hometown festival, and, judging from this year’s reception, the news may finally be reaching Nashville.
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AGGGHHHH that last picture!