It seems the only time we get to hear the words “Muslim” and “joke” here in Middle Tennessee, it involves a shitty joke directed at Muslims by unfunny not-smart Islamophobes. (Have you heard the one about the Muslim who gets “winked” at? By a redneck taking aim with a shotgun? Hilarious! And posted to Facebook by a county commissioner, no less!)
It is in this sometimes embarrassing-to-decency context that we welcome the opening of The Muslims Are Coming! — running Oct. 19-21 at The Belcourt. The tour documentary follows the exploits of a group of Muslim stand-up comics, among them Dean Obeidallah, Negin Farsad and Omar Elba, as they go on a comedic charm offensive that includes a stop in Murfreesboro — or try “setting themselves up to be killed,” as one fan says in an email. They get some strange looks. They give hugs. They answer openly hostile questions. It’s almost like they’re normal people or something — and Farsad even makes jokes about sex stuff!
Think it looks cloudy with a chance of meatballs? Try shortfalls. In Jacob Kornbluth's Inequality for All, former labor secretary Robert Reich argues that America's widening income inequality is a looming disaster, and he attacks the issue from vantage points such as wealth consolidation, wage stagnation and globalization.
To kick off its monthlong "Doctober" series of high-profile current documentaries, The Belcourt follows tonight's 7 p.m. screening with a high-powered panel discussion hosted by Nashville Public Radio's Blake Farmer. On hand will be Martha Wettemann, statistical analyst supervisor for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development; Mario Mercado, representative from the Workers Dignity Project; and Luke Froeb, William C. Oehmig Chair of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt University's Owen School of Management.
A report released today by the state comptroller's office calls out the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Revenue for "poor management and administrative oversight" of Tennessee's film incentives program.
The report contains the findings of a performance audit of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission. Three findings are highlighted in particular:
1. The Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Revenue have disregarded their statutory responsibility and exercised poor management and administrative oversight of the state's headquarters film incentive program.
2. The Tennessee Spend, which is used to calculate the 17% and 15% incentive payments, is likely to be significantly overstated for reasons including poor internal controls, insufficient policy, and lack of management accountability among the departments involved with its determination.
3. The former Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music executive director, after signing statements of understanding for the Department of Economic and Community Development's Conflict of Interest Policy and Governor Bredesen's Executive Order #3, did not adequately disclose a personal connection to a law firm that appears to have been involved with at least three productions that received incentives.
In case you missed Demetria Kalodimos' documentary Indelible: The Case Against Jeffrey Womack when it aired on WSMV-Channel 4 Saturday night, it's screening 7:30 p.m. tonight at The Belcourt in an extended cut that adds 25 minutes of detail.
That can only be a good thing. While doing a story on Kalodimos and the documentary — which covers the sensational 1975 murder of 9-year-old Marcia Trimble and the subsequent pursuit of a teenage neighbor, Jeffrey Womack, who had to wait decades to be cleared by DNA evidence — I got to see some of the on-the-spot footage from WSMV's vaults that'll be shown tonight. It's nothing short of remarkable, not least of all as a time capsule of the city.
It's also worth reading the excerpt in The City Paper this week from The Suspect: A Memoir, the book Womack wrote with his longtime attorney John J. Hollins Sr. (and an assist from longtime Scene contributor and local author-journalist E. Thomas Wood). In it Womack writes to clear up misperceptions about the case that persist to this day (even in the comments thread on the Scene story):
I also hope that by speaking out publicly, I can put to rest the misconceptions that even some well-meaning people have voiced about me ever since my nine-year-old neighbor Marcia Trimble went missing the night of February 25, 1975, 33 days before she was found strangled in a shed near her home. The half-truths and outright lies repeated about me over the years are like a series of viral syndromes.
There’s the “you must have done something to get into that much trouble” syndrome. After all, the police don’t throw massive resources into tormenting a teenaged boy for no good reason, do they? Well, I don’t know.
I do know this much: I did not kill Marcia Trimble. I did not have anything to do with Jerome Barrett, the man convicted in 2009 for her murder on the basis of solid DNA evidence. I did not know anything about her murder. I did not sexually abuse her or any other child. And I never “confessed” to anyone that I had killed her.
But I have heard it plenty of times: “Jeffrey brought this all on himself.” So I did. I brought it on myself because I was your basic 1970s wise-ass kid, a long-haired dope-smoker. I brought it on myself because I was having an affair with a woman more than twice my age — sure, that means I must be a pedophile, right? I brought it on myself because I had lawyers who were so good the police were scared of them. Most of all, I brought it on myself because I did not let them break me.
Womack, Hollins, Wood and Kalodimos will all be at the screening and book signing at The Belcourt tonight.
For the political junkie with an unquenchable 24/7 thirst for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News and all things campaign, we have the perfect remedy: Go see movies about political campaigns! Vanderbilt's International Lens film series has two, count 'em two, classics of the political campaign feature film genre (granted, not the largest of genres) on the schedule for late October. The screenings are free and open to the public, and I will introduce each film and be joined by a member of Vanderbilt's political science faculty for a brief post-film discussion.
[Editor's note: In the current issue of the Scene, Jonathan Meador looks at the trend of conservative-themed movies performing well above the national average at the box office in Middle Tennessee, which is becoming a place where even nationwide duds on the level of Won't Back Down and Atlas Shrugged Part II can eke out a few thousand more dollars per screen than elsewhere.
For his story, Meador spoke to Victor J. Morton, the Washington, D.C.-based critic whose thoughts on film can be found most often at his blog Rightwing Film Geek. A self-described "American conservative whose favorite Austrian film artist is Michael Haneke rather than Arnold Schwarzenegger," the scrupulously tough-minded, wickedly funny Morton counts more than a few hardcore lefty cinephiles among his readers. Though he's quoted at length in Meador's article, we posted the rest of the interview below.]
Do you think there has been a rise in mainstream (in terms of budget and distribution) conservative films over the past few years? Why/why not? If so, do you think that it is an artistic/commercial response to the Obama Administration? Is this trend comparable to or different than other presidencies?
There clearly has, and while, like with the Tea Party, President Obama may provide the specific occasion for (most obviously) 2016, I think there are broader factors at play.
One such reason is the backlash against, and the mimicking of, the “liberal issue doc” genre ([Michael] Moore, [Alex] Gibney, [Charles] Ferguson, etc.) which just exploded during President Bush's term of office. Simultaneous with that was the slew of fiction films about the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, which were, almost without exception, openly or covertly critical of the war and of Bush. The few conservatives that exist, or want to exist, in the filmmaking world clearly think, “Now it's our turn.” Not that liberal filmmakers have stopped making liberal films … issues are eternal and there's always more history to mine. And if Mitt Romney wins in a couple of weeks, I fully expect documentaries critical of him in theaters by next summer and some sort of fictional work by 2014.
I would add that part of the reason we're seeing more anti-Obama films is technological — (1) the basic costs of bare-bones filmmaking have declined significantly and have been largely demystified to amateurs (everyone knows what a iPhone camera and a digital-editing program are, in other words); (2) in a similar fashion, social media has democratized and demystified the marketing and distribution side of filmmaking. I'm not suggesting professionals and long-established craftsmen don't do these things far better (as the films themselves generally make obvious); merely that it's easier now for an amateur to think, “I can do it too.”
The Invisible War made headlines earlier this year when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a directive that took the decision to prosecute rape cases in the U.S. military away from commanding officers. What drew the media's scrutiny wasn't just Panetta's decision, which refocused national attention a heinous epidemic of sexual assault within the military. It was that he made the directive two days after screening Kirby Dick and Ann Ziering's documentary, whose contents Nicholas Rapold praised back in June in the Village Voice:
With a discipline matching its milieu, The Invisible War lays bare a disturbing, systemic problem: In the military, rape rates among women number at least one in five, and reporting of the crimes often leads to blame-the-victim retaliation. Dick has assembled a moving litany of testimonials, covering a variety of soldiers and scenarios, giving this heartfelt, steel-nerved, conscientiously argued film an emotional and political maturity rare among "issue" docs. In addition to the voices of the aggrieved (who include men), there are head-clutching interviews with sloganeering military officials. ("Ask her when she's sober!" runs one cringe-worthy awareness campaign.) Braided throughout are verity tagalongs with one fiery young vet, Kori Cioca, who hacks through VA hotlines while seeking medical coverage for a jaw broken by a superior. ...
Shockingly, the women and men of The Invisible War qualify as marginalized. Soldier after soldier (one even an investigator herself) report being ostracized, hostage/prey to protocols that sometimes saw assailants adjudicating their victims. One lawsuit on behalf of victims was dismissed on the grounds that rape was an occupational hazard ("incident to service"). Given close-quarter fraternity and a hierarchy undergirded by take-a-bullet trust, military rape is a betrayal that one commentator compares to incest.
As part of its month-long "Doctober" documentary series, The Belcourt is screening The Invisible War twice, 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24.
UPDATE: U.S. Navy veteran Trina McDonald, whose story is told in the documentary, will join the audience for a post-film Q&A at the screening 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Some food for thought (and some actual food) before this evening's concluding presidential debate: As part of the ITVS Community Cinema Screenings program, the Nashville Public Library hosts the local premiere of the full-length version of the award-winning documentary As Goes Janesville at 6:15 p.m., preceded by a reception and followed by a panel discussion. The New York Times' Mike Hale praised the movie, shot over years in GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wisc.:
In 2008, Brad Lichtenstein began filming a modest documentary about the effects of the recession, specifically the closing of a General Motors plant, on Janesville, Wis., a small Midwestern city. That’s how he found himself, a few years later, with an up-close view of one of the meanest and most dramatic chapters in recent American politics: the battle over collective-bargaining rights for Wisconsin state employees and the subsequent effort to recall the Republican governor, Scott Walker, from office.
His film, “As Goes Janesville,” which has its premiere on Monday night in the PBS documentary series “Independent Lens,” remains modest. And it seems likely that the plight of former workers at the Janesville assembly plant receives less attention than Mr. Lichtenstein originally planned to give them. The trade-off is that the film has a narrative drive unusual for a 60-minute television documentary, pulling us along like a political thriller.
The City Paper editor Steve Cavendish moderates a post-film panel with As Goes Janesville national engagement director Sachin Chheda; Tom Negri, managing director of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel; Caroline Blackwell, executive director of the Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission; Dan Cornfield, Vanderbilt professor of sociology and editor of Work and Occupations sociological journal; and Vanderbilt professor of sociology and Neo-Bohemia author Richard Lloyd. The screening and discussion are free and open to the public, as is the reception preceding the film at 5:45. More information below.
Earlier this month, the folks at Nashville Docujournal shot a short black-and-white documentary about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro — before the federal government threw its hat into the ring to open the 53,000-square-foot center in time for Ramadan.
At just over three minutes, the film depicts a fundraiser in support of the mosque, with Muslim and non-Muslim supporters enjoying cotton candy and rapping on the constitutional implications of trying to open a mosque down the street from a Christian church.
Tennessee's embattled film community got a shot in the arm Wednesday with the announcement that the state's shrinking film/TV incentive fund will get an extra $2 million in funding, after changes to the state's incentives program.
As part of a budget implementation bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the change does away with the refundable tax credit available to film productions and "ends a complex system of incentivizing productions through both Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission (TFEMC) grants and refundable tax credits issued by the Department of Revenue," according to a release from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
"We recognize the importance of the film industry not only to the economy of the state but to the welfare of countless Tennesseans whose livelihoods depend on it,” said Norris in the release. “This new program simplifies, streamlines and strengthens our commitment to the film industry."
Norris was the Senate sponsor of a stand-alone incentives proposal filed this year, but the bill stalled in both chambers.
Jan Austin, founder and executive director of the Association for the Future of Film & Television in Tennessee, tells Pith that while she always wants more money for film work, the funding boost is "absolutely positive news" and praised Norris and the Haslam administration for working together on the issue.
"It gives us a place to start in this state," she said. "Wonderfully thought out by all the parties. As the economy improves, I expect we’ll continue to look at that. I don’t find negatives in it, whatsoever."
She adds that she has heard "nothing but thankfulness from members" around the state, who have been pleading for a life line to keep them from leaving the state in search of work.
The full text of the ECD release, with more details on what the news means for film work in Tennessee, is after the jump.
I just love it when people who aren't even Christian try to tell the rest…
You mean just like Jesus did NOT address sexual orientation? St Paul said in several…
@Betsy: Who in the hell are you do decide who's Christian and who's not. Jesus…
“Rules are good! Without rules, we would have anarchy! If we have anarchy, then I…
Republican Jesus rides again. To hell with Ramsey and to hell with the Tennessean.