Saturday, May 3, 2008

Storywh0re goes to the Nashville Film Festival, Part 2 - Tennessee Film Night 1

My second night at the Nashville Film Festival was a redux of Tennessee Film Night One. I got to see a number of enjoyable and well-made films, and hear about them from those involved.

The first film was Electricity: Unplugging the Myth , the 2007 48-Hour Film Festival Winner from Marflux Productions. The character that all of the teams were given to work with was an electrician. The result in this case was a very cute moc-doc predicated on the idea electricity is not real, but really just the actions of microscopic workers. (Needless to say, this theory is disproved in the end.) You could tell that the movie was made in limited time, but it looks really good considering.

Also screened was Blindsided, by Eleven After Films, which won the festival's Tennessee Independent Spirit Award. In it, a young man brings his girlfriend to meet his family for the first time. They are startled that she is blind, but not nearly as startled as she is by the toxic family dynamics into which she has been thrown. The parents' marriage is falling apart, and they and the young man's siblings air their conflicts with each other. This film was filmed in twelve hours, with stage actors, and it practically crackles off the screen. It is by turns funny and shocking, as everyone is “blindsided” by something. While the wisdom proffered at the end is hardly original, it is well worth the reminder.

Fight It, by Darrin Dickerson of Ghostwater films, is perhaps best described a public service announcement for personal activism. We see a young man using money that he has earned and collected at a gym to feed the homeless, provide toys for orphans, and donate to cancer research (his mother is ill). At the end, the viewer is encouraged to “choose one thing and fight it”. The DVDs include include envelopes for related charities, and are available for free. Ghostwater can be contacted online, and Dickerson wants the DVDs to be shared between people and used by various groups to foster discussion and action.

Watkins College was well-represented by recent graduate Brent Montgomery, who directed and starred in The Pugilist. It is the story of a boxer who doesn't realize that he has been the beneficiary of rigged fights, until he is asked to take a fall. One of the most interesting things about this film was its sense of timelessness. There are elements—not just costumes and set, but also newsreels and home movies—that appear to be from different points in recent history. The movie as a whole has a 1920's or 1930's feel. The acting is good, and the boxing elements are well-researched. There are many dry, intelligent laughs, and a tentative love story which ends the film on a tender note.

The evening wrapped up with The Mother Hen, by Carlos Griffin of Half and Half Productions. Set in Middle Tennessee, this is one of the best films I have seen about the topic of immigration. A young Hispanic woman shows up with a baby at the home of a friend of a friend. Her husband has just been picked up by ICE, and she needs shelter until her brother can come get her. Her host is reluctant. The women gradually develop a connection, but not before ICE comes knocking. I felt that this piece told a very human story about the two biggest issues in America today, and managed to do so without being heavy-handed or divisive.

Tennessee Film Night One was an enjoyable and informative evening that highlighted the amazing film talent that we have here in Music City.

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