NaFF Attendance up 5.7 Percent as 2013 Edition Comes to a Close

naff 2013 closing nightThe Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) that wrapped Thursday at Regal Green Hills Stadium 16 broke records and charted new territory, according to its organizers. The festival presented by Nissan closed its 44th consecutive year with a 5.7% increase in attendance and a total of 27,813 attendees, which was music to the ears and eyes of Artistic Director Brian Owens, Executive Director Ted Crockett, their festival staff and volunteers.

From the opening night screening of Mud to closing night’s Unfinished Song there was literally something for everyone. “It’s been great. The response to the films have been fantastic,” Owens told ArtsNash on the last day of NaFF 2013. “We’ve already received emails from some of the filmmakers who’ve had to leave telling us they had a really great time, and folks are really spreading the word about us and we’re getting more and more wonderful material submitted to us, which makes it easier to have a great festival.”

Tennessee-based shorts and features continue to play a growing role in the success of the festival as well. “I think the home-grown talent continues to improve on a year-to-year basis,” Owens added. “This year we had one of the strongest crops of Tennessee material we’ve ever had in the festival, and the city has done so much to promote itself and films and music being made here…all of these pieces come together to make things better and better.”

NaFF 2013’s diversity included 15 Kurdish films, filmmakers and journalists from Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) and a celebration for Nashville’s large Kurdish population at the War Memorial Auditorium (additionally, the Bridgestone Narrative Film winner was the touching If You Die, I Will Kill You from Kurdish filmmaker Hiner Saleem). The festival also hosted a high-profile group from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that included past AMPAS President Sid Ganis and gave its first annual NaFF Beacon Award to Butch Spyridon of the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Corporation.

The Festival, presented by Nissan, also broke records for the number of film entries and screenings.  This year it garnered 3,004 entries and screened 268 films from 49 countries.

Owens announced the winners of the Audience Favorite Awards Thursday night:

U.S. Documentary –  Two: The Story of Roman and Nyro, directed by Heather Winters
U.S. Narrative  – The Way Way Back, directed by Nat Faxon
World Doc – McCullin, directed by David and Jacqui Morris
World Narrative – Unfinished Song directed by Paul Andrew Williams

*Photo by Shelley Justiss courtesy Nashville Film Festival.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (