The Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) has unveiled the full slate of feature films in competition and special presentations for its 44th annual festival that runs April 18-25 at Regal Green Hills Stadium 16. NaFF will screen more than 200 films; this year submissions topped 3,004, breaking all festival records.
“I’m more excited about this year than ever,” said Artistic Director Brian Owens. “We have a fantastic offering of films. In addition to our extensive shorts program, we’ll present eight special presentation films and 56 films in competition. Our total cash awards will exceed $40,000. And there is something for everyone in this year’s lineup.”
The Nashville Film Festival, named one of the top five in the U.S. by Brooks Institute, and an Academy Awards Qualifier, has become one of the premier showcases for the best new work of American and international filmmakers. The festival screens films that represent the creative risk filmmakers take to tell powerful and important stories in innovative ways. The complete lineup of special presentations and competition features follows:
SPECIAL PRESENTATION FILMS
3 (Director: Pablo Stoll) – A lonely divorced man tries to piece his dysfunctional family back together in a heartfelt tale providing insight into Latino culture and the power of love.
All the Light in the Sky (Director: Joe Swanberg) – This film provides a keen look into the lives of actors as it examines a successful and well-respected actress as she is forced to step down from the spotlight.
Breakfast with Curtis (Director: Laura Colella) – An eccentric, socially inept Rhode Island bookseller forms a bond with his 14-year old neighbor, showing how friendship can change lives.
The Cold Lands (Director: Tom Gilroy) – A young boy and a mysterious drifter take a dangerous journey through the deep woods of upstate New York, encountering thrills and surprises along the way.
The History of Future Folk (Director: John Mitchell) – Two aliens come to Earth, falling so in love with bluegrass music that they form a bluegrass band. It’s Blues Brothers with aliens and a Southern touch.
I Used to Be Darker(Director: Matthew Porterfield) – A searing drama focusing on a Maryland runaway moving in with her aunt and uncle that shows the tragic ways a family can fall apart. Like Ordinary People in the depths of authentic Maryland.
If You Die, I Will Kill You (Director: Hiner Saleem) – A criminal and a detective becomes friends, only for the detective to die unexpectedly. Both a touching story and a beautiful portrait of Kurdish life.
Il Futuro (Director: Alicia Scherson) – A young orphan meets a retired Mr. Universe and begins a passionate affair with him. Like a raw, stripped down version of An Education.
The Land of Eb (Director: Andrew Williamson) Filmed in the Marshall Islands, a family must band together to create a home in a lonely country. Like Beasts of the Southern Wild in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On (Director: Drew Denny) – Faced with the death of Andy’s father, girlfriends Andy and Liv scatter ashes while escaping through acting in noir films. A road movie with both hilarity and heart.
Pit Stop (Director: Yen Tan) – Two disconnected gay lovers find each other in the midst of tragedy. Lost in Translation meets Brokeback Mountain.
Some Girl(s) (Director: Daisy von Sherler Meyer) – Written by Sundance Film Festival Filmmakers’ Trophy winner and Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or nominee Neil LaBute, and starring Adam Brody, Jennifer Morrison, Kristen Bell, Emily Watson, Zoe Kazan and Mia Maestro, A writer revisits his past loves on the eve of his wedding.
The Sunshine Boys (Director: Tae-gon Kim) Three high school best friends journey down different paths in life, never forgetting their youth and times together. A story about how though we go our separate ways, our friendships always stay with us.
A Teacher (Director: Hanah Fidell) – A high school teacher’s life changes forever when she enters a passionate affair with a student. A unique and original story about the exhilaration and tragedy of erotic passion.
Tey (Director: Alain Gomis) – Satche’s entire life flashes before his eyes, giving him a higher understanding of the human experience. A soulful and touching story about memories and the way they play in our lives.
This is Martin Bonner (Director: Chad Hartigan) – A 58-year old man starts his life over as he becomes friends with an ex-con. Together they confront the issues plaguing them. A touching story about how friendship heals all wounds.
Beware of the Dogs
Director: Jeff Kennedy
Runtime: 73 minutes
After many treks across Canada in their van, The Sheepdogs were thousands of dollars in debt and struggling to break out of their native Saskatchewan. Their luck changed when they met a manager at a party who submitted their demo to a contest that could land them the cover of Rolling Stone. Featuring Kid Rock and Jimmy Fallon and live performances by the band. World Premiere.
Die Thomaner – A Year in the Life of the St. Thomas Boys Choir Leipzig
Directors: Günter Atteln, Paul Smaczny
Runtime: 114 minutes
In 2012 the St. Thomas Boys Choir Leipzig celebrated its 800th anniversary, outlasting all ups and downs of European history. Over the period of one year, the film immerses us into a world where Bach cantatas meet soccer pitches, where video games collide with pressure to perform, and where doubt, pride and homesickness is the ground for lasting friendships.
Director: Sara Terry
Runtime: 100 minutes
Three singer-songwriters, at dramatically different stages in their careers, navigate the thriving subculture of American folk music. FOLK follows twenty-something Raina Rose, thirty-something Hilary Claire Adamson and sixty-something Dirk Hamilton as they confront relationship and financial challenges in their own lives while struggling to be heard in a quirky, colorful world of small town house concerts, jammed 24/7 folk conferences, and tiny bars and festivals set well back along the blue highways of America. The days when Guthrie and Dylan wrote the songs that changed America may be behind us, but Raina, Hilary and Dirk prove through their own lives and songs that folk musicians today still amplify the themes that resonate through our lives and across our cultural landscape — re-defining success in the face of failure, finding wholeness in an increasingly fragmented world, and magnifying our humanity during times that would tear us apart. World Premiere.
Good Ol’ Freda
Director: Ryan White
Runtime: 89 minutes
On their 1963 Christmas record, The Beatles give thanks to “Good Ol’ Freda!” their devoted secretary and friend. Good Ol’ Freda is the story of Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teenager asked to work for a young local band hoping to make it big: The Beatles. Their loyal secretary from beginning to end, Freda tells her stories for the first time in 50 years.
Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts
Director: Jeremy Dylan
Abandoned by major music labels, 2-time Grammy-winner Jim Lauderdale pioneered the Americana sound, collaborating with idols like Dr. Ralph Stanley and Robert Hunter and working overtime to produce a string of albums encompassing bluegrass, country, rock and R & B, which have won him critical acclaim, awards, success and a passionate worldwide following. Jim’s story is told through interviews with him, Elvis Costello, Buddy Miller, John Oates, Jerry Douglas and many more.
A Lovely Day
Director: Kerri Gawryn
Runtime: 81 minutes
In A Lovely Day, nine youth from Oakland enroll in a six month Hip Hop music therapy workshop. They set out to make music that not only expresses their thoughts, but also builds a stronger community. The resilience in their voices shows that they are not to be dismissed, that they are in fact some of our most important educators in a critical time of change.
Director: Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier
Runtime: 102 minutes
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the ‘Singing River’ as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies. At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ and ‘The Swampers’. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today.
Director: Maxine Trump
Runtime: 81 minutes
Musicwood is an adventure-filled journey, a political thriller and a modern twist on a classic clash of cultures – all with music at its heart. The most famous guitar-makers in the world travel to remote, foreboding and primeval Southeast Alaska to negotiate with Native American loggers before it’s too late for acoustic guitars.
This Ain’t No Mouse Music!
Director: Chris Simon, Maureen Gosling
Runtime: 97 minutes
Chris Strachwitz (Arhoolie Records) is a detective of deep American music, the kind that is the antithesis of the slick “mouse” music taking over our culture today. He takes us on a hip-shaking stomp from Texas to New Orleans, Cajun country to Appalachia, searching for the musical soul of America.
Very Extremely Dangerous
Director: Paul Duane
Runtime: 85 minutes
Jerry McGill slipped from a rock’n’roll career into a life of crime, robbing banks and running from the FBI while touring with legends of country music and appearing in movies. A harrowing trip on the trigger finger of a career criminal living his last days, Very Extremely Dangerous is a documentary with discomfiting intimacy. It’s ‘Grey Gardens’ on the highway to hell.
Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War Director: Jesse Acevedo
Nation: Cuba / USA
Runtime: 74 minutes
Director Jesse Acevedo documents the story of the Cruz brothers, who were beaten and arrested outside of Havana for listening to banned underground rappers Los Aldeanos. Who are Los Aldeanos, and why do the authorities find them so threatening? A filmmaker becomes a political eavesdropper and stokes the flames of controversy and rebellion.
We Always Lie To Strangers
Director: AJ Schnack, David Wilson
Runtime: 110 minutes
Every year, millions flock to Branson, Missouri for its “old fashioned, traditional values” and the entertainment of Branson’s musical shows, many of which feature performing families. As Branson faces economic uncertainty and social attitudes change, the interwoven sagas of these families form a composite portrait of both Branson and of contemporary America.
Ape (Directed by Joel Petroykus) — A struggling comedian strikes a deal with the devil to become successful in this quirky dark comedy.
Boy Eating the Bird’s Food (Directed by Ektoras Lygizos) — A young, starving musician must become a criminal to feed himself. Showcases a breakthrough performance from Yiannis Papadopoulus that has put him in early running for Best Actor.
Detroit Unleaded (Directed by Rola Nashef) — An ambitious Lebanese-American youth takes over his family’s gas station after his father’s death in this spirited and often hilarious coming-of-age tale.
The Discoverers (Directed by Justin Schwarz) — A dysfunctional family takes a road trip in search of a missing Grandpa. Features an all-star cast headed by Oscar and Emmy nominated Griffin Dunne, Emmy-Award winner Stuart Margolin, and “Californication” actor Madeleine Martin.
Flicker (Flimmer) (Directed by Patrik Ecklund) — The first feature from Oscar-nominated film-maker Patrik Ecklund examines a small town with something dangerous lurking on the outskirts.
The Go Doc Project (Directed by Cory James Krueckeberg) — A young man poses as a documentary film-maker to meet a male dancer he’s obsessed with, then has to actually film the project when the dancer becomes interested.
It Felt Like Love (Directed by Eliza Hittman) — A unique coming-of-age love story about Lila’s relationship with Sammy – which exists solely in her head.
Nairobi Half Life (Directed by Tosh Gitonga) — Mwas is determined to become a famous actor – even if he has to lead a life of crime to support himself in the mean-time.
One Small Hitch (Directed by John Burgess) — In this well-made romantic comedy with a talented cast, two friends fake a wedding engagement only to develop real feelings for each other.
Out in the Dark (Directed by Michael Mayer) — A beautifully made tale of two young men’s love story amidst political intrigue.
Picture Day (Directed by Kate Melville) — A coming-of-age romantic comedy focusing on the choice a young adult girl makes between two very different male admirers.
This Is Where We Live (Directed by Josh Barrett, Marc Menchaca) — A story of friendship healing a sick family set in the scenic Texas Hill Country.
Trattoria (Directed by Solleen Yusef) — A nineteen-year old girl meets her father for the first time to find he is a small-time criminal. Included in the Celebration of Kurdish Films.
*Photos courtesy Nashville Film Festival and from ArtsNash archives.