Opening night of Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) was a huge success with sold out screenings of country star-turned film director Rory Feek’s “Josephine” screening to a sold-out crown that included some of Music City’s biggest movers and shakers including Feek himself and CAA’s Rod Essig, but that’s just the beginning. As Day 2 gets underway on Friday, April 15, NaFF promises more special guests and debut screenings.
Up first on the Red Carpet at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 15 will be “Learning to See: The World of Insects” husband and wife filmmakers Jake Oelman and Alixcia Doub Oelman. Jake directed/produced, edited and served as co-director of photography while Alicia co-produced as well as wrote and performed “Original Song’ for the film. An entry in NaFF’s Documentary Feature Competition, “Learning to See” examines Jake’s father, Robert Oelman’s career switch from practicing clinical psychology in Boston to photographing insects in his current home of Colombia. With a photography career now spanning twenty years, the documentary culminates with a very special journey back to the states where Oelman’s breathtaking and intimate look at these fascinating creatures we all take for granted becomes the subject of a photography exhibit at the Agora Gallery NYC’s famed Chelsea district. “Learning to See” makes its Southeast US Premiere immediately following the filmmakers’ Red Carpet appearance with a 5:30 p.m. screening. Click Here for tickets.
At 6 p.m., NaFF’s hometown of Nashville is well represented as cast and crew from “Mom Jovi” walk the Red Carpet. Director Rachel Lambert, producers Denis Deck and Tameron Hedge and Renee Deck are all schedule to be in attendance. A Tennessee First entry at the festival, “Mom Jovi” focuses on a group of middle-aged women from around the globe who first ‘met’ by way of ‘The Sisters of Jovi’, a Facebook community devoted to 80’s Jersey rockers, Bon Jovi. The documentary focuses, not only on their first face to face gathering, right here in Nashville, but goes beyond that to explore the relationships these women forge that allows them to maneuver through various aspects of their lives as they approach middle-age. “Mom Jovi” marks its World Premiere with a 7 p.m. screening on Friday, as well as a second screening Saturday, April 23. Click Here for tickets.
Next up on the Red Carpet at 6:30 p.m. Rob Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu, director and producer of “Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows”. An entry in the Music Films Music City Competition, “Syl Johnson” weaves an interesting tale of moderately successful R&B singer, Syl Johnson. In spite of a career that spanned three decades, and included a handful of Top 20 R&B chart singles. Johnson left the music business in the early 80s to open a chain of fried-fish restaurants in Chicago. What’s interesting is it wasn’t much later when hip hop, rock and pop artists alike began sampling segments from his 1967 single “Different Strokes”. A true example of one’s creative work living on, “Syl Johnson” features interviews with Johnson himself, as well as Wu-Tan Clan’s RZA, Gravediggaz’s Prince Paul, DJ Peanut Butter Wolf, Jazzy Jeff and others. “Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows” premieres at 7:45 on Friday, April 15 and screens again on Saturday, April 16 at 10:30 a.m. Click Here for tickets.
Red Carpet appearances continue at 7 p.m. with Sheryl Crow, Savahhan Church (The Church Sisters), Carl Jackson, Rusty Morell and Robert Oermann all celebrating a Special Presentation screening of “Born in Bristol”. Often described as the “Big Bang of Country Music”, the ‘Bristol Sessions’ refer to Ralph Peer’s two visits to Bristol, TN, where Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina collide, to demonstrate then-new cylinder recording equipment in 1927. While there he captured the music of regional artists including the likes of Jimmie Rogers, The Carter Family and The Stoneman Family, among others. “Born in Bristol”, directed by Sundance Award-winner Chusy Haney-Jardine, tells the story of these historic recordings by way or dramatic reenactments. Fully explaining the importance of these events, the film then incorporates interviews with a variable who’s who of modern country music as Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow, Vince GIll, Keb Mo, Ashley Monroe and others put their own spin on those now historic tunes by recording new versions aided by Grammy-winning producer Carl Jackson. As if that weren’t enough to whet the music-loving appetite of any Nashville resident, the Friday 8 p.m. presentation of the work in progress will be followed by a post-screening Q&A with music historian Robert Oermann and those mentioned above who’ll be walking the Red Carpet. Click Here for tickets.
The evening’s Red Carpet fun concludes with Romanian writer/actor/director Adrian Tofei, who’ll be on-hand in support of his film “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne”. An entry in NaFF’s Graveyard Shift Feature Competition, “Be My Cat” unitizes the popular ‘found footage’ camera work made popular in “The Blair Witch Project”, marking the first time this method has been featured in a Romanian film. Crossing reality with fiction–a little too convincingly at times, filmmaker Adrian Tofei, plays a wannabe filmmaker named Adrian within the film. With a plot that seems convoluted but isn’t, Adrian’s primary goal is to shoot footage of an Anne Hathaway lookalike–three in fact–then send the footage to Hollywood actress Hathaway, in an effort to have her later star in a feature film directed by Adrian. Only trouble is, Adrian is more than a bit obsessed with Anne, especially her turn as Cat Woman in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises”, so the actress playing the role meant for her meet unexpected demises. Already the darling of the 2015 A Night of Horror International Film Festival in Sydney where it took Best Film honors, “Be My Cat” and its creator Tofei are oddly charming, and a little humorous, whether intended to be or not. “Be My Cat” makes its North American premiere on Friday, April 15 at 9:30 p.m. with a second screening on Friday, April 22 at 10 p.m. Click Here for tickets.
Among my picks for other must-see films on Friday, April 15:
“Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru”, a documentary about the hugely popular motivational speaker and businessman’s recent world tour, screens at 5:15 p.m. Click Here for tickets.
“Hooligan Sparrow”, the gripping story of a group of activist in souther China lead by Ye Haiya (aka Hooligan Sparrow), who becomes an enemy of the state for protesting the alleged rape of six school girls by a school principal and a government official. In spite of detainment, interrogation and even eviction from her home, Ye Haiyan’s voice won’t be silenced and her protest goes viral, lending worldwide attention to her cause. “Hooligan Sparrow” screens at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 15. Click Here for tickets.
“Little Men”, by director Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”, “Married Life”, “Love Is Strange”), features young actors Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri as sensitive artsy Jake and abrasive Tony, two middle-schoolers who meet by chance when, following the death of one boy’s grandfather, his family relocated from Manhattan to Brooklyn to live in the grandfather’s former home. Meanwhile the other boy’s family is the dead man’s tenant. An unlikely friendship soon forgets, but is just as quickly tested when their parents begin to quibble over a dispute about the rent. The film, screening at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 15 and 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, also stars Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia and Alfred Molina. Click Here for tickets.
If you’ve enjoyed this preview of Day 2 of Nashville Film Festival, be sure and click the ‘subscribe’ tab located near the close of this article to sign up for free email alerts whenever new content is published, or check back tomorrow for detail about Day 3’s Red Carpet schedule, as well as my picks for the day’s Best of the Fest.