Movies about Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, The Bluebird Café and celebrity fashion designer Manuel will be part of the Oct. 3-12 lineup.
Folks in Music City are preparing for a movie celebration at the 50th annual Nashville Film Festival. Set to kick off Thursday, Oct. 3, with an opening night screening of Taika Waititi’s much-buzzed-about dark comedy JoJo Rabbit, the cinematic extravaganza will present dozens of dramatic and documentary features and shorts through Oct. 12.
Five titles on our must-see list:
Documentarian Brian Loschiavo balances household names (Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Kacey Musgraves) and unsung heroes (open-mic hopefuls, songwriters little known outside the Music City creative community) in the lineup of interviewees who tell the story of The Bluebird Café, the intimate Nashville venue often cited as a launching pad for both platinum-selling superstars and behind-the-scenes tunesmiths. (Screenings: 7 and 7:15 pm Oct. 8, 12 noon Oct. 12.)
In this highly anticipated and boldly stylized feature-length documentary, Chuck Berry, the Granddaddy of Rock and Roll, is fully revealed by filmmakers with exclusive access to his family, friends and fellow music icons. John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, Steve Van Zandt, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper are just of the notables who sing Berry’s praises in archival and contemporary interviews. (Screenings: 6:30 pm Oct. 4, 2 pm Oct. 6.)
Ernie & Joe
As I wrote for Variety when this exceptional documentary premiered at Austin’s SXSW Film Festival last spring: “Like most cops summoned by 911 calls, Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro employ well-honed instincts and observational skills to make split-second decisions in life-or-death situations. As members of the San Antonio Police Department’s innovative Mental Health Unit, however, they rely on empathy and persuasion, not firepower, while subduing unstable (and sometimes drug-addled) individuals before they harm themselves or others. Director Jenifer McShane offers an impressively intimate look at her subjects on and off the job in a documentary that is at its riveting best during an extended dash-cam view of Stevens and Smarro as they try to talk a suicidal woman out of leaping to her death from an overpass.” (Screenings: 6:30 pm Oct. 9, 3 pm Oct. 10)
The Gift: The Story of Johnny Cash
Director Thom Zimny (Elvis Presley: The Searcher) attempts nothing less than to move past the myths and illuminate the soul of the fabled Man in Black in his tightly focused but strikingly multifaceted documentary. He largely succeeds by fashioning, with the full cooperation of the Cash estate, a richly textured portrait filled with recently discovered archival material, and infused with warm-hearted but clear-eyed honesty. (Screening: 6 pm Oct. 7.)
According to the Nashville Film Festival: “Manuel has crafted shining outfits for Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and continues to dress the stars of country and rock and roll music to this day. His rhinestone-studded wears still crowd his Nashville shop, and even at 83, Manuel continues to wine and dine late into the Music City nights with his friends. But Manuel still struggles with his legacy — how he’ll be remembered and how his business can evolve in the face of technology shifts. This documentary profiles a conflicted artist, whose dedication to his craft shows the spoils of his prolific work, but also the damage it can leave in its wake. Featuring intimate footage with country music stars like Loretta Lynn and Marty Stuart, the film dives deep into Manuel’s life and career. All the while, Manuel’s undying optimism and love for life shines through, creating an inspiring portrait of a man obsessed with his craft and living life to its fullest.” I must admit: I am especially eager to see this film after interviewing Manuel for our April 2014 issue. (Screenings: 7:30 pm Oct. 11, 10:30 am Oct. 12.)