Indie Memphis Announces Festival Features


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At a “Peep Show” hosted by filmmaker and longtime festival supporter Craig Brewer Thursday night, Indie Memphis announced the slate for its 15th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival, which will be held at multiple locations in and around Overton Square (with Playhouse on the Square the fest's home base) from Thursday, November 1st through Sunday, November 4th.

Ira Sachs (center) on the set of Married Life.
  • Ira Sachs (center) on the set of Married Life.
Among the highlights of the festival are, by my count, half a dozen titles that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival early this year and another handful that recently premiered at Toronto, perhaps North America's highest-profile film festivals.

The festival will also welcome the return of Memphis-bred filmmaker Ira Sachs, who will be on hand for the local premiere of his new film Keep the Lights On, which will screen along with a career retrospective that will include Sachs' two Memphis-shot features, The Delta (Saturday, Brooks Museum, 2 p.m.) and Forty Shades of Blue (Friday, Studio on the Square, 6:45 p.m.), his star-studded period piece Married Life (Sunday, Studio on the Square, 7:15 p.m.), and a program of his short films.

For a full schedule and ticketing information, check, where the schedule should be posted, in parts, over the coming days.

Here's a quick, early look at some of the high profile selections and potential highlights:

Gala Screenings

These are the feature screenings for each night of the festival, which will each be shown in early evening screenings at Playhouse on the Square

Thursday: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (6:30 p.m.)
This documentary portrait of the legendary Memphis band of the ’70s had a private, work-in-progress screening earlier this summer that I reported on then and will have its official Memphis premiere to open the festival.

Friday: Antenna (6:30 p.m.)
The long-in-production documentary about Memphis' legendary punk/hardcore/alternative club, from filmmakers C. Scott McCoy and Laura Jean Hocking, will make its full-length local debut ahead of a probable extended release next spring.

Saturday: Keep the Lights On (7 p.m.)

Ira Sachs' latest is a relationship and addiction drama that has been drawing ecstatic notices from some of its initial screenings and won a big prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sunday: Not Fade Away (5:30 p.m.)

The festival's closing-night gala screening is the big-screen directorial debut from Sopranos creator David Chase, who also penned the script. It's a Sixties period piece about high-school friends in New Jersey forming a rock band. Sopranos star James Gandolfini plays the father of one band member. “Little” Steven Van Zandt produced the soundtrack.

Showcase Narrative Features:

These are higher-profile narrative films screening out of competition, led by The Silver Linings Playbook (Sunday, Playhouse on the Square, 11:30 a.m.), from filmmaker David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), which recently won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and it being touted as an Oscar contender. It stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two troubled souls who come into contact.

Additionally, there are three other features that arrive here fresh from Toronto. A Late Quartet (Friday, Studio on the Square, 9:30 p.m.) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener in a story about the relationships of musicians who perform together. Set in 1968, The Sapphires (Saturday, Studio on the Square, 11 a.m.), follows an Aboriginal girl group entertaining U.S. troops in Vietnam. Bridesmaids' Chris Dowd co-stars. Quartet (Sunday, Studio on the Square, noon) is the directorial debut from Dustin Hoffman and is set in a home for retired opera singers. Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon lead the cast.

Perhaps skewing younger are the two other features — in addition to Keep the Lights On — that came out of Sundance.

V/H/S (Saturday, Studio on the Square, 11:45 p.m.) is a high-concept horror omnibus about criminals searching for a piece of footage who stumble upon a series of horrifying videos.

The Comedy (Friday, Circuit Playhouse, 9:30 p.m.) stars comedian Tim Heidecker in an ostensibly nervy character study of a contemporary Brooklyn slacker.

Showcase Documentaries

Among the documentaries screening out of competition are a couple from Sundance.

Detropia (Saturday, Playhouse on the Square, 4 p.m.) is a new work from Jesus Camp directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. It's a portrait of the city of Detroit, its problems, and some of the citizens there.

Chasing Ice (Sunday, Studio on the Square, 5:15 p.m.) looks at the issue of climate change through the lens of a National Geographic photographer.

Others are Side by Side (Thursday, Brooks Museum, 8:15 p.m.), which is hosted by Keanu Reeves and contrasts digital and photochemical modes of filmmaking. Indie Game (Friday, Studio on the Square 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.), which follows independent video game developers. And Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (Sunday, Brooks Museum, 3 p.m.), a decade-in-the-making profile of an audacious photo artist.

Competition Features

From a local perspective, at the least, the slate of competition features are led by Memphis filmmaker/actor Kentucker Audley, who features prominently in two of the 11 films on the slate (and also has a small role in V/H/S).

There's a lot of anticipation for Audley's own Open Five 2 (Sunday, Circuit Playhouse, 5:45 p.m.), another collaboration with musician Jake Rabinbach. Among those who saw an early cut of the film, even those who weren't enamored with the first Open Five seemed to be fans.

Audley also co-stars in Sun Don't Shine (Thursday, Circuit Playhouse, 7 p.m.), a lovers-on-the-lam film that marks the directing debut of actress Amy Seimetz and which debuted to very strong notices at South By Southwest this spring.

Another film here with Memphis connections is Pilgrim Song (Saturday, Circuit Playhouse, 4:15 p.m.), which was produced by the Memphis-based Paper Moon Films. It's the second film from director Martha Stephens, whose previous Passenger Pigeons also screened at Indie Memphis. This one stars Memphis-connected actor Timothy Morton as a recently fired music teacher hiking in Appalachia.

We'll be learning more about the rest of the competition features in the coming days, but among the ones that seem particularly promising right off the bat are Between Us (Thursday, Circuit Playhouse, 9:30 p.m.), which co-stars Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs. Red Flag (Friday, Circuit Playhouse, 7 p.m.), an intriguingly meta exercise from increasingly recognizable indie actor Alex Karpovsky. Crazy & Thief (Saturday, Circuit Playhouse, 7 p.m.), the latest from San Francisco-based Indie Memphis fave Cory McAbee (Stingray Sam, The American Astronaut), about a seven-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother who go on a fantastical journey.

Competition Documentaries

In addition to the Big Star and Antenna Club docs, this group of 11 competition features includes another Sundance selection in the form of We're Not Broke (Saturday, Studio on the Square, 1:45 p.m.), which looks at how U.S. corporations avoid paying taxes.

I'm also looking forward to Eating Alabama (Sunday, Playhouse on the Square, 2:30 p.m.), a first-person documentary that played SXSW and follows a young Alabama couple's attempt to only eat locally and seasonally, the way their ancestor once did.



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