Indie Memphis Spotlight: Documentaries


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The Interrupters
  • The Interrupters
The 14th Indie Memphis Film Festival starts tonight, with advance tickets for the opening-night screening of the Memphis high school football doc Undefeated already sold out.

Our cover story on this year's festival is on the street and now online. Yesterday, we supplemented that with a look at the competition features in this year's festival. Today we look at documentaries. We covered several docs in the paper this week — the Paradise Lost series, Undefeated, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, and These Amazing Shadows — but there are plenty more on tap:

Dragonslayer (Saturday, 7 p.m., Studio on the Square): Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for docs at this year's SXSW Film Festival, filmmaker Tristan Patterson's portrait of the tattered, aimless life of professional skateboarder Josh “Skreech” Sandoval and the subterranean world he inhabits is an attractive, intimate film that evokes such disparate art-flick influences as Terrence Malick (gorgeous outdoor cinematography, poetic/naturalistic tone) and Jean-Luc Godard (Dragonslyer is presented as a set of discrete sections, counted down from 10 to 0). Skateboard footage in abandoned swimming pools is, as always, invigorating. The punk-rock soundtrack includes such Gonerfest vets as Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Golden Triangle, and Thee Oh Sees. — Chris Herrington


The Interrupters (Friday, 11 a.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m., Brooks Museum of Art): The newest film from Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James, The Interrupters is a gritty account of the uphill battle facing volunteers at CeaseFire, an organization that aims to interrupt the cycle of violence in inner city Chicago. Based on Alex Kotlowitz’s article in the New York Times Magazine, the film focuses on CeaseFire’s particular approach to youth violence — that it mimics the spread of infections like HIV, and that “the treatment ought to mimic the regimen applied to these diseases: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.” The Interrupters follows three volunteers, all former offenders, as they use conflict resolution and non-violence to stop the rampant bloodshed in their neighborhoods. Targeting young Chicagoans in particular, the “interrupters” get down in the trenches, exposing the systemic and repetitive nature of violence through anecdotal evidence and heart-rending realism. The result is at times frustratingly Sysiphean, at times glimmering with hope. Without too much explanation or interpretation, James’ allows the parties involved to speak for themselves, and the result is an organic and authentic look at the problems plaguing our inner city youth. — Hannah Sayle


The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Saturday, 4:15 p.m., Playhouse on the Square): A former resident of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in Saint Louis, when asked about the collapse of America’s first large-scale public housing project says, “One day we woke up and it was all gone.” The mystery of how an oasis in the desert, a touted solution to the dirty, cramped tenement housing in Saint Louis, went from a feat of urban planning to a disaster of epic proportions is the subject of Chad Friedrichs’ The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. Handled with such thoughtful and thorough reporting, Freidrichs has created a masterpiece of documentary journalism, as poignant and complex an interpretation as Pruitt-Igoe’s former residents deserve and urban planning scholars require. Concise and engrossing, with perfect proportions of historical footage, sociological analysis, and personal accounts from former residents, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is a critical look at one of America’s most important lessons — no project, no undertaking, no society exists in a vacuum. — Sayle


Give Up Tomorrow (Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Studio on the Square): Set in the Philippines, this true-crime doc about an intensely controversial murder conviction — the case that ultimately ended the country's use of the death penalty —  might be an unintentional companion to the Paradise Lost series.


Where Soldiers Come From (Thursday, 7 p.m., Studio on the Square): Follows four years in the lives of a group of childhood friends from Northern Michigan as they join the National Guard and eventually go on tours of duty to Afghanistan. Trailer:


Others: There are two additional local docs this year. Stepping: Beyond the Line (Saturday, 11:15 a.m., Studio on the Square) looks at the history of the African-American dance form stepping and Black Rock Revival: Mission Control (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Studio on the Square) follows the local rock band Black Rock Revival as they record their new album. There are also two hip-hop-themed documentaries. The Wonder Year (Thursday, 9:30 p.m., Studio on the Square) tracks a year in the life of hip-hop producer 9th Wonder, while Beat Boxing: The Fifth Element of Hip-Hop (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Studio on the Square) surveys its titular subject. Additionally there's Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card-Counting Christians (Friday, 7 p.m., Studio on the Square), which follows the exploits of Churchteam, a large, well-funded professional blackjack team made up of Christians, including some pastors. Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis (Saturday, 2 p.m., Studio on the Square) is the portrait of an eccentric Mississippi native and unpaid MIT academic. Memphis Heat fans might want to check out Fake it So Real (Sunday, 3:15 p.m., Studio on the Square), follows a week in the life of a contemporary indie wrestling promotion in North Carolina. And To Be Heard (Saturday, 2 p.m., Brooks Museum of Art) is about a trio of South Bronx teenager trying to improve their lives through writing poetry.

Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at the made-in-Memphis feature Losers Take All, which has its local debut at the festival Saturday night.



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