Indie Memphis Saturday: Keep the Lights On, Pilgrim Song, V/H/S

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A scene from Keep the Lights On
  • A scene from Keep the Lights On
A selective guide to some of the highlights from the third day of the Indie Memphis Film Festival. For a full schedule and ticketing info, see indiememphis.com:

The retrospective of Memphis-bred filmmaker Ira Sachs kicks into full drive. Earlier in the day, a selection of Ira Sachs Shorts (Circuit Playhouse, 11 a.m.) will screen, followed by Sachs' made-in-Memphis coming-of-age debut, The Delta (Brooks Museum of Art, 2 p.m.).

And then, the gala screening tonight is, in my mind, the signature event of the festival, the Memphis debut of Sachs' newest and best film, Keep the Lights On (Playhouse on the Square, 7 p.m.), a delicate, richly textured epic about the troubled, decade-long relationship between two New Yorkers that's been hailed as “landmark in gay cinema” and one of the year's best films. You can read my profile of Sachs in this week's Flyer here.

Keep the Lights On trailer:

There are five other features we highlighted this week that are screening today.

Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives (Studio on the Square, 11:15 a.m.) “paints a picture of how medicine changed in the 20th century and how the counterculture of the 1960s came of age and is still alive and well today,” according the Greg Akers. The film follows the still-at-it Gaskin from hippie Haight-Ashbury to a commune in Summerton, Tennessee.

The rabble-rousing doc We're Not Broke (Studio on the Square, 1:45 p.m.) debunks the notion that the government is out of money and that austerity measures are needed, pointing the finger instead at a trillion dollars in corporate profits that aren't being taxed. Greg Akers says that “We're Not Broke is in part a tax-evasion procedural, illuminating places like the Ugland House in the Cayman Islands, where the magic happens.”

A scene from Pilgrim Song.
  • A scene from Pilgrim Song.

One of my favorite films I've seen from this year's festival is Pilgrim Song (Circuit Playhouse, 4:15 p.m.), from Kentucky filmmaker Martha Stephens and produced by Memphis' Paper Moon Films. Memphis-connected actor Timothy Morton (who co-starred in Kentucker Audley's Team Picture) is extremely well cast here as a recently laid-off high school music teacher who leaves a girlfriend he neglects for a two-month Appalachian hike, where he falls in, for a while, with a single dad living in a mobile home. The handsome, widescreen, outdoor cinematography, keen sense of place, and feel for people outside the more typical urban indie world are impressive, and Morton is an utterly convincing presence at the center.

Pilgrim Song trailer:


Indie Memphis regular Cory McAbee returns with Crazy and Thief (Circuit Playhouse, 7:15 p.m.), in which he casts his seven-year-old daughter and two-year-old son in the title roles, as they wander, ostensibly unsupervised through the streets, parks, and back alleys of Brooklyn. Chris Davis likens the film kiddie Waiting for Godot and says “the film's tensions are all wrapped up in a marriage of unfettered joy and never-ending peril.”

Very Extremely Dangerous (Playhouse on the Square, 10 p.m.) teams Irish filmmaker Paul Duane and Memphis writer Robert Gordon for a documentary portrait of Jerry McGill, an obscure and notorious figure from the back pages of Memphis music. A onetime Sun Records also-ran and Waylon Jennings sideman, McGill is troubled 70-year-old fresh from prison and still battling demons in what Chris Davis calls a “wild, occasionally flinching documentary.”

There are several promising features showing out of competition. Three that jump out in particular are:

Detropia (Playhouse on the Square, 4 p.m.), an impressionistic portrait of the downsizing of Detroit that premiered to very strong notices at Sundance earlier this year.

A scene from Gimme the Loot.
  • A scene from Gimme the Loot.

Gimme the Loot (Studio on the Square, 9:15 p.m.), which follows two graffiti taggers in the Bronx on a daring attempt to raise their profile. This won the best narrative feature award at the South By Southwest Film Festival.

V/H/S (Studio on the Square, 11:45 p.m.), is an anthology horror film built on the conceit of a group of thieves (among them Memphis actor/filmmaker Kentucker Audley) who break into a house and discover a cache of disturbing videotapes.

V/H/S trailer:

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