Indie Memphis: Sunday

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Ti Wests The Sacrament, starring Joe Swanberg, screens tonight at 6 p.m.
  • Ti West's "The Sacrament," starring Joe Swanberg, screens tonight at 6 p.m.
Leave it all out on the playing field today, the last day of Indie Memphis. Sleep tomorrow.

Short Films #5, 12:15 p.m., Studio on the Square
I Wanted To Make a Movie About a Beautiful and Tragic Memphis (Laura Jean Hocking, 14 min.)

Sunday starts strong with this film by Memphis' Laura Jean Hocking. The short contains images of the filmmaker's past and of Memphis — empty lots, derelict buildings, and other things that used to be. Music by Jimi Inc. overlaps.

Hocking shares, "I am a romantic" and "Memphis is hard to love" and "Love is like sabotage and Memphis self-sabotages" and "Why would I love a place like this?" The answer, the narrative suggests, is tied up in Hocking's emergence from her own difficult experiences.

It is beautiful. — Greg Akers

Prom Song (Ben Siler, 4 min.)
Ben Siler's stylish video of the Bake Sale tune "Prom Song" is about lateral movement and other consequences of a break-up. Siler's camera relentlessly pans right for its female subjects and occasionally left for the males. The video tells a story of a break-up across numerous characters. It's quite catchy. — Greg Akers

Vertigo Zoom (Ben Siler, 1 min.)
As described on Indie Memphis' page (and, I suspect, written by filmmaker Ben Siler), Vertigo Zoom is "Pretentious fluff. Starring Gloria Dodds, Woody Woodward, Jessica Morgan, Drew Paslay, Savannah Bearden, Kris Steward, Bart Shannon." The film presents a series of zooms, natch, with a series of actors (Bearden and a gun!) and clashing, looping music by Tropic of Cancer, from the sharing website intoinfinity.org. — Greg Akers

Please Wait Until the Tone (Laura Jean Hocking, 4 min.)
Another film by Laura Jean Hocking plays in this shorts program, Please Wait Until the Tone, shorter than I Wanted To Make a Movie About a Beautiful and Tragic Memphis but no less affecting. In it, fractal, wild images illustrate a series of answering machine (remember those?) and other telephone messages, reminiscent a little of the Replacements' "Answering Machine." If you need help if you need help if you need help... — Greg Akers

Furever
  • "Furever"
Furever (Amy Finkel, 80 min.), 12:30 p.m., Studio on the Square
Amy Finkel’s Furever makes the strongest, clearest case imaginable for taking your recently deceased pet to a taxidermist and having it stuffed — or pressing its cremains into a vinyl album, transforming it into wearable jewelry, mummifying it, or cloning it.

As a pet owner who immediately bristled every time Finkel used the term “pet parent,” I was eventually won over by her extended and updated appendix to Errol Morris’ great Gates of Heaven. Furever starts out as a This American Life-style geek show, but it gets bigger and better as it moves along.

Ultimately, it celebrates these dog lovers and cat fanciers because they have the courage to deal with the inevitability of death — an event which, of course, no American lifer thinks could ever happen to them. — Addison Engelking

Being Awesome
  • "Being Awesome"
Being Awesome (Allen C. Gardner, 77 min.), 12:30 p.m. The Circuit Playhouse, with filmmaker Q&A after the screening
This feature from Memphis director Allen C. Gardner stars Drew Smith as Lloyd, a divorced art teacher who's lost his passion for life, and Gardner as Teddy, the lovable basketball jock who still thinks of high school as the glory days. At their high school reunion, the pair connect over their unhappiness with the way life turned out. Idealist Teddy suggests the two stop being depressed and just be awesome.

For a while, Lloyd has a bit of a harder time finding his artistic muse than Teddy, who seems to jump headfirst into something meaningful. Being Awesome's emotional dialogue, the real meat of the film, sometimes is all too real — awkwardness and all. It's a charm that leaves you to cheer on Teddy and Lloyd during this coming-of-middle-age story. — Alexandra Pusateri

Good Ol Freda
  • "Good Ol' Freda"
Good Ol' Freda (Ryan White, 86 min.), 12:45 p.m., Playhouse on the Square
Good Ol’ Freda, which derives its title from a soundtrack shout-out from one of the Fab Four heard early on in this film about the Beatles’ longtime Liverpool-based secretary, might just as well have been called Poor Ol’ Freda. Based on the life of the eponymous Freda Kelly, who as a 17-year-old habitué of the Cavern Club, latched onto the fledgling band and inherited its fan club duties from another fan, the film, directed by Ryan White, consists of recent interviews with the now 60-ish Kelly and others from the erstwhile Merseyside scene, interspersed with film-clips and stills of the group that became avatars of a transformed world-wide culture.

While evocative of the time and the Beatles’ gestation period, especially, the 86-minute film adds little that we don’t already know. We learn that Paul was “nice,” John was a creature of moods, George was “the quiet one,” and Ringo — whom Kelly refers to consistently as “Richie” — was a homebody type. Kelly describes a time when she was almost fired by an irate Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, for inadvertently “wiping” he results of an interview session but was saved when Lennon laughed it off. “When a Beatle laughed, Eppy laughed,” she says. The moody Lennon himself once tried to sack her but, pressed by the other Beatles, relented and begged her back on bended knee.

Freda’s stretch with the Beatles ran all the way from Pete Best to Yoko Ono, though she sheds no light on the mysteries of either. She had a seat up front in the Magical Mystery Tour bus, but it was her sad duty, when the Beatles finally disbanded in the early ‘70s, to fold the official fan club zine, advising readers, “Please do not write again.” She married and bore a daughter, who is interviewed for the film, and a son, who, we learn in a mournful coda, would die.

In the end, older, sadder, and considerably heavier, she is still around, a working-class Liverpudlian living by her own resources. And “Richie” is there to pay her tribute as a "member of the family" in a touching cameo under the closing credits. — Jackson Baker

Nebraska
  • "Nebraska"
Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 110 min.), 3:15 p.m., Studio on the Square
Nebraska is helmed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways, About Schmidt, Election). The father-and-son road comedy stars Bruce Dern (Best Actor at Cannes), Will Forte, and Bob Odenkirk, and it promises to flex its muscles at next year's Academy Awards.

The screening is another coup for Indie Memphis, which in the past few years has added major "independent" Hollywood releases screening weeks or even months before they will be released on the big screen for everyone else. Nebraska is, in a way, an aspirational choice. Payne typically makes movies that could be made to some degree by anyone, regardless of budget, excepting for the A-list cast. Payne and his collaborators focus on the script, and it's at least 60 percent of what make his films so good. He's won two Oscars for screenplays. Granted, Payne has the luxury of not having to work a day job to fund his art. But, ostensibly, screenwriting accounts for a zero on a line-item budget. The film will follow the writing, Payne proves. — Greg Akers

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  • "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Justin Chadwick, 152 min.), Playhouse on the Square
Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom is Idris Elba's vehicle to stardom for those who aren't already smitten by his work in The Wire, Luther, The Office, or this year's Pacific Rim ("Today, we are canceling the apocalypse!").

This time, Elba plays the South African civil rights leader and is joined by Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. The buzz is strong for an Oscar nomination for Elba. — Greg Akers

Bible Quiz
  • "Bible Quiz"
Bible Quiz (Nicole Teeny, 76 min.), 5:15 p.m., The Circuit Playhouse, with Q&As with director Teeny and subject Mikayla Irie after the screening
Think typical Bible Drill on steroids, throw in some family issues, budding faith, and first loves and you have the feature documentary film Bible Quiz. It follows 17-year-old Mikayla Irle as she faces the struggles and self-doubt that go along with conquering adolescence. As an escape from the love she doesn't feel she receives at home, she turns to her church family and its “bible quiz program” in which kids memorize scripture and compete against other churches.

Aside from the religious benefits of memorizing scripture and the fun aspect of the high stakes competitions, Mikayla has another incentive — spend time with her team's captain (and the object of her crush), JP O'Connor, the hot shot quizzer who was named third in the nation the year prior.

The journey from the Northwestern District competition to Regional Finals and then the ultimate challenge, the National Bible Quiz Championship, is full of heated competition, tension of wanting the approval of your first love, and tremendous self discovery.

Some play for the trophy, and some play for the friendships, but all will walk away changed. — Anna Cox

Awards Show, 8 p.m., Playhouse on the Square and Encore Screenings
Indie Memphis' victory lap will come this evening with the awards show honoring the best of the fest. Be there to give another round of applause for all concerned. Also, the evening will feature four encore screenings of the the hottest tickets at the festival. If you didn't get in to see them the first go-round — or if you can't stand the idea of not seeing them again — here's your chance. — Greg Akers

For the full Indie Memphis lineup, go to the schedule here.

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