This Indie Memphis Film Festival continues today with some high profile docs, movies in the park, and parties on the roof. Read our full-festival survey from this week's paper here. For full schedule and ticketing info, see IndieMemphis.com.
Pick of the Day: Thunder Soul (7 p.m., Studio on the Square)
As captured in Thunder Soul, some of the funkiest soul instrumentals of the 1970s were recorded by a group of 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds from Houston, Texas. The Kashmere Stage Band, under the influence of Otis Redding and the tutelage of progressive high school band teacher Conrad. O. Johnson, became widely recognized as the best high school band in America. In an effective documentary about a Kashmere Stage Band reunion concert, Thunder Soul director Mark Landsman shows how the band’s success empowered the Kashmere High students, who also began to excel at sports and academics. It’s a powerful — and great sounding —testament to the often undervalued power of art education in public schools. — Chris Davis
Filmmaker Mark Landsman talks about Thunder Soul:
Feature Pick: Mystery Train and The Blues Brothers (7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Levitt Shell)
Far From Yokohama: A scene from Mystery Train, the ultimate Memphis movie.
Last year, Indie Memphis had a great idea: Movies outside, on a big-screen, at the Levitt Shell. For free! The combination of Elvis Presley's 1968 "comeback" special and the Coen brothers' much-beloved The Big Lebowski was a sure thing. Sadly, the weather was not, and cold temperatures and on-and-off rain kept attendance down. Hopefully, this year, the weather gods will treat us better as Indie Memphis will host a free screening of Mystery Train— which is required viewing for all Memphians — and The Blues Brothers.
The former film, this screening sponsored by Elvis Presley Enterprises, was filmed in Memphis by indie icon Jim Jarmusch in the summer of 1988 and follows the interconnected stories of three visitors navigating the gritty side of downtown Memphis. Mystery Train both helped launch the modern era of Memphis moviemaking and set the tone for much of what has defined Memphis "cool" ever since. The film was re-released in a restored/remastered form this summer on a Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-Ray, and that's the version that will be screened at the Shell. I wrote much more about Mystery Train in this recent Flyercover story.
The second half of this music-themed double feature, presented by critic and radio/television host Elvis Mitchell, needs little explanation. The Blues Brothers is set in Chicago, but features Stax legends Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn as part of the titular duo's backing band. — Chris Herrington
Mystery Train trailer:
Documentary Pick: Cool It (6:30 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)
This documentary from filmmaker Ondi Timoner (the only person to twice win the Grand Jury prize at Sundance), recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. It's a portrait of Danish scientist Bjorn Lomberg, controversial author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, and is supposed to be something of an alternative take on the global warming debate.
Local Pick: Rock for Love (9 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)
This concert film captures definitive performances by the Warble, John Paul Keith & the 145s, Snowglobe, and an eclectic mix of other great Memphis indies. Although it’s visually redundant — as concert films usually are — Rock for Love makes a strong case that Memphis is still one of the world’s great music cities. It also captures the generous spirit of a community of artists working together for a good cause. In this case, to insure that everybody in Memphis has access to affordable medical treatment at the Church Health Center. The screening will be followed by an after-party on the Playhouse rooftop featuring live music from Snowglobe, Pezz, and the Near Reaches. — Davis
Shorts Pick: Doc Ellis & the LSD No-No (6:30 p.m., Studio on the Square) We haven't seen this short film, but the topic — the Pittsburgh Pirates hurler who claims to have been on LSD when he threw a no-hitter — intrigues. And we've heard good first-hand reports about Gabi on the Roof in July, the feature it's screening alongside.
The Blackmail Boys: Plotting, or something like that.
Blackmail Boys (9:45 p.m., Studio on the Square) An at-times sexually graphic feature about a young gay couple, one a male prostitute, who hatch a plot to blackmail a client (played by filmmaker Joe Swanberg) who turns out to be an anti-gay crusader. This second feature from the mysterious Shumanski brothers recently won the Audience and Jury Awards at Birmingham's SHOUT Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. It also has Memphis connections, with filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox showing up in the credits and some local music (including Snowglobe's Brad Postlewthwaite and Jeff Hulett) on the soundtrack. — Herrington
The Colonel's Bride (7:15, Studio on the Square)
A scene from The Colonel's Bride.
Be patient — the achingly slow beginning of Brent Stewart’s narrative feature gives way to a poignant and intimate portrayal of a Vietnam veteran, Bill Best, and Gwynn, his recently acquired Vietnamese mail-order bride. Bill, lonely and ailing, not unlike a washed-up Marlboro Man, seeks comfort and redemption in the young Gwynn, who is his salvation for the suffering he inflicted as a young soldier in Vietnam. Though the premise is a bit uncomfortable — Gwynn is necessarily divested of any agency, and Bill’s assumption that he’s making amends by bringing Gwynn to the United States is culturally clueless — the film is nevertheless an honest look at the strange convergence of these two lives. The cinematography goes a long way towards conveying their relationship’s unconventional twist, bolstered by remarkable performances from James DeForest Parker and Alicia Truong. — Hannah Sayle