The biggest day of the Indie Memphis Film Festival is so packed that we're doubling up our picks in each category. As always, for a full schedule and ticketing info, see IndieMemphis.com.
Picks of the Day:
The Poor and Hungry (7 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)
Eric Tate and Lindsey Roberts, iconic, in Craig Brewer's The Poor & Hungry.
We're expecting this to sell out, so hopefully you have your tickets already. Suffice it to say, Craig Brewer's first completed film not only launched the most meaningful career in Memphis film history, it also spurred the growth over the past decade of both the homegrown filmmaking scene and the very festival that is hosting this screening. The film is required viewing for anyone who wants to be culturally literate on modern Memphis, but hasn't been screened publicly in several years. Brewer will be departing his Atlanta-based Footloose production for one night to attend this screening and conduct a post-screening chat session, with most of the film's original cast and crew in attendance. I wrote more about the new Poor & Hungryhere. You can read Chris Davis' original cover story about Brewer's trip to the Hollywood Film Festival here. — Chris Herrington
Ed Wood (10:30 p.m., Studio on the Square)
Tim Burton's 1994 black-and-white fantasy biopic of spectacularly failed filmmaker Ed Wood (creator of grade-Z ’50s "classics" Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space), with Johnny Depp in the lead role and a tour de force turn from Martin Landau as big-screen Dracula Bela Lugosi, will screen on a 35-millimeter print Saturday at 10:30 p.m. at Studio on the Square. The screening is being hosted by one of the film's screenwriters, Larry Karaszewski, in town for a couple of festival panels. Karaszewski has a history with the city, having co-written the Memphis-shot The People vs. Larry Flynt. — Herrington
Cold Weather (7:30 p.m., Studio on the Square)
A scene from Aaron Katz'sCold Weather.
Cold Weather, which debuted to strong notices this spring at the film portion of Ausin's South by Southwest Festival, might be something of an unintentional allegory on the evolution of the so-called mumblecore scene. Over the past couple of years, that film mini-movement has begun to grow out of its post-graduate naturalism roots, with films such as Lynn Shelton's Hump Day, Joe Swanberg's Alexander the Last (which screened at Indie Memphis last year), and Mark and Jay Duplass' Cyrus embracing more crafted, plot-driven scenarios. This hasn't been a compromise as much as a improvement. The mumblecore-identified director Aaron Katz, whose last film, the relaxed Quiet City, screened locally at the Brooks in 2008, starts here with a familiar mumblecore scenario: Twentysomething Doug has dropped out of college, where he was studying forensic science, and moved back home, where he takes an ostensibly mundane job and rooms with his sister. But, about half an hour in, when an ex-girlfriend comes up missing, this listless protagonist finds himself pulled into a mystery. The result is a novel blend of indie realism and classic Hollywood genre machinations, clever but not smug. Set in Katz' native Portland and shot with the RED digital camera, Cold Weather is probably also the most visually impressive film to yet emerge from the extended mumblecore family. — Herrington
Earthwork (4:30 p.m., Studio on the Square)
John Hawkes in Earthwork.
Based on the true story of crop artist Stan Herd, Earthwork bypasses art celebrities and gallery snobs to take on a humbler art, one with quiet ambition but grand aspirations. Herd’s large-scale art is made of rocks and trees and mounds of dirt — all arranged with painstaking precision, and, even more remarkable, arranged at the ground level with little observation from above. The film captures one particular project of Herd’s, for which he moves from Kansas to New York. There, he creates one of his earth works on a plot belonging to Donald Trump, hiring homeless men to work on his team. Although occasionally slipping into the smarmy pitfall of most inspirational stories, Earthwork is a fascinating look at what it means to truly dedicate one’s self to a craft, even one that many people will never have the chance to witness. — Hannah Sayle
And Everything is Going Fine (4 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)
Probably the most high-profile documentary on the Indie Memphis slate this year, And Everything is Going Fine is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh's portrait of the later writer and performing artist Spalding Gray. The film premiered earlier this year in a single showing at the Sundance-alternative Slamdance Film Festival. The film, like Gray's films Swimming to Cambodia and Gray's Anatomy, takes the form of autobiographical monologue, only this time crafted by Soderbergh as a collage drawn from performances, television appearances, and home movies.
Roll Out, Cowboy (2 p.m., Studio on the Square)
A scene from Roll Out, Cowboy.
What begins as an uncommonly honest document of life on the road evolves into a thoughtful meditation on musicianship and the meaning of community. Chris “Sandman” Sand, a liberal folk singer with a taste for hip hop, tries to balance his wild life on the road with his more bucolic existence at home in rural North Dakota. Sand, a gifted songwriter who compares himself to Woody Guthrie and Will Rogers, manages to charm even at his worst. So does this smoothly paced doc. — Chris Davis
Documentaries in Action (1:30 p.m., Playhouse on the Square) For "Documentaries in Action," local filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox will pair up with the celebrated documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams). Gilbert will host the exchange with Fox, who will discuss and screen clips from his documentary on the controversial Memphis-based "ex-gay" program Love in Action, a project that is finally, after five years, nearing completion.
Robyn Hitchcock: Trams, Jams, and Elvis (2:30 p.m., Brooks Museum of Art):
Robyn Hitchcock, performing at last year's Indie Memphis.
We'll let the Indie Memphis program describe this, because we haven't seen either film and can't really explain it any better: "The premiere of singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock's exploration of Memphis during the 2009 Indie Memphis Film Festival, followed by the documentary feature Burning Ice, which follows a group of 45 world-renowned artists, musicians and scientists as they travel to the High Arctic to witness the effects of climate change. Presented by the Memphis Chapter of The Recording Academy."
Project Octi/Cannibal Records: The Musical! (both screening as part of Shorts Program #3, 10 p.m., Studio on the Square)
John Pickle in Cannibal Records: The Musical!.
Jeff Hassen and John Pickle team up for Cannibal Records: The Musical!, an energetic burst of comedy/musical/horror in the vein of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors, featuring an excellent set-piece song number written by Hassen and performed by Pickle. Project Octi is an impressively creepy, squishy, and tactile bit of stop-motion animation from Memphis College of Art student Hannah New. — Herrington
Shoegazer (part of Shorts Program #2, 1:45 p.m., Studio on the Square) Shoegazer is a festival short that features an established name, that name being executive producer Miranda July, the director of the 2005 festival circuit hit Me, You, and Everyone We Know. It takes the familiar odd-couple-in-an-evening-gone-wrong scenario (think After Hours or Into the Night) and uses it in an attempt to create a brief character piece in the place of the late night hijinks, with mixed results. Keep an eye out for Evil Dead scream queen Betsy Baker in a small role. — Hunter Duesing
Gerrymandering (11:30 a.m., Studio on the Square) Jeff Reichert's Gerrymandering, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, is a well-reviewed exposé on the titual political practice — redistricting electoral boundaries to affect voting outcomes in favor of a particular candidate or party.
Pitch Session: Fly on the Wall (Noon, Brooks Museum of Art) This event will allow prospective local filmmakers to pitch ideas to film professionals who have experienced Hollywood pitch meetings (including Ed Wood screenwriter Larry Karaszewski and Kevin Smith associate Scott Mosier). You have to sign up to pitch, but anyone is welcome to come watch.
American Jihadist (10:15 p.m., Studio on the Square) The Grand Jury Prize doc winner at Slamdance examines militant Islam through the story of an African-American muslim in D.C.