Indie Memphis Daily: Sunday Guide



The refurbished, 10th anniversary edition of Craig Brewer's career-launching The Poor and Hungry was a sellout last night at Playhouse on the Square, with Brewer and most of the film's original cast on hand to treat the audience to lots of his own stories about the making of that movie. Brewer also let his hometown audience be the first anywhere — outside the film's own production — to see clips from his forthcoming studio feature Footloose, playing a five-minute "sizzle reel" of clips from the work-in-progress remake, which he had left the Atlanta set of only hours earlier.

If you tried to get into last night's Poor & Hungry screening and weren't able to — a condition that afflicted many — then you'll get another chance today. Indie Memphis director Erik Jambor decided last night to schedule an encore screening of The Poor & Hungry for 2:30 p.m. today, at Playhouse on the Square.

Two other encore screenings for tonight are the documentary Thunder Soul at 8:15 and a repeat of last night's Shorts Program #3 at 8:30. Both of these are at Studio on the Square. For a full schedule of today's events, see

And, now, our guide to the rest of the Sunday film schedule:

Pick of the Day: Freedom Riders (5:30 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)

John Lewis and Jim Zwerg: Portrait of heroism in Freedom Riders.
  • John Lewis and Jim Zwerg: Portrait of heroism in Freedom Riders.

A feature-length documentary about one of the most daring passages of the civil rights movement, acclaimed non-fiction filmmaker Stanley Nelson's Freedom Riders might serve as an essential companion piece to the classic civil rights doc series Eyes on the Prize. Via interviews with the riders, then Alabama governor John Patterson, Kennedy administration representative John Siegenthaler, and ordinary citizens who bore witness, as well as through archival footage and photography, Nelson tells the story of the first wave of Freedom Riders, black and white Americans who endured harassment, beatings, and imprisonment for simply traveling on buses together in the South in defiance of Jim Crow laws. There are few examples of heroism as humbling as those of Diana Nash, Jim Zwerg, and others like them — young students who boarded the buses in full knowledge that they were risking their lives. This festival screening is in advance of a scheduled May 2011 television debut as part of PBS' American Experience series. — Chris Herrington


Feature Pick: The New Year (5:45, Studio on the Square)

A scene from The New Year.
  • A scene from The New Year.

The New Year snags us in the web of interpersonal relations and harrowing external forces surrounding Sunny, a young woman who leaves college to take care of her father as he battles cancer. Sunny, in a stellar performance by Trieste Kelly Dunn, is a sharp wit and a casually proficient bowler whose life is on the brink of some major changes: Her father is dying, her life as a student is slipping further away, and an old enemy returns as a potential love interest. It is a cliché that the winter holidays bring out the insanity in most people’s lives, but nothing about this film is trite. An original and tender portrayal of one woman’s journey into the thicket of adulthood, The New Year sidesteps any Garden State comparisons with its humility, self-awareness, and understated emotion. — Hannah Sayle

Documentary Pick: Queen of the Sun (5:30 p.m., Studio on the Square)

A scene from The Queen of the Sun.
  • A scene from Queen of the Sun.

We haven't had a chance to screen any of the Sunday docs other than Pick of the Day Freedom Riders, but of the ones on the schedule, Queen of the Sun seems most intriguing. A synopsis:

"In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder, where reports continue to surface that bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear single explanation. In an alarming inquiry into the insights behind Steiner’s prediction Queen of the Sun examines the dire global bee crisis through the eyes of biodynamic beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and philosophers. On a pilgrimage around the world, the film unveils 10,000 years of beekeeping, highlighting how our historic and sacred relationship with bees has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices. Featuring Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Gunther Hauk and beekeepers from around the world, Queen of the Sun weaves a dramatic story which uncovers the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature."

Local Pick: The People You Love Are Mostly Liquid (Screening as part of Shorts Program #6, 2:30 p.m., Brooks Museum of Art)
Memphis filmmaker Ben Siler has three short films in this year's festival, but The People You Love Are Mostly Liquid is the best. It's a dialogue-free, half-hour experimental film than opens in familiar-to-Siler sad-sack mode but evolves into an anxious, melancholy, and beautiful meditation that makes tremendous use of music. — Herrington

Shorts Pick:

We highly recommend Shorts Program #7 (2:45 p.m., Studio on the Square), which contains three films we've seen and really like:

Ben Siler, intelligent designer, in the highly enjoyable local short film Genesis on Demand.
  • Ben Siler, intelligent designer, in the highly enjoyable local short film Genesis on Demand.

Genesis on Demand
At last year's festival, Memphis director Edward Valibus Phillips and his Corduroy Wednesday crew won the award for best "hometowner" feature for their serial The Conversion. Phillips and company return this year with Genesis on Demand, a sparklingly clever and terrifically realized short that stars Siler as Jerry, the intelligent but beleaguered designer of planet Earth.

A Magic Helmet
A Magic Helmet is a standout selection from a festival shorts block that runs the risk of eclipsing everything else you see during your stay in the theater. When many filmmakers set out to make a short, a lot of them attempt to tackle big themes that they lack the brevity as cinematic storytellers to properly convey. A Magic Helmet is one of those rare shorts that tackles large ideas and imparts them beautifully on a small canvas, including the juxtaposition of the old and the young, the beginning of creativity and the end of a passionate artist’s journey, and naturally, Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung and Looney Tunes’ What’s Opera, Doc? — Hunter Duesing

On the surface, Daud appears to be a short film about being a Muslim in the United States, as it tells the story of a little boy in New York who dresses in a Jellabiya and clutches his Qur’an in public, thereby alienating him from his culturally assimilated peers and preventing him from the desired inclusion of being picked for a simple game of baseball. What Daud is really about, though, is the universal search for identity and self, making it a short that you don’t need to be of the Muslim faith to enjoy, appreciate, or understand. — Duesing

Wildcard Picks:

Snake Fever (Screening as part of Shorts Program #4, 11:45 a.m., Studio on the Square)
When I was a kid, my grandmother would shoot rattlesnakes that had the nerve to slither within the proximity of her house. She’d then cut off the rattle and give the grim trophy to me as a present. Looking back, it was a morbid-yet-hilarious practice, but I thought it was pretty cool at the time. As such, I felt right at home with Snake Fever, a short documentary by Wendy Greene that chronicles the rattlesnake-obsessive culture in the small town of Waynoka, Oklahoma, home of the Snake Hunt Festival, which has been going on for over 63 years. Here you’ll get a look at the ins and outs of snake wrangling, measuring, butchery, and even the act of hunting the rattlers themselves. Just don’t try it at home. — Duesing

Film Incentives: What We Have, What We Need (1 p.m., Festival Cafe at Playhouse on the Square)Linn Sitler (Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner), Gisela Moore (Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission, Assistant to Director) discuss the current state of Memphis and Tennessee's film incentive programs. Sponsored by the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission. With so many Memphis-connected productions — The Blind Side, Footloose, Memphis Beat — being shot in Georgia or Louisiana because of incentives issues, this should be highly topical. It's also free.


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