The 12th On Location: Memphis International Film Festival runs across four days this week at Malco's Ridgeway Four — a mix of features, documentaries, short films, panel discussions, and other screenings and events. The festival's opening-night film is Breaking Point, a criminal/legal thriller starring veteran actor Tom Berenger (Platoon, The Big Chill) and rapper Busta Rhymes. The screening is at 7:30 p.m.,Thursday, with both Berenger and director Jeff Celentano scheduled to attend.
The festival concludes Sunday night with a Bollywood presentation and a "sneak peak" at the documentary Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, about the late Memphis musician. In between, special events include a Friday afternoon "Cinema for Seniors" presentation and a series of free panel discussions on film topics throughout the weekend at the nearby Staybridge Suites.
A full festival pass is $75. A Saturday/Sunday only pass is $30. Tickets for individual screenings are available at the theater.
Win Win: This is the third feature from veteran actor turned indie filmmaker Thomas McCarthy. The first, 2003's The Station Agent, was a quirky sleeper. The second, 2007's The Visitor, was a surprise hit that garnered its lead, Richard Jenkins, an Oscar nomination. And this latest is a similarly fine, understated piece of work. If you judged Win Win only by its trailer, you might think you were in for a conventional "inspirational" sports movie. But that's not quite what this is. The film, set in suburban New Jersey, stars Paul Giamatti — terrific, per usual — as an attorney with a great family (Amy Ryan of The Wire is his wife), a struggling private practice, and a second labor-of-love gig as a high school wrestling coach. When Giamatti's character ends up taking in the grandson of a client and the kid turns out to be both troubled and an ace wrestler, you'll think you know where this film is going. But McCarthy sidesteps such obvious bits as the big match and the big courtroom confrontation in smart, effective ways. One of the year's best films so far, Win Win screens at 5 p.m., Sunday ahead of a wider opening.
Weekend: This tender, smart gay-themed romance from British filmmaker Andrew Haigh was a big hit at last month's SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, winning the audience award in the festival's Emerging Visions program, drawing strong reviews, and getting picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. What starts in the film as a likely one-night stand between young singles Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) develops, surprisingly, into a pretty intense romance. Weekend screens at 9:30 p.m., Saturday.
Better Than Something: Jay Reatard: This documentary about late Memphis punk/indie musician Jay Reatard was primarily filmed in April 2009, before Reatard's January 2010 death. Initially a short doc — Waiting for Something — that has been available online for a while, the film has been expanded into a feature. The film was still in post-production as we went to press and will get a sneak preview in Reatard's hometown ahead of an official premiere at the Nashville Film Festival later this month. Better Than Somebody: Jay Reatard screens at 7:30 p.m., Friday. Filmmakers Alex Hammond, Ian Markiewicz, and Joseph Berger are scheduled to attend.
Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja: Filmmaker Billy Corben's 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys, about the 1980s drug trade in Miami, was a big hit on the festival circuit. Here, he takes the same approach to the city's marijuana trade in the '70s and '80s with the film featuring "redneck pirates, a ganja-smoking church, and the longest-serving marijuana prisoner in American history." The film makes its Memphis debut ahead of a DVD release. Square Grouper screens at 9:45 p.m., Saturday.
Other Music Docs: A high-profile screening at SXSW last month, where the band regrouped to perform, was Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone (2:30 p.m., Saturday), a profile of the African-American ska-punk-funk band that built a cult following in the late '80s and early '90s. The film is narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne.
Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah (7:30 p.m., Saturday) is a documentary portrait of the late Arkansas-born singer-songwriter Blaze Foley, whose songs have been covered by the likes of Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, and John Prine. The finished film — a dozen years in the making — will have its world premiere at On Location, with director/producer Kevin Triplett and members of the Foley family in attendance.
Other Features: Rachel Weisz plays a Nebraska cop who serves as a United Nations peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and uncovers a sex scandal in The Whistleblower (7 p.m., Friday and 2 p.m., Sunday). The film was an official selection at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Filmmaker Larysa Kondracki is scheduled to attend. Three (9 p.m., Friday) is the latest work from German film director Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run, The International). The Berlin-set drama centers on a 40-something couple whose relationship is complicated when they both fall in love with the same man. And the black-and-white feature from Belgium, Four Roses (9:30 p.m., Friday), which follows the various inhabitants of a hotel, has screened to good notices at several festivals (including the Atlanta Underground Film Festival) while drawing some comparisons to Jim Jarmusch.
Thursday, April 7th-Sunday, April 10th
For a full schedule and ticketing information, see onlocationmemphis.org.