For the 16th year since beginning life as the Memphis International Film Festival, On Location: Memphis will be bringing films to the Mid-South. "We're all volunteers, from the president on down," says Public Relations Director Dan Hodgdon, who has been working with the festival for three years. "I've met a lot of cool filmmakers and musicians and seen all kinds of projects that you might not ever know about otherwise, from short films to documentaries to feature films. It's been really interesting to meet such a broad cross section of really talented and creative people."
Introducing the filmmakers to their audiences, and vice versa, is a big part of the On Location experience. "We aren't officially having an opening night movie this year. Instead, we're having a mix-and-mingle preview party at the Hard Rock Cafe. There will be a lot of trailers and filmmakers there, and an opportunity for people to get to know each other," Hodgdon says.
Music from all over the world plays a big part in this year's festival. "Over the years, we've received a lot of entries for music-related films, whether features or documentaries or shorts," Hodgdon says. "A lot of it comes from Memphis having the history and reputation as a music city. It's across the board, from hip-hop to country, blues ... a little bit of everything. We decided to embrace the music component."
Most of the music-related films will be screening at Cooper Walker Place, the community center located at 1015 S. Cooper in the former Galloway United Methodist Church. In 1954, the church was the location of Johnny Cash's first live performance with the Tennessee Two. On Saturday, Joanne Cash, Johnny's youngest sister, will be on hand for the screening of her documentary I Do Believe. "It's a narrative of her life, from growing up in Arkansas to living here in Memphis and then being involved in the Cowboy Church in Nashville," Hodgdon says.
Next on Sunday, a different kind of music documentary will screen at Cooper Walker Place. The Record Man tells the story of independent music mogul, Henry Stone, whose TK Records was the home of some of the best disco hitmakers of the 1970s, including KC and the Sunshine Band and Memphian Anita Ward, who had a No. 1 hit on the label in 1979 with "Ring My Bell." Ward will be on hand for the screening.
The weekend of music-related films at will kick off with the Blues Reel Review concert on Friday, which will feature Memphis artists such as Redd Velvet, Garry Burnside, and Beverly Davis, Butch Mudbone, Joyce Henderson, and Cash McCall paying tribute to a pair of legends we lost this year, Teenie Hodges and B.B. King.
Over at Studio on the Square, first-time director Morreco Coleman will spotlight a uniquely Memphis musical phenomenon with Gangsta Walking the Movie. "He's a former firefighter," Hodgdon says. "It's about Memphis hip-hop and dance culture. It's been very influential, but it doesn't get as much attention as it deserves, compared to the Bronx or the West Coast scene."
The film features appearances by more than 30 Memphis hip-hop artists and dancers, including Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, 8Ball, and MJG. "I have been working for years on this documentary," Coleman says. "It's a collaborative project about the hip-hop, rap, and dance culture in Memphis, which has been underground for over 20 years. Now you get to witness our secrets."
Another Memphis production will screen on Sunday.Waffle Street is directors Ian and Eshom Nelms' adaptation of a 2010 memoir by financier James Adams, who took a job at a popular 24-hour breakfast restaurant after being laid off from his Wall Street job. James Lafferty stars as Adams alongside Danny Glover as "the best short-order cook in town."
Actor-turned-director Tommy Ford will bring his drama Switching Lanes to Studio on the Square. Ford's film follows Kaneesha and Sarah, who reach across racial barriers in their small Southern town to forge an unlikely friendship.
You can find a full schedule of the weekend's films and buy weekend passes or tickets to individual movies at the On Location: Memphis website, onlocationmemphis.org.