Feature Article, Film Festivals

Alright, so I’m going to run through the rest of the films I was able to see during the final days of the Nashville Film Festival. There were so many great films playing that, even though I got to see quite a few, I still feel like I missed a bunch! I guess that gives me something to look forward to though.


Hunky Dory

Synopsis: Sidney always wanted to be a glam rock star, but he ended working for tips as a dive bar drag queen instead. His life takes a dramatic turn when his ex-girlfriend vanishes after she unexpectedly drops their 11-year-old son off at his apartment.

This was a great little drama that was full of great performances. It reminds me of the kind of films that thrive at film festivals, the stuff that sadly doesn’t get made by the big studios in a time of too-big-to-fail movies. It had a loose plot but filled the screen with interesting parts of the main character’s journey. It let the characters simply be themselves and we got to grow with them.

Special mention should be made of just how damn great this film looked. The main actor of this film (the extremely nice & likable Tomas Pais) mentioned the film was shot in just 10 days, which is kind of astounding because it looks so amazing. Big shout out to the cinematographer, Magela Crosignani, and the director, Michael Curtis Johnson.


A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff

Synopsis: When two aloof brothers decide to shoot a fake snuff film in order to gain fame and recognition, they kidnap a girl-next-door-type but get more than they bargained for when their “starlet” starts making her own rules.

Going into this film, I kind of expected it to be a serious horror film. I was quite surprised to find that it’s more of a comedy – and a funny one, too. I caught myself laughing many times throughout this movie. They play with horror movie tropes but also smartly take on Hollywood itself.

Joey Kern is a huge standout in this movie, playing the main brother who takes this whole “fake” snuff film a little too far. His inflections, facial expressions, everything is pitch perfect. I’ve seen him in quite a few other things but this is my favorite role for him by far. Fans of stuff like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland will eat this up.


The Elk

Synopsis: Comedy fuses with science fiction in this quirky film about the chaos that ensues when an “elk” (in fact, a tall individual who wears a coat, does not speak, and has an elk’s head and antlers) emerges from the forest near a small town. Accepted by a family who interacts with him as if nothing is unusual, they initially shelter their guest from their neighbors. But not for long!

I love absurd French movies and make no mistake – The Elk is an extremely absurd French movie. When the titular Elk shows up, its original is wrapped in a mystery. As the film goes on, it gives more hints and clues as to what this creature is, where its from, and how it ties into a central family it lives with. Let me just say – this movie doesn’t follow any sort of path you think it will. It’s also pretty funny in a sort of dry manner. Each scene is packed full of charm and wit that you can’t help but fall in love with the Elk.



Synopsis: In the spring of 1864, after not receiving a letter from her soldier husband in almost a year, and the death of their only child, Josephine Robison takes matters into her own hands. She cuts her hair, puts on her husband’s clothes and enlists in the army of Tennessee as Joseph Robison to find him.

This was a great first film from co-writer/director Rory Feek. It wastes no time getting into the central goal of our main protagonist and before we know it, she’s off to find her husband in the Civil War. The dialogue has a good back and forth rhythm with some good jokes interspersed to keep the material from getting too serious. The acting was great from everyone, but special kudos goes to Alice Coulthard and Boris McGiver, they really helped carry the film. The audience I watched the movie with went nuts for it – they gave Rory a huge standing ovation when the movie was done, something I didn’t see at any other movie. I’m looking forward to whatever new films Rory decides to cook up next. I know he has a big music career to tend to but hopefully he’ll have time to work on another movie or two.


A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story

Synopsis: Packed wall to wall with the greatest music from Texas and beyond, A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story is music to the ears of fans everywhere. This film highlights the PBS series’ evolution through pivotal bookings, proving that after 40 years and 800 performers, ACL is more relevant now than ever before.

This is a movie that plays 100% to music fans out there. It traces the history of the Austin City Limits show and although much of it focus on country music, it ends up spanning all genres. As someone who listens to just about every type of genre – and means it – I enjoyed the wide spectrum of artists they interviewed and showed clips of. I’m not sure how interesting it would be to those who don’t care about legendary musicians all that much; it’s not a documentary that tries to explain a subject to the uninitiated. It’s a celebration captured on the screen, as simple as that.


Holy Hell

Synopsis: Just out of college, Will Allen, a young idealist filmmaker, joined a secretive spiritualist community led by a charismatic guru. With his camera in hand, he documented 20 years of living inside a cult that changed how he would see the world forever.

This is a pretty insane documentary. Cults can be fascinating to me since each one has its own distinct flavor, its own philosophies and its own secrets. Every item I just mentioned is included here and the fact that this filmmaker had over 20 years of footage is just insane. They’re able to tell a story of just the meat – there is no filler to be seen. It moves at a quick pace as we get to know the leader of this cult and its members. As expected, nothing is quite as it seems. As time passes, the leader of this gang gets weirder and weirder until the cracks start to show. It ends up being a heartbreaking story but is definitely worth the watch.

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