Nashville Film Festival 2015: Days 7 - 9
My coverage of the 2015 Nashville Film Festival concludes as I check out the final wave of selections from the Graveyard Shift horror movie line-up and manage to catch a few additional titles outside the genre!
Horsehead (screened with the short film Primrose Lane)
Jessica has taken up study of lucid dreaming in response to years of bizarre nightmares. Following the death of her maternal grandmother, she reluctantly returns home to her estranged mother and loving stepfather. Her dreams take on a renewed intensity as she uncovers a mystery of her grandmother and is haunted by visions of The Cardinal. Director Romain Basset makes an impressive feature debut with Horsehead (89 minutes). The story is built upon dream logic and beautifully photographed by cinematographer Vincent Vieillard-Baron. Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux stars as Jessica, the haunted heroine hooked on ether. She is surrounded by an inspired cast featuring perennial Lucio Fulci favorite Catriona MacColl (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery), Gaspar Noé staple Philippe Nahon (I Stand Alone, Irreversible, High Tension) and famed singer Murray Head of One Night in Bangkok fame. Horsehead is a truly hypnotic film and should be seen on the big screen if at all possible. The film has acquired distribution from Artsploitation Films and is due to be released later this summer.
The film was preceded by the short Primrose Lane (6 minutes), directed by Nick Phillips. This is the story of a pair of friends who leave school one day to investigate an abandoned house. The film appears to have been shot on 8mm and plays silently, except for the sound of the projector. The premise is straightforward and the payoff is awesome, causing many in the auditorium to jump. Primrose Lane was beautifully photographed by genre vet Scott Winig (Laid to Rest, Animal, Fear Clinic).
Alléluia (screened with the short film Get Better Boss
Sharing this year's Graveyard Shift Grand Jury prize for Best Picture is writer/ director Fabrice Du Welz's haunting love story Alléluia (93 minutes), a Belgian thriller inspired by The Honeymoon Killers. The plot covers a lot of ground in the study of the lengths people will go in the name of love. Gloria works in the morgue and is most comfortable around the dead, as she has escaped an unhappy marriage with her young daughter. A friend encourages her to try internet dating and pushes her into accepting a lunch meeting with Michel, a successful shoe salesman. Sparks fly immediately and lead to sex, but Gloria quickly learns her man is just a con artist working a grift on lonely women. Instead of walking away, she realizes life is better with Michel than without and decides to help him. Abandoning her daughter with a friend, Gloria is now free to travel the country in the pursuit of love and happiness. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Gloria has a problem with jealousy and when she sees her man with other women, she flips out and murders them. Michel is somehow okay with this and the cycle repeats until it reaches a devastating conclusion. Alléluia has been picked up for domestic release by Music Box Films, so be sure to check it out.
The feature was paired with Henry Caplan's short film Get Better Boss, a light-hearted tale of an ailing Yakuza leader's love of classic American cowboy western wear.
In addition to the Graveyard Shift titles, I was able to step into a pair of easy going films to catch a break from some of the seriousness I kept gravitating towards. The Chambermaid is a sweet love story from Germany, about a woman uncomfortable around people until she discovers the joy of hiding under the beds of hotel guests. Her life takes a turn for the better when she meets a dominatrix who teaches her to love. Fresh Dressed is a documentary that chronicles the history of urban hip-hop fashion from its humble beginnings on the street to the corporate juggernaut it has become. The piece if filled with lots of great interviews with designers and artists alike.
Get Better Boss | The Chambermaid | Fresh Dressed
The festival closed on a high note as I was able to check out some truly amazing films including the international favorite The Tribe (132 minutes). The film features non-translated Ukrainian sign language and none of the cast members say a word. Our hero transfers to a new school for the deaf where he immediately joins a gang of hooligans that routinely beat and rob the townies. As another source of revenue, the punks work a prostitution ring at the local truck stop. Not everything is wonderful in this quiet community and soon a violent killing spree will rock the campus…not that anyone will hear it coming. The Tribe completely blew me away and I cannot encourage people enough to check it out when it hits theaters this summer, courtesy of Drafthouse Films.
Another film that totally surprised me is the documentary The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young (90 minutes). Every year, 40 runners come from around the world to a small town in Tennessee to test their limits in the virtually impossible trail race known as The Barkley Marathon. The event is secret and the course is insane, but those dedicated runners determined to find it and participate will never forget the experience. In twenty-five years, only ten runners have completed the course inspired by a failed prison escape, and filmmakers Annika Iltis and Timothy Kane have gained unprecedented access to show you why. At this point, the film does not have distribution, but visit their official website and check out the trailer here.
The Graveyard Shift closed with a special presentation. Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (loosely translated as Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in it) is an inspired retelling of Purple Rain, set in North Africa's Sahara Desert. Mdou Moctar is a musician, new to town and looking for people to share his music. His father, a former poet, is reluctant to let him play and there are rival musicians all over town trying to steal his music. Directed by Christopher Kirkley, this is the first fictional film in the Tuareg language. The translation is a bit wonky, as apparently the color purple does not naturally appear in the Sahara desert, so the Patushek people do not have a word for it. The movie is a lot of fun and won a special jury prize for Outstanding Use of Music. Look for it in the festival circuit until it receives distribution and check out the trailer here.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young | Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
The Nashville Film Festival is a really laid-back event that I found both welcoming and inviting and can easily recommend to anyone looking for a fun event surrounded by people who love movies. I want to thank Artistic Director Brian Owens for extending the invitation and Graveyard Shift programmer Jason Shawhan for the excellent selections. Do yourself a favor and check out any of the films I mentioned in these articles.
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