Every year, the Nashville film Festival screens musically-oriented films as part of the Music Films/Music City Competition. This year’s competition, which is presented by Lightning 100, features thirteen films that shine the spotlight on a diverse group of artists spanning several different musical genres.
The films participating in this year’s Music Films/Music City competition are:
Ain’t In It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm — Levon Helm finds himself thrust into the musical spotlight for the first time in a quarter century, but a Grammy nomination and ever-growing audiences force him to confront the dark times that have haunted him since The Band’s demise. Win or lose, Levon is an artist who will not go quietly into the night. Directed by Jacob Hatley, “Ain’t In It for My Health” features Levon Helm, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Amy Helm, and Billy Bob Thornton.
Better Than Something: Jay Reatard – Making its world premiere at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival, “Better Than Something” is an exciting and intimate portrait of Memphis-based punk musician, Jay Reatard, who toured the world and released dozens of records over the course of a 15 year career that began in his mid-teens. Original and never-before-seen footage documents his self-made journey into an iconic, garage rock star, with colleagues, friends, and family speaking candidly about Jay’s vibrant and complicated life. Jay Reatard himself, filmed just nine months before his untimely death at the age of twenty-nine, shares his experiences both on and off stage, with all the humor, savvy, and pathos one can expect from such a prolific and vital artist.
Bob and the Monster – Director Keirda Bahruth’s film, “Bob and the Monster” tells the story of outspoken indie-rock icon Bob Forrest; from his life-threatening struggle with addiction to his transformation into an influential and controversial drug counselors. The film features Forrest’s music inspirationally interwoven with his story, as well as testimony from Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and Forrest himself.
Broke* — Making its world premiere, “Broke*” explores the question, is it possible for an artist to break? Following artist (and director) Will Gray through the recording of his debut album (featuring production by Grammy Award-winning producer, T Bone Burnett), “Broke*” chronicles the stories of artists and executives searching for ways to thrive in the face of today’s music industry challenges. Featuring candid interviews with industry insiders and intimate profiles of some of the brightest emerging musical talent in the country, the film digs beneath the clichés and standard story-lines to reveal an industry struggling to find a new identity and an artist who’s simply trying to establish one. Featuring Kelly Clarkson, Bobby Bare Jr., Seth Godin, Chopmaster J (of Digital Underground), John Legend, Buddy Miller, Isaac Slade (of The Fray) and Don Was.
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone – From the shifting fault lines of Hollywood fantasies and the economic and racial tensions of Reagan’s America, Fishbone rose and became one of the most original bands of the last 25 years. With a blistering combination of punk and funk they demolished the walls of genre and challenged the racial stereotypes and the political order of the music industry and the nation. “Everyday Sunshine” is about music, history, fear, courage and overcoming adversity. Directed by Lev Anderson, ”Everyday Sunshine” features the members of Fishbone, Ice-T, Gwen Stefani, Flea and George Clinton.
Happy on the Ground: 8 Days of GRAMMY Camp – Making its world premiere at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival, “Happy on the Ground: 8 Days at GRAMMY Camp” captures the heartwarming personalities and passion of a group of talented teenage musicians (including 3 from Nashville) whose sole wish is to live a life filled with music. Within 8 glorious and exhausting days, the teens meet one another for the first time, and collaborate on and create music. Despite the mountain of obstacles they face- lack of music funding in schools, an uphill battle to find a music related career, and an industry in turmoil, the teens remain hopeful and ‘Happy on the Ground.’ The film was directed by Jay Lee and features Barry Manilow, Gavin Rossdale, and Dave Koz.
Heavy Metal Picnic – In 1985, a music festival dubbed the Full Moon Jamboree was held at “The Farm,” a piece of land set amid the McMansions along the Potomac in Maryland. Conceived of as a kind of Woodstock of heavy metal, the event drew more than a thousand people, as well as local police. Director Jeff Krulik, who originally filmed a short about the Full Moon Jamboree entitled “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” revisits the scene and talks to the people behind the event, as well as musicians who performed there. Krulik’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” short will be shown prior to the Tennessee premiere of “Heavy Metal Picnic.”
How to Grow A Band –Making its world premiere, “How to Grow A Band” is a musical coming of age story that begins as Chris Thile’s new group, Punch Brothers, embark on their first tour, six weeks before the release of their debut album. The film’s four chapters mirror the four movements of Thile’s new piece, “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” and follow the growth of a man, a band, and a piece of music. With a single camera, filmmaker, Mark Meatto, traces Punch Brothers’ evolution as musicians, artists, and friends; from their shaky start at a Scottish folk festival to their triumph at New York’s Lincoln Center.
Hurry Up and Wait – Director Justin Malone follows Atlanta-based musicians Gringo Star on their European Tour (opening for And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead), a tour that sees them at once rise to heights of confidence and growing fans. But when things start to go awry in the UK, they begin to question the worth of their pursuits, despite years of hard work.
It’s About You – “It’s About You” is not your typical career-retrospective film. Instead, it’s a very of-the-moment story of a particular time in the long and storied career of John Mellencamp. It’s a personal journey film about the singer-songwriter and takes place during his 2009 tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Told through the eyes of father/son filmmakers Kurt and Ian Markus, “It’s About You” was shot to stunning effect exclusively on super 8 film.
Music From The Big House — Rita Chiarelli, an award winning recording artist, takes a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the blues, Louisiana State Maximum Security Penitentiary, a.k.a Angola Prison. She never imagined that her love for the blues would lead her to raise the roof in a collaborative jailhouse performance with inmates serving life sentences for murder, rape and armed robbery. Music has given these inmates something to live for behind the bars of what was once the bloodiest prison in America. It is their only escape. Steeped with hope, these remarkable voices guide us on a journey of men on a quest for forgiveness. One woman, four bands, and two hours of the blues.
SING: The Hotel Café Tour Documentary — Over the years, the Hotel Café has become one of LA’s top music venues, a place to discover some of the hottest new stars on the Singer/Songwriter circuit. With verité footage, interviews, and performance footage, director Laura Crosta captures the friendship, fame, and fortunes that develop as these young artists take their acts on the road. The result is chaotic magic and unique performances that can never be captured again. The film, which is making its Tennessee premiere, features Gary Jules, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, and Tom McRae.
Wish Me Away – Filmed over the period of two years, “Wish Me Away” tell the poignant story of Chely Wright, a country music star who in 2010 came out as openly gay. Emerging from a life of hiding, she exposes her truth to her family, fans, and the country music world. Co-directed by Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, “Wish Me Away” will be making its world premiere at the Nashville Film Festival.