Feature Article, Film Festivals


I am attending the 45th annual Nashville Film Festival this year, catching tons of films, meeting tons of people, and drinking tons of Stella Artois. This is Part II of my experience. To check out Part I, click here!



Undiscovered Gyrl

Synopsis: Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt takes a year off before college to find herself, all the while chronicling her adventures in an anonymous blog into which she pours her innermost secrets. Eventually, Katie’s fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.

The Nashville Film Fest hosted the world premiere of Undiscovered Gyrl, the new film written/directed by Allison Burnett (who is a pretty well established screenwriter). From the synopsis, I was expecting a straight up drama; when the film started, it was very comedic, almost Juno-esque in its dialogue and rapid pace (I mean that in a good way, I loved Juno). Once I got rid of my expectations, I started to enjoy it…and then a funny thing happened. It turned more into a drama, going down the path that was hinted at in the synopsis.

So how was it? Pretty good, from start to finish. The shifting tones may be a bit jarring but they pulled it off for the most part. It did have a little bit of a meandering feel to it since there isn’t really a plot, per se, but that is not a bad thing. It allows you to flow with the character wherever she goes, with no worry about pesky plot points getting in the way. You fall into the experience of this girl’s life as she makes one terrible decision after another. I don’t know if I would call it a twist ending, but there is another radical shift in the tone at the very end that kind of changes everything you watched. It felt a little sudden and clunky to me, but it gave the film a distinct character and played like gangbusters with the audience.

I will say that the acting in it was pretty spot on, especially from Justin Long and Christian Slater. They did a Q&A after the film and revealed that all of the soundtrack choices came from unsigned (and “undiscovered”) female musicians. They did a nationwide search and these musicians submitted music and the cream of the crop made it into the film. I thought that was a cool idea and wouldn’t mind seen more films go this route. The musicians were all sitting in the 2 rows behind me and were extremely excited about the film; we need more of this excitement in the industry.



The Voice Thief

Synopsis: When an opera singer loses her voice, her husband embarks on an odyssey through Miami’s dark underworld to recover it through supernatural means.

I am a huge fan of Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain is my #1 all-time favorite film) so to find out that I would be watching a short film from his son, Adan Jodorowsky, was a very pleasant surprise. Starring another Jodorowsky (Cristobal) and Asia Argento, this film did not disappoint for those who love the Jodorowsky brand. It had a great, interesting story, psychedelic visuals, crazy costumes, and badass music. It is weird, yes, but delightfully so. It’s easy to just cram random things into a film and call it surreal – there truly is a fine line between purpose and randomness when it comes to psychedelic cinema. Thankfully, Adan had a purpose, a through-line through the entire film that made it cohesive. Highly recommended!



You and the Night

Synopsis: Around midnight, a young couple and their transvestite maid prepare for an orgy. Their guests will be The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen.

This film apparently was #2 on Cahiers du Cinema’s top films of 2013 and after watching, I can understand why. Most of the film takes place in a kind of futuristic apartment which, oddly enough, is inside an old castle. One by one, we meet each of the participants of the orgy as they pop in with their own emotional baggage. I thought the story would focus more on this event, with things going wrong every which way, but instead, we were treated with the idiosyncratic histories of the characters. While several of them were very entertaining (the flashback for The Stud was hilarious), constantly going back into the past robbed this film of the momentum it builds when they are in the present. At the apartment, some very interesting things start happening and then someone goes into their story and things seem to stall. Because of that, the film drags a bit around the 2/3 mark.

With that said, I was still very entertained and the film has an ethereal quality to it, like you’re falling into hypnosis with the most beautiful soundtrack rubbing your skin. And boy, is that soundtrack amazing. M83 provides the score and it may be the best thing about the film, it is truly remarkable (and one that I will have to acquire on vinyl soon). All in all, You and the Night is definitely worth a watch, just check your expectations at the door and know that this is a philosophical/spiritual movie more-so than a full-on psychedelic extravaganza.



9 Full Moons

Synopsis: Frankie is an emotional train wreck, careening around the East Los Angeles music scene drinking and getting lost with strangers. Lev is a taciturn and tormented soul. He drives a limo and aspires to work in the music business. Meeting in an after hour seedy night club, they embark on a roller-coaster relationship exploring what love is like for two quiet people who may be damaged beyond repair.

This film flowed like water, an extremely great hand on the pacing throughout. The writing for this is great, each scene has a point, a purpose, and moves the story forward. It introduces an element into the mix, then complications occur (naturally). It is a film about the type of love that is hard to quantify but is there nonetheless. When you are broken down by the world and your loneliness, how can you have love? How can you nourish it and push it along?

A great thing about this film is that it presents love not as some cutesy romance and “aw shucks” sentimentality. It presents it in a more realistic fashion, as something that is very much a part of your life, but not the ONLY thing in your life. I should point out that Amy Seimetz and Bret Roberts were perfect as the leads, as was Donal Logue playing a shit-kicking country singer who slowly realizes that his prime days may be over. The film is a sobering one, for sure, but should be watched if you have the chance. So far, this may be my favorite film of the festival.




Synopsis: Crystal is 17 with a bad attitude. She’s seen every Britney Spears video 100 times and knows the dances by heart. Unfortunately her small town life lacks the sparkle of a music video and her only escape is the dance-filled dreamscape in her head. When one of these reality-dips results in disaster on the job, she is fired and heads out of town on foot – curses and dances abounding.

Crystal was a short film that was all about diving into a character, one who is all bluster and bravado, one who constantly daydreams about how cool she is. It’s vibrant and just purely entertaining. I like how it hints that Crystal puts on a bit of a tough-girl act in order to cover up any true feelings she may think inside. The world’s tough, man, you can’t let them see you sweat. And if you think you’re the shit, if you think you’re a true rock star, that’s all that really matters, right? It’s fun, it’s irreverent and it will try to kick your ass if you talk shit. Writer/director Chell Stephen is one to watch and I hope she puts out something else soon.



Wild Domestic

Synopsis: A small farm community looks after a wounded astronaut after they become convinced he was the target of a government conspiracy. The astronaut performs odd jobs for strangers and befriends the town’s only police officer while struggling to regain his memory and cope with isolation.

I really enjoyed Wild Domestic; it has an earthiness to it with a little bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. The director, Kyle Komline (who I had a chance to meet and was a really great, friendly person), took his crew and rented out a house in a small town in Iowa. They had an outline of the story but had the freedom to fill in the blanks during the shoot. Also, they only had 1 professional actor in the entire cast. What results is a very organic playing film that simply feels utterly real and, at times, quite nostalgic.

At the center of the film is a conspiracy that an astronaut, who was presumed to be dead, was alive and the government has been covering it up the whole time. As the astronaut in question tries to get his memory back (following a crash of some sort), he spends his time with the local townsfolk who protect him and find him things to help with. There is a joy in getting to see these real people interact with each other, finding out little things here and there. In a way, it’s a bit of a mood piece that nails a specific tone rooted in Americana but is never too heavy or pretentious.

During the Q&A, Kyle gave us a few more interesting tidbits about the film, such as the crew shooting 120 hours (!) of footage and using Hi-8 cameras to film as a nod to his dad who traveled a lot. Funny thing is, it reminded me of my own past as well and I’m sure it will do the same to you if you have a chance to watch it.

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