Most people think of country music or the Robert Altman film when they think of Nashville, but for eight days in April each year, Music City (specifically, the area known as Green Hills) is home to the Nashville Film Festival, one of the oldest film festivals in the United States and one of my personal favorites.
This year’s Nashville Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, April 19 and I will be attending, blogging and yes, drinking beer and listening to live music at the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway—or, more likely, hanging out in the festival’s Liberty Tent or one of the bars in East Nashville (when I’m not watching films, of course).
The best thing about the Nashville Film Festival, besides the Southern hospitality and fried chicken, is the strength of its programming—and the opportunity to see films with film fans and filmmakers instead of mostly film industry professionals. This year’s festival consists of more than 200 films from nearly 50 countries, including world premieres, recent film festival standouts and award-winners, music-themed films (naturally!), documentaries, and the best short films from around the world. There are also workshops, music showcases, receptions, and Nashville-resident Nicole Kidman, who will be headlining a panel discussion about the evolution of women behind the camera.
My first time attending the Nashville Film Festival was as the producer of The Book Lady, a half-hour documentary directed by Natasha Ryan about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which screened at the festival in 2009. It was my third time in Nashville and my second time with Natasha (we were there the previous year filming The Book Lady), but it was the first time I discovered that there is more to Music City than Lower Broadway and Music Row: things like Hillsboro Village, 12th South, Five Points and the after-hours diner Hermitage Cafe, which truly is a Nashville treasure (thanks, Heidi!).
Last year, I was invited back to the Nashville Film Festival as a member of their short film jury, along with actor and filmmaker Richard Waterhouse and filmmaker and fellow Canuck Jamie Travis. Jamie (whose first feature film, For A Good Time Call…, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January) and I picked up where Natasha and I left off: we watched films, discussed them with other attendees in the previously mentioned Liberty Tent, and explored the city (usually with film festival strategist, publicist extraordinaire and one of this year’s short film jury members Lauren Avinoam). Plus, I managed to squeeze in a Lady Gaga concert and a Nashville Predators’ playoff game (thanks, Darren!).
Needless to say, I am looking forward to heading back to Nashville and attending and blogging from this year’s—the 43rd annual—Nashville Film Festival. Now if only I could figure out how to bypass the line at Pancake Pantry, get on the guest list at the Mercy Lounge, and find time to go to Dollywood.
The Nashville Film Festival runs from April 19 to 26. For the complete line-up, visit the festival’s website.