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Nashville Film Festival Will Hold a Seat at Every Screening for the Late Jim Ridley

Nashville Film Festival Will Hold a Seat at Every Screening for the Late Jim Ridley

As a tribute to Jim Ridley, the Nashville Scene editor and longtime film critic who died on Friday, the Nashville Film Festival will hold an open seat in every theater during the festival “from now on.”

“Jim was always one of our biggest champions, from even before I started
with the festival thirteen years ago,” NaFF Executive Director Ted Crockett said in a statement, “We owe much to him and will
simply not be the same without him.”

Tributes to Ridley continued to pour in over the weekend, as did donations to the GoFundMe page set up to defray medical and funeral expenses and to support Ridley’s wife and two children. Among the names from the film world listed as donors are David Fear, Keith Phipps, Noel Murray, Keith Uhlich, Jim Healy, Chris Stults, Dan Sallitt, and Toby Leonard. Legendary singer-songwriter John Prine and his wife, Fiona, were among the first to give.

At Roger Ebert.com, Murray wrote about Ridley the man as well as Ridley the critic and editor. Reading over the tributes, short and long, you got the sense that Jim Ridley was a figure like the late David Carr, a great writer whose influence stretched far beyond the articles that bore his byline:

“As an editor, Jim had a way of understanding what his writers were getting at, sometimes better than they did themselves,” Murray Wrote. “He recognized talent, and made writers feel like they were on a team with the best of the best. Critics around the country are mourning Jim because many of them were on the receiving end of phone calls or e-mails from him during some of the lowest times in their careers. If they’d just lost a gig, he’d ask if they wanted to contribute something to the Scene, and would make it seem like they’d be doing him a favor. Even after he had the responsibility of running the entire paper, Jim still edited the film section, and managed a stable of contributors that at times has included some of the best-known critics in the country: Bilge Ebiri, Mike D’Angelo, David Fear, and Joshua Rothkopf. He paid attention to what his friends and colleagues loved, and tried to match them to reviews where they could shine. Even my wife Donna Bowman — an academic who does criticism more as a hobby — could expect a call from Jim whenever Nashville had a retrospective screening of a Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger picture, just because he loved to read whatever she wrote about those films.”

At the literary site Chapter 16, Margaret Renkl pointed out that it wasn’t just film Ridley was passionate about: “I’ve never met anyone who loved books more than Jim loved books, though most Scene readers knew him not from his exhaustive knowledge of literature but from the literally thousands of film reviews and critics’ picks he wrote for the alternative newsweekly going back to 1989,” she wrote. “As a reviewer, his wit and insight and verbal pyrotechnics were unparalleled, but he never acknowledged his own talent—he may not even have been aware of it. In 1996, on the day I met him at my first Scene event, I told him he made The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane look like an amateur from the farthest reaches of the provinces. First Jim laughed, and then he turned the whole conversation into an extravagant explanation of how lucky the Scene was to have me on board. Jim had the kind of linguistic gifts that defy mortal explanation, but one of the most amazing was his ability to turn a compliment into a mirror: any light that shined his way was light he immediately deflected, and in deflecting somehow magnified.”

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