There was no shortage of films to see on the first day of the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF), which kicked off yesterday at the Regal Green Hills Stadium in Nashville, but my opening night film choice was easy: Beauty is Embarrassing, Neil Berkeley’s refreshing and amusing documentary about the American artist, cartoonist and illustrator Wayne White, which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March.
Even if you haven’t heard of Wayne White before, you’re probably familiar with his work. He’s created images and ideas that are an integral—yet sometimes subconscious—part of the pop culture lexicon, both as a painter and as an art director for television shows like Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Beakman’s World and music videos like Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins and Big Time by Peter Gabriel.
Last night’s screening at NaFF was particularly special because Wayne White, who was in attendance, was born and raised in Tennessee and not surprisingly, Nashville holds a special place in his heart—which he noted during the Q&A after the screening:
“The thing that inspired me to be a cartoonist and move to New York City was the Great Escape Comic Book Store (in Nashville). I walked in there one day and I saw RAW Magazine and I thought ‘Man, I got to get in on this action’. It brought everything together, the abstract expressionist painting style, comic book storytelling…I wanted to be a cartoonist since I was a kid and I saw this as a harbinger of a world to come.”
Needless to say, I enjoyed the film. It not only provided insight into the life and career of Wayne White, it reminded me that art can be fun and that one should try to spend everyday doing work (not necessarily one thing) that makes you happy—which are inspiring things to feel and not a bad way to kick off the 43rd Nashville Film Festival.
For those of you who are interested, here’s the trailer for Beauty is Embarrassing:
The Nashville Film Festival runs from April 19 to 26.