The Nashville Film Festival will return in late September and early October with a hybrid slate of in-person and online screenings and events — with several music documentaries figuring into the programming, including docs about Brian Wilson, the pioneering 1970s all-female rock band Fanny and the MTV-era group A-ha, plus the world premiere of a film that takes John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas into Nashville’s famed RCA Studio B.
Music-based films take up only a sliver of the overall roster at the Sept. 30-Oct. 6 festival. Among narrative highlights, the festival will wrap up with A24’s “The Humans,” Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his Tony Award-winning play, with Karam and other guests from the film in attendance.
Altogether, 160 films — 45 of which are feature-length entries — have been selected for the 52nd annual festival, a little more than 50 of which will screen in-person at venues throughout Nashville. More than 30 of the features are getting their U.S., North American or world premieres.
Tickets for badgeholders go on sale today at www.nashvillefilmfestival.org, with individual tickets going on sale to the general public Sept. 1.
The hybrid model includes one key event that will be online-only this year, the two-day Creators Conference Oct. 1-2, with virtual guests to include filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, producer Peter Gilbert and composers Leo Sirdan and Joe Kraemer, among many others.
On the other hand, there will be several live music events associated with this year’s festival, including performances tied to “Leftover Feelings: An RCA Studio B Revival,” a documentary about the recent collaborative album by Hiatt and Douglas, and “Invisible,” a film by T.J. Parsell about gay women in Southern music. The Hiatt/Douglas performance will take place at the Belmont Theatre following the screening of “Leftover Feelings” on Oct. 4; other live-music events will be announced later
The opening night film is “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road,” which recently had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Director Brent Wilson will be on hand for the regional premiere in Nashville, as will Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine, who is the executive producer of the doc and does the extensive on-screen interviews with the legendary Beach Boys maestro.
The official selections in the music documentary category are “a-ha The Movie,” about the Norwegian sensations who found fame in the ’80s with “Take on Me”; “I’m Wanita,” about an Australian country singer trying to make her way to Nashville; and “Fanny: The Right to Rock” (pictured below), about the all-female rock band that released its first major-label effort in 1970, paving the way for bands like the Runaways and Go-Go’s.
The documentary “Thistle” will be of particular interest to Nashville’s music community as well — it’s a doc about Nashville’s Thistle Farms, a sanctuary for women trying to find their way out of cycles of abuse and addiction, which is a charity near and dear to the hearts of many musicians and industry leaders.
A fiction film with a music angle is “Hard Luck Love Song,” starring Michael Dorman and Sophia Bush, described as the story of “a charismatic but down on his luck troubadour finds himself at an existential crossroads as a history of bad choices catch up with him during an unexpected reunion with an old flame.”
Among the filmmakers or stars scheduled to attend the festival, besides Hiatt, Douglas and the Brian Wilson doc’s creative principals, are actor Tim Blake Nelson, who’ll bring “Old Henry,” an action Western; CJ Hunt, director of the documentary “The Neutral Ground”; and Júlia Parés, writer of “The Return: Life After Isis.”
Other key films in the lineup include “Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s award-winning documentary on one man’s harrowing childhood as a refugee, and “Petite Maman,” Celine Sciamma’s follow-up to “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”
“This year’s Nashville Film Festival will deliver a dynamic mix of films, music and live events,” said director of programming Lauren Ponto, “and our team is excited for the community to be a part of it in new and innovative ways. From narratives and documentaries to our newest category of films, The Edge, a new shorts competition highlighting boundary pushing cinema from emerging filmmakers, we’re presenting a vibrant line-up of films from right here in Tennessee as well as across the country and around the world. This year’s content is stronger than ever and very intentionally curated to bring audiences exceptional film and music experiences.”
Other special selections are expected to be added in the run-up to the festival.
The full 50-plus roster of feature-length films, from descriptions borrowed from the official festival program (with selections that will only screen in-person marked with an asterisk):
Opening Night Selection
*Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (directed by Brent Wilson) – The legendary songwriter and cofounder of The Beach Boys takes viewers on an impressionistic road-trip through his life and music in this intimate and unconventional cinematic memoir.
*Flee (directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen) – The extraordinary true story of a man, Amin, on the verge of marriage, compelling him to reveal his hidden past for the first time.
*Petite Maman (directed by Céline Sciamma) – Nelly has just lost her grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods. One day she meets a girl her same age building a treehouse.
*Old Henry (directed by Potsy Ponciroli) – A widowed farmer warily takes in a mysterious, injured man with a satchel of cash. When a posse comes for the money, he must decide who to trust, revealing a gunslinging talent calling his true identity into question.
Closing Night Selection
*The Humans (directed by Stephen Karam) – From writer-director Stephen Karam, and adapted from his Tony Award-winning play, The Humans explores the hidden dread of a family and the love that binds them together.
Narrative Official Selections
7 Days (directed by Roshan Sethi) – In sunny California, Ravi and Rita meet on an awkward arranged marriage date organized by their parents… that gets more awkward when they’re trapped together by quarantine.
*Huda’s Salon (directed by Hany Abu-Assad) – A woman whose visit to a hair salon turns into a nightmare when she is blackmailed by its owner.
Poser (directed by Ori Segev, Noah Dixon) – A young musician slips into a dark transformation as she explores an exclusive underground music scene.
*Queen of Glory (directed by Nana Mensah) – Ghanaian-American Sarah is all set to abandon her Ivy League doctoral program to follow her married lover across the country when her mother dies suddenly and makes her the owner of a neighborhood bookshop in the Bronx.
See You Then (directed by Mari Walker) – A decade after abruptly breaking up with Naomi, Kris invites her to dinner to catch up on their complicated lives, relationships, and Kris’ transition.
*The Tale of King Crab (directed by Alessio Rigo de Righi, Matteo Zoppis) – Luciano lives as a wandering drunkard in a remote Italian village where spiteful actions ensue between him and the prince of the region over the right of passage through an ancient gateway.
Documentary Official Selections
Charm Circle (directed by Nira Berstein) – Oscillating between present day and decades-old home videos, Charm Circle is a cinéma vérité portrait of an eccentric New York family navigating the chaos that divides them.
Clean Slate (directed by Jared Callahan) – Two friends in a Southern drug recovery program struggle to come to terms with their addiction and mental illness by making a short film about the pain they’ve caused their families.
The First Step (directed by Brandon Kramer) – In a divided America, Van Jones attempts to bring people together to pass a bipartisan criminal justice bill — and finds himself under fire from all sides.
The Neutral Ground (directed by CJ Hunt) – The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause.
The Return: Life After Isis (directed by Alba Sotorra) – Shamima Begum (UK) and Hoda Muthana (US) made it into worldwide headlines when they left their countries as teenagers to join ISIS. Now they want to return but their countries don’t want them back.
Socks on Fire (directed by Bo McGuire) – Bo McGuire composes a cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama.
Music Documentary Official Selections
a-ha: The Movie (directed by Thomas Robsham) – a-ha is Norway’s biggest pop success with their hit “Take On Me!”
*Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (see above)
Fanny: The Right to Rock (directed by Bobbi Jo Hart) – FANNY: The Right to Rock reveals the untold story of a self-formed garage band — which included Filipina American and queer bandmates — that morphed into the ferocious rock group Fanny, the first band of women to release an LP with a major record label (Warner/Reprise, 1970).
I’m Wanita (directed by Matthew Walker) – A renegade Australian country music singer attempts to hold things together long enough so she can get to Nashville, record her definitive album and fulfill a lifelong dream.
New Directors Official Selections
*Clara Sola (directed by Nathanlie Álvarez Mesén) – In a remote village in Costa Rica, Clara experiences a sexual and mystical awakening as she begins a journey to free herself from the repressive religious and social conventions which have dominated her life.
Ludi (directed by Edson Jean) – Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles coworkers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
Luzzu (directed by Alex Camilleri) – A man risks everything to provide for his wife and newborn son by entering Malta’s black-market fishing industry.
Pebbles (directed by Vinothraj P S) – An alcoholic wife beater embarks on a journey, dragging his young son along to fetch back his wife whom he had chased away.
Graveyard Shift Official Selections
*Beta Test (directed by Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe) – A married Hollywood agent receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter and becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.
The Murder Podcast (directed by William Bagley) – Two amateur podcasters start investigating a murder in their hometown only to become wrapped up in a terrifying adventure full of supernatural threats.
*We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (directed by Jane Schoenbrun) – logline
Woodland The Dark Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (directed by Kier-La Janisse) – An epic journey through the forests, fields and furrows of the phenomenon known as ‘folk horror.’
Spotlight: U.S. Indies
Adventures in Success (directed by Jay Buim) – A wellness startup, whose mission is to heal Mother Earth through the power of orgasm and a ritual called Jilling Off, tries to scale their business.
Ayar (directed by Floyd Russ) – Ayar, a 1st generation American Latina, returns home to reunite with her daughter, confronted by the many roles she’s been forced to play, including the role in this film.
Hard Luck Love Song (directed by Justin Corsbie) – Jesse, a charismatic but down on his luck troubadour finds himself at an existential crossroads as a history of bad choices catch up with him during an unexpected reunion with Carla, an old flame.
Porcupine (directed by M. Cahill) – An adult woman puts herself up for adoption and forms a bond with the misanthropic patriarch of her adoptive family.
Potato Dreams of America (directed by Wes Hurley) – An autobiographical dark comedy about a gay boy growing up in the Soviet Union, his mail-order bride mother and their adventurous escape to America.
Spotlight: International Lens
Green Sea (directed by Angeliki Antoniou) – A mysterious woman who has lost her memory struggles to rebuild her life while cooking simple yet delicious food for workers at a working-class seaside tavern.
Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine (directed by Alex Piperno) – On a cruise ship off the Patagonian coasts, a crewman discovers a magical portal leading into a woman’s apartment.
Tennessee Feature Official Selections
Everybody is Looking for Some Light (directed by Caleb Chapman) – “Everybody is Looking for Some Light” blurs the line between a concert film and an adventure documentary, with insightful and clever commentary from an independent rock band.
The Fable of a Song (directed by Andy Strohl) – Four Nashville songwriters converge on a studio apartment to write a hit song and film the process. Featuring music from The Young Fables, Oneno & Liz Longley.
Faye (directed by Kd Amond) – Faye L. Ryan is a successful personal growth author mourning the loss of her husband. She retreats to a cabin on the bayou to finish her next book only to find that more than just her past will haunt her.
Invisible (directed by T.J. Parsell) – To be an openly gay artist in country music is nearly impossible, yet this group of gay women (and one trans man) persevered anyhow.
A Hard Problem (directed by hazart) – After the death of his mother, Ian must pack up the house where he cared for her in her waning years.
Leftover Feelings: An RCA Studio B Revival (directed by Lagan Sebert & Ted Roach..) – Nashville music icons John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas team up to record their first-ever collaboration “Leftover Feelings” in Elvis’s favorite studio, RCA Studio B, reviving the magical sounds and musical history of this iconic room.
*Thistle (directed by Ryan Camp) – Stories of survival from the women of Thistle Farms.
Episodic and VR Official Selections
Cary in Retrograde (directed by Priya & Philipp Yaw Domfeh) – A tale about ALMOST never giving up, “Cary in Retrograde” follows a failed musician as he traverses a surrealist Los Angeles in hopes of a second chance
Chicks (directed by Eduard Oganesyan) – Four girls from a small town in Russia decide to change their lives entirely by opening their own fitness club.
Hudson Falls (directed by Elias Plagianos) – The secrets of a small upstate town that revolve around an eccentric scientist (William Sadler) begin to unravel when a private eye from the city (Richard Kind) takes on a seemingly mundane job in an effort to rekindle a relationship with his ex wife (Jessica Hecht)
if i’m alive next week (directed by Jennifer Morris, Robbie Sublett) – When a foul-mouthed, 80-year-old grandma gets dumped and booted from her boyfriend’s brownstone, she’s forced to return to the rent-stabilized apartment housing her broke-ass, ungrateful kids.
In the Cards (directed by Colin Kane Healey) – A dark comedy series that follows notorious psychic scammer Dinah on the dirty road she takes to riches… …and a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Nashville Dads Club (directed by Danny Dones) – Three dads from wildly different backgrounds navigate raising kids in Music City.
Parked In America (directed by Luke Salin) – Jamie Park, a Korean teenager, and her cousin Eli navigate high school while struggling with identity, guilt, and grief.
Trans in Trumpland (directed by Tony Zosherafatain) – A trans man investigates the devastating impacts of the Trump administration on the lives of transgender Americans.
Biolum (directed by Abel Kohen) – Biolum thrusts you into the role of a diver in the ocean abyss which is invaded by extraterrestrial bioluminescent creatures. Will you make an escape or be absorbed into a shared consciousness?
Greenwood Avenue: A Virtual Reality Experience (directed by Tarik Jackson, Talibah L. Newman, Spade Robinson) – Brings us into the 1920’s world of a 14-year-old Black girl experiencing first love & devastating loss in America’s Black Wall Street.
Lily’s Day (directed by Sina Dolati) – As her family goes through a rough patch, 9-year-old Lily must consider the impacts of her decisions as she faces the bittersweetness of responsibility.
Mindful (directed by Scott Bailey Gagain) – Cultivating social consciousness by providing opportunities to see the world through the eyes of another.
A Promise Kept (directed by Ken Winikur) – This gripping virtual reality experience takes you on a journey back to the notorious Auschwitz killing center with Survivor, Fritzie Fritzshall, as she fulfills her promise to the 599 women who helped save her life.
Strands of Mind (directed by Adrian Meyer) – Explore a world beyond the bounds of our human perception. A world full of mystery, of beauty and darkness. Let yourself be taken on a trip into the woven nature of existence.
Virtually There (directed by Leon Oldstrong) – One knife destroys more than one life
Short film selections are available at NashvilleFilmFestival.org.