Pick of the Day: Alloy Orchestra performs with The General (6 p.m.) and Man With a Movie Camera (8 p.m.)
- Buster Keaton in The General
As far as I'm concerned this isn't just the pick of the day, it's the pick of the festival. The three-man Alloy Orchestra — Ken Winokur on clarinet, Mission of Burma guitarist Roger C. Miller on synthesizers, and Terry Donahue accordion, percussion, and musical saw — has built a niche writing and performing live scores for classic silent films. They were last at Indie Memphis in 2006 performing with The Phantom of the Opera
. This year they return with two far superior films. The General
is the signature film from brilliant silent-era comedian and physical performer Buster Keaton, who stars as a locomotive engineer in the Civil War-era South whose train is overtaken by Union spies. Man With a Movie Camera
is a profoundly influential film from Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov. Essentially a series of city scenes captured by a newsreel cameraman, Vertov transforms the footage with an array of then-groundbreaking but now familiar editing and post-production tricks. These are both being screened on new 35 mm prints with Alloy's live accompaniment. As of press time, there were still some tickets available for both screenings. This is not to be missed — Chris Herrington
Documentary Pick: William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (6:30 p.m.)
- William Kunstler at a "Chicago 8" rally.
I first knew William Kunstler via Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago Eight
, a theatrical re-enactment of the infamous trial, in which a loose group of political agitators were charged with conspiracy to riot at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Broadcast on HBO, based on actual trial transcripts, and much beloved by me as a kid, it portrayed Kunstler (played by Robert Loggia) as an old-school guy radicalized by the injustice he saw in the courtroom. According to William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe
, there's some truth to that characterization, though Kunstler had already been involved in the civil rights movement and in the defense of Vietnam War protesters.
Directed by his daughters Emily and Sarah, Disturbing the Universe follows the late Kunstler's career through such touchstones as his involvement in trying to resolve the Attica prison riot, his defense of members of the American Indian Movement, and his controversial involvement in the trial of a group of black teenagers accused as assault a Central Park jogger. Kunstler was a rare thing — a celebrity lawyer of substance, the Clarence Darrow of the culture-wars era. He's a worthy doc subject, and Disturbing the Universe captures his career well. — Herrington
Feature Pick: Easier With Practice (3:30 p.m.)
This feature received a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast and gets an encore screening today. Our own Hannah Sayle is a fan, her preview published here.
Local Pick: The Memphis Movement - Jookin': The Urban Ballet (6 p.m.)
Local film-scene newcomer Ellis Fowler, a recent graduate of the University of Memphis, received a Special Jury Award for this debut documentary about the unique-to-Memphis hip-hop-derived dance style. Fowler's enjoyable, informative film combines terrific dance footage with interviews with local jookers and scene-connected celebrities such as rappers Al Kapone and Crunchy Black. — Herrington
Shorts Pick: The Non-Invasion (8:30 p.m.)
- A scene from The Non-Invasion
I haven't had a chance to see local filmmaker Ben Siler's The Non-Invasion
, which won a Special Jury Award for Someone to Watch, but I've long been a fan of Siler's work
. This film, described in the festival program simply as "A young woman tires of college," is 36 minutes, which makes it an epic compared to most of Siler's previous films. Showing as part of a Hometowner Shorts program with four other local films. — Herrington
Wildcard Pick: Funeral Arrangements (9 p.m.)
We haven't screened this debut feature from new local filmmaker Anwar Jamison, an English professor at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis. The plot concerns a man who desires to be a music producer and his cousin who might be able to help him meet the right people.