Thursday, October 21, 2010

Indie Memphis Daily: Thursday Guide

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 7:47 AM

The 13th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival kicks off tonight and will run for four packed days at a handful of Midtown venues. We survey the festival in this week's cover story, but will also be offering up our own interactive daily guide each morning of the festival. So check back here throughout the next four days for tons of fest coverage. For a full schedule and ticketing info, see IndieMemphis.com.

Pick of the Day: Night Catches Us (9:30 p.m., Studio on the Square)

Anthony Mackie is a former Black Panther returning home in the terrific indie drama  Night Catches Us >/em>.
  • Anthony Mackie is a former Black Panther returning home in the terrific indie drama Night Catches Us .
Of few dozen films I was able to pre-screen for this year's festival, this period drama from filmmaker Tanya Hamilton, which drew strong notices when it debuted at Sundance early this year, may have been the best. It's an intimate, prickly depiction of an African-American community in Philadelphia dealing with the dissolution of the black power movement, particularly the decimation of the city's Black Panther Party. Set in 1976, the film stars Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) as a former Panther returning home to a cold welcome, with Kerry Washington as a woman with whom he has a complicated past. (Fans of The Wire note: Wendell "Bunk" Pierce and Jamie "Marlo" Hector show up in supporting roles.)

Hamilton delivers an honest reckoning with the contradictions and complications of the Black Power movement in a portrait that is sad but not romanticized. The film also boasts a score from hip-hop stalwarts the Roots that rivals The Social Network as the year's most effective movie music. Night Catches Us was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, which will release it via movies-on-demand later this month and give it a theatrical run starting in December. One of the year's best indie features, and here's an early chance to see it. — Chris Herrington

Trailer:

Feature Pick: The Grace Card (6:30 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)

No, not Black Cop, White Cop, but The Grace Card, Memphis official entry into the growing megachurch movie niche.
  • No, not Black Cop, White Cop, but The Grace Card, Memphis' official entry into the growing megachurch movie niche.
The Grace Card is a Christian-themed and -targeted film directed and produced by local optometrist Dr. David G. Evans that will look to tap into what has become an increasingly successful niche market when it gets a national release from Sony Pictures' Affirm Films in February. The film uses local talent on both sides of the camera, perhaps most notably cinematographer John Paul Clark, who makes the film look professional after doing ever better work earlier on Daylight Fades.

The film, which concerns an uneasy partnership between two beat cops, one black (an engaging Michael Higgenbottom) and one white (Michael Joiner), hits some nice notes about the city, touching on such crucial civic topics as race, law enforcement, and religion. It may be the only local feature to take note of the city's shifting racial and ethnic demographics, but the film undercuts its early authenticity with a trio of preposterous second-half plot twists. And the film's rather self-congratulatory theme of racial reconciliation is not without its problems: Here, that means putting the onus on black forgiveness while glossing over exactly why that forgiveness might be needed.

Evans and his Graceworks Pictures will host an opening reception for the festival from 5-6 p.m.in the Playhouse lobby. — Herrington

Documentary Pick: Beijing Punk/Antenna: Origins (6:45 p.m., Studio on the Square)

Attitude, courtesy of Beijing Punk.
  • Attitude, courtesy of Beijing Punk.
Memphis filmmaker C. Scott McCoy's short documentary about the earliest days of the Antenna Club — Memphis’ seminal punk venue — never satisfactorily explains why viewers should care about this grubby Madison Avenue watering hole, or a story that, at first gloss, sounds like every story ever told about the nightclub business. But Antenna: Origins is only an appetizer, a tiny slice of what McCoy has described as an epic in-progress documentary about how this unique counter-cultural nexus birthed a vital art and music scene that now very nearly defines Midtown Memphis. And McCoy has no trouble explaining why his subject matters.

“The Antenna was more than just the coolest club in the city for more than a decade,” he says. “It represented total artistic freedom, acted as a magnet for creative people of all descriptions, and set the norms for the Midtown music culture we know today. It was, as Ross Johnson says, 'A place where you could pretend to be a punk rocker.'"

Antenna: Origins, which teams filmmaker McCoy with writer John Floyd and musician Johnson, is only a sneak peek at a work-in-progress. It is screening in conjunction with Beijing Punk, shot by Australian filmmaker Shaun Jefford on the eve of the Chinese city's hosting the 2008 summer Olympics. The film asks an interesting question: “What happens when 1.6 billion Chinese discover punk? It was only a matter of time before punk took root in China, an oppressive factory culture not known for embracing dissent. Nearly 40 years after the original punk explosion, Jefford’s camera captures a squalid, familiar scene that revolves around street fashion, politics, substance abuse, and loud, throbbing music. The music is great, although it’s entirely derivative. But this film is best when it hints at an inevitable clash between the canny, if sometimes pickled, artists and an oppressive government that’s already expressing concerns. Punk, as usual, sounds a little too much like freedom. — Chris Davis

Antenna doc trailer:

Local Pick: Open Five (9 p.m., Playhouse on the Square)

Jake Rabinbach, with guests, in Open Five.
  • Jake Rabinbach, with guests, in Open Five.
Making its local debut, Open Five is the most accessible film yet from director Kentucker Audley (Team Picture), working here in an acting/screenwriting partnership with musician Jake Rabinbach (and with behind-the-camera help from Chicago indie stalwart Joe Swanberg). Audley and Rabinbach entertain two visiting women from New York iin a film that captures the places, sound, and rhythms of a certain strain of twentysomething Memphis without feeling like a travelogue or neglecting its character-driven emotional arc. — Herrington

Trailer:


Shorts Pick: Where Are the Evil Spirits Were: The Rise and Fall of Black Lodge Video (9:15 p.m., Studio on the Square)
Okay, so we haven't seen this misleadingly titled documentary short about Cooper-Young's Black Lodge Video. But since our love for the Lodge is unconditional, we have no problem recommending anything associated with it. Screening in conjunction with the feature Drones.

Wildcard Pick: Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (7 p.m., Brooks Museum of Art)

RadiantChild.jpg

This documentary portrait from filmmaker Tamra Davis, which debuted early this year at the Sundance Film Festival, looks back at the art scene that sprang up in downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s as a manageable community of 500 very creative people. Nobody there was just a painter or an actor or a musician, the film claims. Everyone dabbled in everything and, before he imploded, Basquiat, a musician, painter, filmmaker, and graffiti artist, was the scene’s brightest star. And, here, he speaks in his own words. The Radiant Child will also re-screen on Friday at 2 p.m. — Davis

Trailer:

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