Thursday, November 2, 2017

Indie Memphis' Greatest Hits 3: Cannibals, Pies, and Love In Action

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 4:17 PM

The polls are closed, and our list of Indie Memphis classics is coming at you. Here's part 1 and part 2 if you need to catch up.

Bunnyland (2008)
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Bret Hannover was doing investigative documentary thrillers long before Gone Girl and the "Serial" podcast made them fashionable. Bunnyland foreshadowed many of the now-familiar tricks of the genre with a slightly less serious subject: An East Tennessee man with a pocket full of grudges and a loose relationship with the truth.

"The film is such an interesting portrait of a complex man who MAY HAVE murdered hundreds of bunny rabbits at the golf course he was fired from days earlier. A man who MAY HAVE caused a fire that left a tenant dead on his teepee-graced land. A man who claimed to hold the largest pre-historic rock collection in the world. A man who claimed to be "the last Indian on the trail of tears." In classic Brett Hanover fashion, the film is composed of strange angles and is filled with pragmatic figures who readily spout elusive prevarications that Brett just allows to talk, and talk." -Morgan Jon Fox

“And He Just Comes Around And Dances With You?” (2008)

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Towards the end of the 00s, a new subgenre of indie film emerged when a group of Chicago filmmakers made a big splash at South by Southwest. It was (unfortunately) called "mumblecore", for the quiet, thoughtful, sometimes improvised dialog in the films. But Memphis filmmakers had been doing the same thing since the turn of the century. Kentucker Audley emerged from the Memphis scene in 2008 with a pair of short films: "Bright Sunny South" and "And He Just Comes Around and Dances With You?" The latter is a slow burn story of fiercely controlled emotion. The audience gets half of a phone conversation between a rootless young man and his girlfriend, who has met a new guy while on vacation. It's a front row seat to the dissolution of a relationship, and you can see it at this link.

"This was an Andrew Nenninger film, before he became Kentucker Audley. Going thru the years of programs I realized how many of his early films have been big influences on me. I think about this one a lot." -Laura Jean Hocking

“Bohater Pies” (2009)
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Corduroy Wednesday, a film collective consisting of Edward Valibus, Ben Rednour, and Erik Morrison, made their Indie Memphis debut in 2006 with Grim Sweeper, a comedy about guys who clean up murder scenes for a living. "Bohater Pies" is a fan favorite of the raft of comedy shorts they produced in the 00s on the buildup to their magnum opus The Conversion. This five minutes of cinematic chaos takes no prisoners as it takes you back to an inscrutable Cold War Eastern European setting. Look for not only the usual Wednesdays, but also cameos by experimental auteur Ben Siler and comedian Jessica "Juice" Morgan. YOU MUST OBEY.

"I'm thinking there are a lot of people who saw this and thought, "WTF are these guys (Corduroy Wednesday) smoking?"; I saw it and thought, "Oh cool! WTF are these guys smoking?" -Laura Jean Hocking

Bohater Pies from Corduroy Wednesday on Vimeo.

Open Five (2010) and Open Five Two (2012)

Kentucker Audley's second and third features took the mumblecore genre on an extended road trip to and from Memphis. It's an unfailingly intimate peek into the desperate but free the lives of young millennials trying to make sense out of the world. Both films won Best Hometowner Feature at Indie Memphis and kickstarted Audley's career as an actor and director.

"Even though we often butted heads back in the day, Kentucker Audley and I also always bonded over one thing...many people (ok, maybe only about 5?) loved to accuse us both of somehow rigging Indie Memphis. Our films both sucked, we both didn't deserve awards, and jurors gave us accolades because it would benefit them! Ok. I'll never forget the first time I saw Team Picture. I was both in awe, and sorta jealous, and I sorta hated it. I was in awe because I knew I was witnessing something cool, I was jealous because I knew now I would have someone else who would also be able to rig the juries!!!! But mostly, I just liked knowing another prolific filmmaker who I knew was about to take off and connect with a world outside of Memphis, as he is currently doing. Love that guy." -Morgan Jon Fox

It was just nice to see Memphis in a mumblecore film. -Anonymous

"There was a moment when I was watching [Open Five Two], the scene in the van at night, that I thought, 'Damn, he looks like a movie star.'" -Laura Jean Hocking

"Cannibal Records" (2010)
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John Pickle started making short comedy films in the 1990s, when he became a legend for his out of control cable access show Pickle TV. Former Indie Memphis executive director Les Edwards once described Indie Memphis's 1999 lineup as "mostly John Pickle movies." He starred in the 2006 feature The Importance of Being Russell as the titular redneck character he created for his cable access show who travels back in time. "Cannibal Records" was the short film he created for Indie Memphis 2010, which he not only wrote and directed, but also wrote and performed all of the music. Think Little Shop Of Horrors meets Reanimator, and you get a sense of where this genius comedy short is coming from. Pickle is still active as a musician, animator, and music video director. This year, he breaks a long Indie Memphis hiatus with "Return of the Flesh Eating Film Reels".

This Is What Love In Action Looks Like (2011)

In June, 2005, Collierville teenager Zach Stark came out to his parents as gay. They forced him to enroll in a gay reparative therapy facility called Love In Action. The night before he left home, he posted a long, tearful message about his plight on the early social media network MySpace. A grassroots protest movement sprang up in response to the injustice, and director Morgan Jon Fox was there with his camera. At Indie Memphis 2005, he screened a rough cut of the documentary that was as moving as it was raw and angry. “The movie evolved over time. I’m not used to spending so much time on a film, so I put out a prelim cut of it that was a whole ‘nother feature film on its own that doesn’t even exist any more. I literally do not have a cut of it. it’s gone. It’s just an entry in a program now,” says Fox.

That could have been the end of it, but Fox continued to work on the project on and off for the next five years. By the time the final documentary was ready for Indie Memphis 2011, Love In Action had closed and its director John Smid had come out as gay and reputed his former actions. The film transformed from a vitriolic tirade into a testament to the power of compassion and acceptance. “That protest embodied that. I felt like the process of making a film for six years, it’s easy to get lost and angry and upset. But once I finally got to edit it, with the help of Live From Memphis—Sarah Fleming and Christopher Reyes were such huge elements in bringing that film over the finish line. I just wanted to embody what made the protests so successful: We love you for who you are. To quote Natural Born Killers, only love kills the demon.”

This Is What Love In Action Looks Likes is a landmark in LBGT cinema and helped kick off a national movement against so-called “ex-gay” treatments. In a world where political protests are regularly organized via social media, it’s more prophetic and relevant than ever. “I think documentary get people involved. It’s an uplifting story that touches on something that is still very current. It was my favorite Indie Memphis premiere of one of my films, because I got engaged. I was nervous as hell, because I had a secret. I was going to propose to my now-husband, Declan Michael Dealy Fox. Looking up at the totally sold out audience at Playhouse On The Square was an incredible way to premiere a film that was six years in the making.”

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