An intimate look at Nashville songwriters, a warm remembrance of Southern rock giants Lynyrd Skynyrd and a documentary on Kentucky’s finest spirits were among the highlights from the 2018 Nashville Film Festival. This year’s fest continued the tradition of showcasing entries from around the world in every genre from feature length to short subjects and animation.
Most of these films will likely not be gracing your local mainstream multiplex anytime soon. But they may turn up on any one of a number of outlets such as PBS, Netflix or your city’s top art house theater. Here are a few features from the Festival that we can recommend and advise you to watch for. Some are music-related while others loom as especially interesting to folks in this region.
Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace
Nashvillians in particular will embrace this movie that follows the incredible story of Wallace, a standout basketball player at Vanderbilt from 1967-1970. Of significantly more importance, Wallace broke racial barriers as the first black athlete to play basketball in the Southeastern Conference. While competing in road games in the South, Wallace was subjected to verbal taunts and threats from opposing teams and their fans. This enlightening movie underscores the challenges and ultimate career triumphs that marked Wallace’s life. Those of a certain generation may remember the story first-hand, but the film is applicable to any age.
Straight Up: Kentucky Bourbon
Ever wonder how Kentucky became the home of world class bourbon whiskey? You’ll find that out and more in this fascinating documentary on the spirit that made Kentucky famous. Reps from the major distillers give their insights into the bourbon-making process, along with the history and evolution of the product that so many of us enjoy today. It’s a documentary for certain, but it feels more like a series of candid and funny conversations instead of a history lesson. Chalk that up to the film’s editing rhythm and focus on the human element. Amazingly enough, “Straight Up: Kentucky Bourbon” was written and directed by a Nashville-based filmmaker, Eric Byford. Hopefully, the mass audience will have a chance to sip on this bit of refreshment.
If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd
You may “know a little” about the legendary Southern rock band from Jacksonville, Florida, but you’ll find out additional nuggets in this intimate film. More than 40 years after a tragic plane crash took the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and other members of the entourage, the saga of the band’s rise from local faves to concert headliners still resonates. There’s plenty of archival footage, on-camera interviews with Skynyrd guitarists Gary Rossington and Ed King, among others, and sound bites from Van Zant himself, an interesting character who often showed contradictory sides. The film is a CMT production, so you might look for it to pop up on the network at some point.
It All Begins With a Song: The Story of the Nashville Songwriter
Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Jessi Alexander, Rodney Crowell and Brett James are just a few of the featured artists in this film that takes a close look at Nashville songwriters and their process. It pays due tribute to the writers who turn out songs literally every day in the hopes that one or two can make their way to a major recording star. The film’s high point comes with an interview with songwriter Connie Harrington, who hatched the idea for Lee Brice’s poignant smash hit, “I Drive Your Truck.” Harrington becomes tearfully emotional when discussing the real-life inspiration for the song. Overall, more than 50 artists and writers were interviewed for the movie.
Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb
A behind-the-scenes look at the famed lead singer of Aerosmith who now fronts his own band. The documentary explores Tyler’s transition from rock to country as he records his solo album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” in Nashville. Tyler talks about some of his influences, like the Everly Brothers, and is featured in some live performance footage. The film has been released on VOD and digital HD.
This film takes a journey into the region of Appalachia and stars veteran actor Ronny Cox, Billy Redden and others. It also looks into the stereotypes that have often haunted this area of the country and examines how we think and feel about rural America. Several artists and musicians are showcased in the movie.