What’s Up, Doc(s)?

Film festivals offer movies for every taste—mine happens to be documentaries


“Led Zeppelin Played Here”—or did they?


If there’s a film festival anywhere near you, by all means, check it out.

You may not consider yourself a movie buff or a “film connoisseur.” But film festivals aren’t necessarily the snooty, spotlight-drenched superstar art fests you might imagine them to be, and almost all of them offer real off-the-menu treats, opportunities to go beyond the usual fare of the local movieplex. And many, if not most of them, are ticketed events open to the public.

I recently spent most of 10 nights at the 2014 Nashville (Tenn.) Film Festival, a gathering that’s generated a big buzz over the years as a don’t-miss event for many upcoming filmmakers and actors—like Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd and Seth Green, who were there this year to promote their roles in The Identical, about a young man who grows up not knowing he’s actually the identical twin brother of a successful singing superstar, a la Elvis.


“Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory”



At the Nashville festival—which screened more than 250 films from 50 different countries, to a record-breaking 42,000 attendees—as with most fests, there were films for just about any taste. I’ve always loved documentaries, and this year the NFF had another bountiful slate, with an especially strong emphasis—Nashville being Music City, you know—on musical topics. (Many of them were sponsored by Gibson guitars, one of the festival’s main sponsors. Thank you, Gibson!) Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory was an emotionally moving chronicle of a social worker, iPods and the use of music to “re-awaken” Alzheimer’s patients. In The 78 Project, two musicologists record a variety of performers the old-fashioned way—with a 1930s direct-to-disc recorder, one microphone, one blank disc, and one three-minute take. I smiled almost all the way through Brasslands, a joyous look at three groups—including one unlikely contender from New York City—competing to bring the trophy home from the world’s largest brass band competition in a Serbian village.


“Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty”

It was a bit of a different vibe at Led Zeppelin Played Here, a serio-comic examination of a 1969 incident involving a certain about-to-be famous British rock band that may—or may not—have played at a youth center in Wheaton, Md. And Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty rocked me with a portrait of the journeyman albino blues guitarist who’s lived through a monstrous heroin addiction, partied with Janis Joplin and performed and recorded alongside his younger brother, Edgar.

Glen CampbellllIllBeMe2

“Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”

But the highlight of the festival, especially for music lovers, was seeing the event’s crown jewel documentary, Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, about the country singing star’s valiant struggle with Alzheimer’s, receive the Grand Jury Prize in its category, and also the top-voted audience award.

Some of these films may come to a mainstream movie theater, or show up on Netflix or cable TV, or be released on DVD. But there’s just something about seeing them in a theater full of like-minded film fans, in a big, dark room—and seeing them first.

And they only way you can do that…is at a film festival!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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