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VOL. 121 | NO. 191 | Thursday, September 28, 2006

Claim to Fame

Annual indie festival strives to set itself apart

By Andy Meek

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ALMOST FAMOUS: Freddy Cole, brother of singer, songwriter and jazz pianist Nat King Cole, is shown in a scene from the movie "The Cole Nobody Knows." -- Photo Courtesy Of "The Cole Nobody Knows"

One metaphor for this year's ninth annual Indie Memphis Film Festival can be found in "The Cole Nobody Knows," one of more than 70 festival entries that will be shown beginning Oct. 13.

The story, as captured by filmmaker Clay Walker, is about Freddy Cole. Cole is a jazz keyboard player in his mid-70s who's carved out a modestly successful career.

One of the highlights of the film has Cole performing "I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me," a song that references his more well-known sibling, Nat King Cole.

On the surface, the song is a symbol of the importance of making one's own mark on the world. And that's not unlike what happens each year for the Indie Memphis festival, which will run from Oct. 13-19.


Whistlin' Dixie

This year, as always, the event continues to be positioned by organizers as an event - for moviemakers of all stripes - that's in a league of its own.

First, some of the coming festival's highlights: The series always has been devoted to the "Soul of Southern Film," which is another way of saying it's the only independent film festival in the country focused exclusively on the American South.

This year, that's one of the things that's changing.

"We're stepping beyond that a little bit, because we've found that those parameters forced us to turn away films we really thought should be seen in Memphis," said Tracy Lauritzen Wright, executive director of Delta Axis, the local nonprofit group that promotes the visual arts and is the prime driver of the Indie Memphis festival.

"We have a few great films that may not have a connection to the South, but they're just great films that we really want to show to our audiences here."

That's not to say, however, that most of the more than 70 shorts, features, documentaries, music videos and other filmed works don't have some direct link to the South. For some, it's in the subject matter. In the case of Walker's project "The Cole Nobody Knows," the filmmaker hails from Atlanta.

9th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival
OCT. 13-19
All movies and events will take place at Muvico Peabody Place 22
150 Peabody Place, Downtown Memphis
Tickets: $6.50
For more information: www.indiememphis.com


Venue like no other

Cole, incidentally, performed in Memphis at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre in August.

But that part of the festival's expansion is another way organizers have chosen to ensure small-filmmakers continue to regard the event as an unrivaled opportunity.

All of the films in the festival, as usual, will be screened at the Muvico Peabody Place 22, and individual tickets are $6.50. The festival runs all day on Saturday and Sunday, then films are shown in the evenings Monday through Thursday.

Muvico will have two screens dedicated all week to the festival.

"We represent one of the only venues for a lot of local filmmakers to get their work seen," said Emily Trenholm, executive director of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. Away from that job, she volunteers to help organize the Indie Memphis festival.

"We have the festival at Muvico, and it really is state-of-the-art. There are other venues, but there's no venue like that."

The venue allowed Brett Hanover, an 18-year-old college student studying film, to screen a new movie he's produced about the Church of Scientology called "The Bridge." This year will be his second time participating in the festival.

"It's definitely the hometown festival," he said. "In a way, it's sort of limiting as far as what gets seen, but for me and other local filmmakers it's an extremely important resource for getting your films out there and serving as a springboard to go elsewhere."


Laying it on thick

This year's festival also will be the second opportunity for local music videos to be honored, a category whose entries are continuing to shine.

"I think we had more entries last year, but by far this year, there's a lot more quality in the videos we're going to show," said Chris Reyes, founder of livefrommemphis.com, who approached Indie Memphis organizers about creating the category last year.

"And for music videos, there are just zero outlets around here," he said. "It doesn't really help a band to do a music video - they do it because they love it."

In an effort to keep the event's profile high, the attractions, guests and small treats that await festival-goers this year couldn't have been laid on more thickly. Not unlike how the documentary about Cole unfolds, in which the golden-voiced jazz crooner recognizes his brother's worldwide fame and determines to stand out from it.

Among the usual sponsors, this year the Justin Timberlake Foundation has signed on to lend its support to the festival. The film's schedule on Saturday, Oct. 14, had to be expanded to accommodate the flood of film entries.

And one of the biggest treats, Wright said, will come that Saturday evening, when Alloy Orchestra, a three-man music ensemble, will perform a live, original score to a remastered 1925-era print of "The Phantom of the Opera" starring Lon Chaney.

"It's a huge deal, and this is their Memphis debut," Wright said. "We are really excited about them."

Also during the festival's opening night, a film written and directed by Hollywood actress Joey Lauren Adams, "Come Early Morning," will be shown, and Adams' attendance at the festival was confirmed earlier this week.

Adams, who was born in Little Rock, has starred in a string of major feature films such as "Dazed and Confused," "Big Daddy" and "Chasing Amy."

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