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Dishmag’s intrepid reel-fanatic has cloistered himself in the deep dark of the Regal Green Hills Movie Theatre this gorgeous spring week, scouting out the best of the best, in his educated opinion, among the many treasures included in this week’s festival. But will the judges- you, the voters for the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film, and the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary Film agree with his choices? Turn the page to find out- and remember, whether theses films win or not, be sure to look out for them as they leave the Festival Circuit, and come to a theatre near you. You’ll be glad you did!

Jason’s Top 10 list

With each passing year, the Nashville Film Festival offers bountiful riches for any kind of viewer, with film from all over the world. The following were my favorites at this year’s festival.

1) THE RAFTMAN’S RAZOR The aching promise of youth. The escapist joy of comics. And it rings so true and so right at each and every step that nothing could even come close to it. A short subject, yes, but it packs more into its brief runtime than most features can manage to stuff themselves with. A masterpiece.

2) THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS Asia Argento’s second film is a masterful adaptation of J.T. LeRoy’s autobiographical stories; a fearless feast of love and abuse that featured the festival’s most diverse and intriguing cast. Shot partially in Knoxville and made with equal parts of love and madness, there was simply nothing quite like it. This should be appearing in U.S. theatres in October.

3) SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL: The Journey of Romo Dallaire, and HENRI LANGLOIS: PHANTOM OF THE CINEMATHEQUE A perfect complement to this past year’s “Hotel Rwanda”, “Shake Hands with the Devil” takes us along with former U.N. General Romo Dallaire (the real-life person whom Nick Nolte’s character in “Hotel Rwanda” was based on) as he returned to that nation to commemorate the tenth anniversary of that country’s horrifying genocide. A relentless and necessary confrontation of human limitations and the sad legacy of hatred in the world, while at the same time a fascinating portrait of a good person on the edge.

The Langlois, on the surface, would seem like the most challenging offering at the entire festival: a three and a half hour French documentary. Yet any cinephile worth their salt could simply luxuriate in its gleeful madness. The joy of cinema in plentiful abundance...

4) SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE Park Chan-wook, South Korea’s superstar director, won the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes film festival for his guignol “Old Boy” (opening in Nashville on May 13th), the second film in his Trilogy of Vengeance. The first film in that trilogy is this effort, a beautiful and cruel look at the human need for revenge and how that serves as an impasse for any kind of spiritual or social evolution. It is always a joy to see a capacity crowd at a screening of a foreign or extremely challenging film, and this film’s Sunday night sellout was especially gratifying. Tartan America is releasing this in theatres domestically in August.

5) HARMONY This animated short showed in the Ani-Mosity program, and while it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate for younger audiences, its moral equilateralism was both hysterical and chilling. Mark my words, Jim Trainor (the film’s creator) is going to be a big name in the future of animation.

6) THE DEVIL, and PROBABLY THE WORLD Disaffected youth got two loving explorations on the big screen at this year’s Nashville Film Festival; the former, a classic 1977 offering from transcendental master Robert Bresson (“Au Hasard”, “Balthazar”), the latter a contemporary vivisection of globalization and its effect on the souls of the young from Chinese master director Jia Zhang-ke (“Unknown Pleasures”). Both are exquisitely observed pieces, both testaments to the voice of youth.

7) AFTER THE DAY BEFORE After the 2002 Nashville Film Festival screening of Tarr Werckmeister’s “Harmonies”, I was so emotionally bowled over that it took days to recover. Because of that film’s power, I approach Hungarian cinema in general with reverent and easy steps. This psychological thriller tapped into some of that same transcendent power, wrenching more terror from its capacity crowd on Saturday afternoon with a dense sound collage of rustling wheat than an entire weekend’s run of the crappy new Amityville Horror remake could do.

8) GUARD DOG and LIPSTICK AND DYNAMITE When it came to fun offerings at the 2005 NashFF, there was no beating these two. The former was nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Short, which featured an evil kung fu-wielding squirrel whereas the latter, a glib but crowd pleasing and vibrant look at the history of women’s professional wrestling, won over countless hearts with its vulgar and affectionate heart. “Lipstick and Dynamite” will be opening in Nashville on May 27th thanks to Koch Lorber distribution.

9) 10th DISTRICT COURT: MOMENTS OF TRIAL A perceptive and voyeuristically charged peek inside the French legal system, following twelve cases in the court of Judge Michalle Bernard-Requin. Alternately amusing, exasperating, haunting, and always mordantly Gallic, Raymond Depardon’s documentary never ceases to enthrall.

10) MUTUAL APPRECIATION Andrew Bujalski makes interesting films, perceptive and witty character studies that are modest and self-effacing. This, his latest effort after 2003’s glorious “Funny Ha-Ha”, is an utter delight. Black-and-white 16mm never felt so rapturously beautiful. / Issue 46 - September 5189
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