Red Bull Street Kings is an energy-drink-sponsored showcase that turns up in New Orleans periodically to crown the city's best brass band. The first Street Kings event took place in 2010 under the Claiborne Avenue bridge where Stooges Brass Band took the prize. A documentary about that contest will be screened at he Prytania Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. The evening will be hosted by Glenn David Andrews and a Q&A with the Stooges will follow the screening. Admission is free but seating is limited and tickets must be acquired here. The event is intended to draw attention to the next Street Kings competition, which takes place on October 26. More info including the application for brass bands who want to compete is available here.
The 11th edition of the Ponderosa Stomp kicks off 7 p.m. Thursday with a screening of the documentary Muscle Shoals at the Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp St., 504-528-3800). The film takes an unconventional look at the titular Alabama town — curiously named after the mussels that settled in pockets of the Tennessee River — and its two hit factories. FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound studios delivered massive success stories, from Percy Sledge, Arthur Alexander, Clarence Carter and Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and dozens others. It's also the epicenter for contemporary artists Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell, The Civil Wars and just-east neighbors Alabama Shakes.
The film opens with gorgeous landscape shots that frame Colbert County as a sort of magical foundation for the music it produced — from an unlikely group of sharecroppers' sons, like FAME founder and architect of the Muscle Shoals sound Rick Hall, whose story of tragedy and triumph opens and closes each act. FAME house band and Muscle Shoals Sound founders The Swampers, a group of good ol' Alabama white boys who backed black artists during the tumultuous mid-'60s under Gov. George Wallace, are the film's humble heroes. Keith Richards, Bono, Jimmy Cliff and other famous talking heads throw heaps of praise at the group.
Director Greg "Freddy" Camalier anchors the film in the "mystic" elements of north Alabama rather than the realities of it, but it moves gracefully through decades of hits with rare footage, oral histories and an engrossing look into an under-appreciated landmark of American music.
Watch the trailer after the jump and read Gambit's interview with director Camalier.
Reenactments of real-life events are nothing new in the world of documentaries, but neither is the controversy that often surrounds films that employ the technique. The manner in which a film presents reenactments is crucial — those that are easily distinguished from real events and represent no hidden agenda on the part of the filmmakers generally get a pass. But a couple of things have changed in recent years. Reenactments have become far more commonplace in documentaries, and sometimes they feature a film’s real-life subject in narrative scenes that recreate moments from that subject’s life. The dangers here are many, and a delicate balance must be established to avoid philosophical quandaries on the nature of truth in documentary film. At what point do reenactments like these become indistinguishable from so-called reality television?
Writer-director Jamie Meltzer’s Informant explores the ever-shifting identity of Brandon Darby, a former left-wing activist and co-founder of Common Ground Relief, an organization that developed in the Lower 9th Ward immediately after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. To the disbelief of his friends and followers, Darby went on to become an FBI informant who was directly responsible for sending two young activists to prison. Even more galling to some, Darby resumed his career as an activist — for the Tea Party. His story is fascinating on a number of levels, and there are many articulate people from Darby’s life in Informant to share their interpretations of key events. Then we have the film’s reenactments, which Darby uses to justify his often-questionable actions. Meltzer has explained widely that these scenes are intended to encourage viewers to question all the facts presented in his film. But Darby’s status as the ultimate unreliable narrator is clear long before he starts presenting mini-movies from his life.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
Rumors have swirled for at least a year about a new local theater that would only show movies the old-fashioned way, on projected film — not the high-res digital formats that have taken over at theaters in New Orleans and across the country. That hasn't happened yet. But it was only a matter of time before existing theaters — in this case, the Prytania Theatre — began celebrating the glories of celluloid. Yesterday the Prytania sent a out a press release for its new Vintage Late Night film series promising "a new movie-going experience...feature films presented on 35mm film!" We're not sure we'd call the practice "new." But this is a trend whose time has definitely come. All screenings take place at 10 p.m. on Sunday nights, and tickets are $10. Here's the schedule:
October 20 — Re-Animator
November 3 — Batman
November 10 — Alien
November 17 — Poltergeist
There will also be a showing of Halloween on October 27 as part of this series, but it will be shown digitally so we left it off the list. A person's got to have standards.
Humidity is the theme for the "joint picture project" created by Timecode:NOLA for its FF2 indie film festival. New Orleans filmmakers were given three weeks to make locally shot shorts of no more than five minutes in length "where heat and humidity are the backdrop or catalyst for your film." The best of these films have been edited together into a single program that will debut tonight, Saturday, September 21, at One Eyed Jack's at 9 p.m. Last year's joint picture project (Where Y'at?/Hello) played at film festivals across the globe and represented New Orleans in appropriately imaginative style. Tickets for the Humidity premiere are $8 and available online here and at the door.
It takes nerve to enter the Super 8 One-Reel Contest at Timecode:NOLA's FF2 indie film festival. Entrants accept a free rental of a Super 8 film camera — which was first introduced to market in 1965 — loaded with a single three-minute black-and-white film cartridge. They plan and shoot their movies in sequence, then return the camera and cartridge to FF2 for processing. That's it — no editing allowed. Filmmakers and audience see the resulting films for the first time together at a public screening which takes place tonight, September 20, at 9 p.m. at One Eyed Jack's in the French Quarter. Tickets are $8 and are available online here and at the door. Local comedian Chris Trew will host the event, and a live piano player will improvise soundtracks for these otherwise silent films.
The Joan Mitchell Center at 2275 Bayou Road will present a screening of 1976 documentary The Black Indians of New Orleans on Saturday, September 21 at 7 p.m. The film is widely regarded as the definitive account of the history and culture of Mardi Gras Indians. An interview with the director, Dr. Maurice Martinez, will follow the film. The screening is free but guests are required to RSVP in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org. More info here.
FF2 is the second edition of an annual independent film festival focusing on New Orleans films and filmmakers. Created by local non-profit organization Timecode:NOLA, FF2 runs Wednesday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Sept 22 at a variety of downtown venues including One Eyed Jack's, Lost Love Lounge, Allways Lounge & Theatre, Mimi's in the Marigny, the Old U.S. Mint, and others.
The festivities begin with a Kick-Off Party at One Eyed Jack's on Wednesday night featuring a screening of Tony Clifton: Live on the Sunset Strip and a live appearance by Clifton, who began life as an Andy Kaufman alter-ego. Other festival highlights include a Skateboard Film Fest; Humidity, a feature film in 15 segments made by 15 different local filmmakers; the premiere screening of this year's Super 8 One-Reel Challenge, for which local directors had to shoot three-minute silent films in sequence and turn over their footage to FF2 without seeing or editing it; and multiple themed blocks of short films along with screenings of feature-length films from New Orleans and beyond.
Musically Speaking, a series of music-themed films curated and hosted by DJ Soul Sister at Antenna Gallery, continues on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. with the 1978 reggae film Rockers. Originally intended as a documentary, Rockers ended up as a narrative film that incorporates a lot of doc-style footage and features real-life reggae stars like Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, and Dillinger. Rockers can't match the brilliance of Jimmy Cliff's 1972 The Harder They Come, but it certainly captures something of a unique time and place. Admission is free and open to the public. More info here.
The Prytania Theatre will present a weekly series of Sunday night screenings of David Lynch movies starting tomorrow, September 8. All screenings start at 10 p.m. and tickets (available here) are $10. Here's the full schedule:
September 8 — The Elephant Man
September 15 — Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
September 22 — Blue Velvet
September 29 — Mulholland Drive
October 6 — Eraserhead
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