This week, the Nashville Film Festival commemorates its 50th anniversary with a slew of music documentaries and films honoring the life and work of the most influential creators of our time. The event is slated for October 3 through 12 and will include such feature film selections as JoJo Rabbit and Marriage Story.
The festival was originally founded in 1969 by Mary Jane Coleman and sought to “celebrate innovation, music and the many voices of the human spirit through the art of film.” Through the years, it has become a testing ground for the work of industry legends and filmmaking newcomers alike ⏤ such films as 500 Days of Summer and 13 Assassins have been screened here.
Continuing the legacy, this year’s lineup promises to deep-dive into the American songbook with thrilling ways. Head over here for a complete schedule, screening times, ticketing and other essential information.
Below is a rundown of six musical documentaries you won’t want to miss:
Berry Hill: From Creative Workshop & Beyond
Berry Hill contains several of the most enduring and prolific recording spaces of all time. Creative Workshop, forged by Buzz Cason and Bobby Russell, opened in 1970 and has been the stomping grounds of such icons as the Gatlin Brothers, Dottie West, Kenny Rogers, Roy Orbison and Merle Haggard, among countless others. The hallowed studio is now known as Blackbird and owned by John McBride, husband of country singer Martina McBride. In later years, Berry Hill has become home to House of Blues and Keith Stegall’s own studio, as well as a commercial hub of shops and other businesses.
Everyone knows the Bluebird Cafe. It is Nashville’s premier listening room, and its influence in breaking talent is nearly unmatched. The intimate venue was founded in 1982 by Amy Kurland, whose only desire was to open a little cafe in the suburbs. Kurland soon launched a songwriter’s night, and the untapped potential led to the careers of Faith Hill, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift. The documentary explores unknown stories as we rediscover the past and celebrate the present.
Born Into The Gig
Stepping into the long shadows of their parents, the children of Bill Withers, the Marleys, Stephen Stills, James Taylor and Carly Simon attempt to find their own way. The path ahead of them has not always been an easy one, but they somehow find their own footing amidst an ever-changing industry with grit, talent and a little bit of delightful humor.
Chuck Berry is unapologetically one of the most influential artists in rock ‘n roll history. The story of his life, from songwriter and poet to father and felon, comes into stark view thanks to director Jon Brewer’s succinct storytelling. In both vintage footage from Berry’s career and conversations with close friends and family, a rich tapestry is woven that also explores his influence on such later acts as the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley.
The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash lived a life of remarkable talent and harrowing circumstances. The documentary seeks to dissect those crucial components through interviews and newly-released archival materials, provided by the Cash estate. The Folsom Prison recording serves as the underlying core, and the story unravels in stunning beauty. Once again, the feature positions Cash as the defining musical giant of modern country music, and even long-standing fans may just discover something new.
Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl
Kate Nash embodies the very nature of the music business. In the documentary, her voice is louder and clearer than it has ever been. A platinum recording artist, ferocious TV star (GLOW) and social activist, Nash has been put through the industry machine and come out the other side well-worn but empowered and stronger. She was once defrauded by her manager, yet she has maintained to be a beacon for young women and offers a hopeful, honest and raw perspective.