‘Heartbeats’ could be highlight of film fest
Close to t wo dozen films from a half-dozen countries are set to screen Aug. 11-14 during the 17th edition of the On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest.
A likely highlight will be a 25th anniversary presentation of writer-directorstar Robert Townsend’s “The Five Heartbeats,” a drama about the up-anddown careers of the members of a Motown-style vocal group in the 1960s.
Townsend and fellow actor Leon, who co-stars as the most successful Romeo among the Heartbeats, are scheduled to attend and host the 7 p.m. Aug. 13 event. Townsend previously came to the festival in 2012, when he screened “In the Hive.” “The Five Heartbeats” was released to mixed reviews and audience indifference in 1991, but after it hit DVD and cable, it began to accumulate a following and is now considered a cult classic.
Other music- and performance-themed films also will be shown, complemented by live music performances. Some of these films include “The Wizard of Beale Street,” a half-hour documentary about the founder of the Beale Street Flippers; a short documentary titled “Women of Stax: Soul Sistahs”; and the animated “Madama Butterfly,” which showcases operasinging marionettes.
Some other features booked for the festival include “Year by the Sea,” starring Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) as an empty nester who retreats to Cape Cod; “Killing Poe,” a dark comedy about five college students in an Edgar Allan Poe class who takes inspiration from the horror master’s writings to teach their noxious professor a lesson; and the recent South by Southwest Film Festival favorite “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” about a musician who befriends members of the Ku Klux Klan, encourages them to leave the racist group, and then collects their robes and hoods like trophies for a planned KKK museum.
In addition, the 10 finalists among the 40-plus short films competing for the inaugural $10,000 “Memphis Film Prize” will be screened. The winning film — as determined by a vote of festivalgoers — will be announced during an Aug. 14 awards luncheon in The Atrium at Overton Square.
Most films will be shown at the Malco Studio on the Square, while film panels will be held throughout the weekend at various locations. Festival passes are $30 each. To purchase passes or for more information, visit onlocationmemphis.org.
SACHS IN THE CITY
Memphis-born filmmaker Ira Sachs is being honored with a career-todate retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“Thank You for Being Honest: The Films of Ira Sachs” runs from July 22 through Aug. 3. The series represents significant recognition for Sachs, 50, who has carved out a distinctive niche during his relatively short career as an intimate chronicler of “relationships, love, sexuality, gay identity, family life, social issues, and city lifestyles,” according to MOMA programmers.
Seven features and five short films will be screened, including Sachs’ made-in-memphis debut, “The Delta” (1997), about an affluent white teenager who embarks on a doomed romance and Mississippi River voyage with the son of a Vietnamese immigrant, and his follow-up feature, the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prizewinner in drama, “Forty Shades of Blue,” which also was shot in Memphis.
Since then, Sachs’ work mostly has been associated with his primary post-memphis home, New York. His latest film is the Brooklyn-based “Little Men,” which concludes the retrospective and begins its theatrical run in August. The MOMA website quotes critic Bilge Ebiri, who wrote: “If Martin Scorsese was the quintessential auteur of New York in the 1970s and ’80s — with its wiseguys and street toughs — and Spike Lee that of New York in the late ’80s and ’90s — with its Balkanized enclaves and attitudes — then Ira Sachs is gradually becoming the quintessential auteur of today’s New York — the one of class inequality, and of relationships transformed by the changing city around them.”
Robert Townsend (center), writer, director and star of “The Five Heartbeats,” will host a 25th anniversary screening of the film during the On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest. Also attending will be fellow the actor Leon (upper right).