LO­CA­TION

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - GO OUT MU­SIC ART STAGE -

“It’s one of the movies you watch to­gether at Thanks­giv­ing or Christ­mas,” said Townsend (whose fam­ily in­cludes four kids, rang­ing in age from 16 to 28). “A lot of peo­ple re­ally con­sider it an Amer­i­can clas­sic.”

At 7 p.m. Satur­day, Mem­phis fans of “The Five Heart­beats” will have a chance to “watch to­gether” with none other than Townsend and an­other of the movie’s stars, the heart­throb ac­tor Leon Robin­son (usu­ally cred­ited sim­ply as “Leon”). The two men are host­ing a 25th-an­niver­sary screen­ing of the film that is in­tended to be the cen­ter­piece event of this year’s 17th an­nual On Lo­ca­tion: Mem­phis Film & Mu­sic Fest, which takes place to­day and Satur­day at the Malco Stu­dio on the Square.

Townsend, 59, and Robin­son, 54, will in­tro­duce the film and an­swer ques­tions after the show. They’ll also take part in a

6 p.m. “red car­pet” mee­tand-greet be­fore the movie. A “Celebrity After Party” with Leon fol­lows at 10 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street.

The event marks Townsend’s sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the fes­ti­val. In 2012, he hosted a screen­ing of his then-new film

“In the Hive,” an in­spi­ra­tional drama about an un­ortho­dox school for so-called at-risk boys.

Townsend said the theme of the ear­lier movie “re­ally res­onated” with the Mem­phis com­mu­nity. In com­par­i­son, the “Heart­beats” screen­ing will be some­thing of a nos­tal­gia trip as well as “some­thing that gives you hope,” Townsend said.

“The film has a big heart,” he said. “It’s about fam­ily; it’s about faith. You fol­low these five men on their jour­ney to­gether, and when it’s all said and done, it’s ful­fill­ing. I think at the core of it is faith. It has a heal­ing mes­sage.”

Mem­phis lawyer An­gela Green, now in her sec­ond year as pres­i­dent of On Lo­ca­tion: Mem­phis, said “Heart­beats” was an ap­pro­pri­ate film for the fes­ti­val’s em­pha­sis on the di­verse “cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties” of Mem­phis. These in­clude the mu­sic and faith com­mu­ni­ties as well as var­i­ous eth­nic, racial and in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties.

Some of the films about “the black ex­pe­ri­ence” screen­ing at On Lo­ca­tion i nclude the doc­u­men­taries “The Wizard of Beale Street,” about Rare­cas “Rod” Bonds of

the Beale Street Flip­pers, and “Women of Stax: Soul Sis­tahs.” Short films from such places as Ja­pan, Ger­many and Cuba are on the sched­ule, and the new Hindi-lan­guage fea­ture “Nil Bat­tey San­nata” (“The New Class­mate”) screens at 6 p.m. to­day, pre­sented by the In­dia As­so­ci­a­tion of Mem­phis.

“That’s al­ways our goal: to add more and more films that rep­re­sent more and more of Mem­phis’ cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties,” Green said. At the same time, this year’s fes­ti­val is more com­pact than in the past, with screen­ings and pan­els re­stricted to to­day and Satur­day, while the awards cer­e­mony is Sun­day at the Atrium in Over­ton Square.

Along with his more po­lit­ica lly mo­ti­vated con­tem­po­rary, Spike Lee, Townsend rep­re­sented a new van­guard of black in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers whose de­but fea­tures were funny, novel and cul­tur­ally spe­cific, yet ac­ces­si­ble. Townsend’s first film, “Hol­ly­wood Shuf­fle” (1987), was a DIY low-bud­get spoof of racial stereo­typ­ing in Amer­i­can en­ter­tain­ment; “The Five Heart­beats” was only his sec­ond non­doc­u­men­tary fea­ture (it fol­lowed the con­cert film “Ed­die Mur­phy: Raw”), but it marked a huge leap in am­bi­tion and in­vest­ment. Backed by Fox with a (rel­a­tively mod­est, for a stu­dio) bud­get of about $8.7 mil­lion, the movie is an en­sem­ble com­edy-drama that chron­i­cles sev­eral decades in the lives of the Five Heart­beats, a fic­tional black vo­cal group that finds suc­cess but also co­caine, al­co­hol and other dis­trac­tions. Townsend — who co-wrote the script with Kee­nen Ivory Wayans — plays group co­founder Don­ald “Duck” Matthews, while Leon is Duck’s wom­an­iz­ing older brother, J.T.

“As a film­maker, I re­ally love movies, and I think that when you watch ‘The Five Heart­beats,’ you see some­one go­ing for a mas­ter­piece,” Townsend said. “I was so metic­u­lous about the hair, the mu­sic, the wardrobe, the ex­tras, and I just thank God that for that movie, ev­ery­thing lined up. I think that as an artist you can paint a Mona Lisa, and I think for a lot of peo­ple, this is a Mona Lisa to the black com­mu­nity.”

Townsend said the band in the movie is mod­eled to a large ex­tent on The Temp­ta­tions, but his tech­ni­cal ad­vis­ers for the film were The Dells, a vo­cal group (“Oh, What a Night,” “Stay in My Cor­ner”) based in the film­maker’s home­town of Chicago. “I come from a very rough neigh­bor­hood, but I al­ways looked at the ghetto, the ’hood, as glo­ri­ous. It looked beau­ti­ful to me. When I was grow­ing up in the ’60s, the peo­ple had such a joy, the church had such a joy, so if I cap­tured any­thing in the movie, it was the beauty of the ’hood.”

Townsend said the Mem­phis event is one of sev­eral 25th-an­niver­sary “Five Heart­beats” screen­ings.

“I just think there are cer­tain movies that have a mo­men­tum that never stops, and this is one of those movies. That’s all you can hope for as a film­maker, that you pro­duce some­thing that peo­ple want to see again and again.”

Robert Townsend will be in Mem­phis this week­end for the On Lo­ca­tion: Mem­phis film fes­ti­val.

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