Issue September 1, 2006

Bluegrass International Film Fest gets it together

From “Refuseniks” —: Shimri Tzameret, Adam Ma’or, Noam Bahat and Matan Kaminer (left to right) served almost two years in prison for refusing to serve in the IDF.
From “Refuseniks” —: Shimri Tzameret, Adam Ma’or, Noam Bahat and Matan Kaminer (left to right) served almost two years in prison for refusing to serve in the IDF.

This year’s Bluegrass International Film Fest promises a much more serious and relevant program than last year, with a number of important debuts and lucky imports. There are short features, works in progress and genre films. The screenings this year will all be held at the Great Escape Oldham 8 theaters, but each venue has been temporarily renamed: the D.W. Griffith Theater, the Hoot Gibson Theater and the Yew Dell Gardens Theater. There are also a number of other activities to note including “afterparties” at the Waldeck mansion and at the Irish Rover Too in La Grange.

There is a panel discussion on the mechanics of making an indie film (Saturday evening) that promises to be informative. There are literally dozens of inspired short and/or animated films that cannot be seen anywhere but at this festival. The menu of films this year shows a devotion to experimental work somewhat lacking previously. Although this year’s list still offers plenty of quasi-mainstream (if obscure) narrative features, there are also a number of esteemed but uncategorizable foreign efforts worthy of close consideration.

Among feature-length films, the most anticipated are playing on Friday and Saturday nights. “The Trouble With Dee Dee,” “The Bonnie Situation” (presumably NOT Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” episode) and “Refuseniks” (a doc about Israelis who refuse to enter military service that was shown last year, I believe) are standouts.

Sunday morning sees a documentary about polka, a bluegrass-flavored version of “Rigoletto” and the critically touted feature “Honeymoon.” Without advance copies and with minimal information about the entries, it is difficult to make specific recommendations. One intriguing entry is a feature-length called “Rommel and the Plot Against Hitler.” Not many folks besides history buffs remember the bomb-under-the-table conspiracy and the resulting executions for treason. All of them had Gen. Rommel as participant. This fine film, alongside “Refuseniks,” gives the festival a distinctly heavy Jewish vibe. The myriad treasures to be found among the short and animated features are incalculable. Suffice it to say that the lineup is both diverse and inviting.

There is one other film for which I can vouch. Sara Booth out of the CCNY Film School has lovingly crafted a half-hour documentary on our city’s most talented son. On Saturday at 10 a.m., locals will have a chance to see a nice little documentary on Hunter S. Thompson. This, in some ways, may be the highlight of the festival. Filled with road footage, Louisville footage, the tall pines of Colorado and, ultimately, the Thompson “memorial” ceremony, the film is a tiny gem for anyone who is a fan of the late writer (one interviewee disputes the cause of Hunter’s death!). “Road to Hunter” stars George McGovern, historian Douglas Brinkley and Louisville’s own Poet Laureate, Ron Whitehead. This is a kind and gentle film about a man with a fierce and violent presence. It’s wonderful and there is nary an Israeli or Palestinian in sight. It alone is worth the trip to Oldham County.

Contact the writer at
leo@leoweekly.com