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Beauty is Embarrassing

Continuing a trend started several years ago, two films will officially open and close the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) when it takes place April 19-26, 2012 at the Regal Green Hills Cinemas. Previously announced official selection “Beauty is Embarrassing” and the World Premiere of “After” will share the opening honors, while recently announced selections “BIG EASY EXPRESS,” and “Paul Williams Still Alive” will close it out.

Written and directed by Ryan Smith, “After “ tells the story of two bus crash survivors (Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra) who awake to discover that they are the only people left in their small town and must form an unlikely alliance in a race to unravel the truth behind their isolation. The film also stars Madison Lintz (“The Walking Dead”) and Sandra Lafferty (“Hunger Games”). The film has strong Nashville connections, as it was produced by Sabyn Mayfield, son of famed casting director Laray Mayfield (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Social Network,” “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” et al) and Brandon Gregory together with Franklin,Tennessee-based Seabourne Pictures, which includes Michael W. Smith and Greg Ham, and Quite Quick Productions. The younger Mayfield also casted the film. Nashville-based Magnetic Dreams Animation did all the visual effects, their first time for a film made entirely in Nashville.

Director Neil Berkeley’s “Beauty is Embarrassing” is described as the “funny, irreverent and inspiring story of one of America’s most important artists, Wayne White.” Raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, White has spent the last 30 years making his indelible mark on pop culture. From his humble roots as a puppeteer in Nashville to his work as one of the creative forces behind “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” to award-winning music video work to his current life as a darling in the fine art world, White has inspired millions of people across the country. The film includes plenty of footage shot in Tennessee including a White book signing in Chattanooga bookstore and a visit  with his friend Mike Quinn at the Webb School in Bell Buckle. Variety magazine calls White “a compelling folk hero for those who never knew art could be fun.”

Directed by Emmett Malloy (“Out Cold,” “The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights”) “BIG EASY EXPRESS” documents the musical journey of three bands on one train over thousands of miles of track through six cities. In April of 2011, indie folk heroes Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show and Britain’s acclaimed Mumford & Sons climbed aboard a beautiful antique train in California, setting out for Louisiana on a “tour of dreams.”  Part road movie and part concert film, “BIG EASY EXPRESS” bears witness to the birth of a new musical era. With poignancy and beauty, Malloy documents these incredible musicians as they ride the rails and wow the crowds, from Oakland … to New Orleans.

“Paul Williams Still Alive” began as a personal investigation by director Steven Kessler to track down and find out what happened to his childhood idol Paul Williams, writer of Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song”; The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun”; and “Rainbow Connection,” performed by Kermit the Frog in “The Muppet Movie, as well the star of various big and small screen films and shows, most notably Brian DePalma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” (which he also co-scored), a genius orangutan in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” and a regular guest on Johnny Carson’s couch. Kessler was surprised to learn that Williams is still very much alive, and set out to make a documentary. Williams allows Kessler to accompany him on his travels, but the director soon discovers that his subject isn’t the same man from television that he once idolized.

Jurors for the 2012 Nashville Film Festival have also been announced. The Bridgestone Narrative Competition is made up of Watkins College of Art, Design and Film’s Robin Fister; Millenium Studios’ executive producer Diego Martinez; and actor Anthony Zerbe (“Cool Hand Luke,” “Star Trek Insurrection,” “The Matrix Revolutions”). The Documentary Competition will be judged by Documentary Channel’s Greg Crofton; artist, director and designer J Bird Lathon; and award-winning sponsored film and documentary maker Anita Moffatt. The New Directors Competition jury is made up of actor Michael Chieffo (“Disclosure,” “Crimson Tide,” “Beginners”); renowned and prolific actress Beth Grant, the only actor in history to have appeared in three Academy Award winning Best Pictures and a Best Animated Feature: “The Artist,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “Rango;” and Joe Pacheco, award-winning filmmaker of “After the Fall” and an Emmy-nominated cinematographer.

NaFF’s signature Music Films / Music City jury will be comprised of writer/producer and director Todd Elgin; Durango Film Society founder Jane Julian; and Helen Pursell, director of programming and Scheduling for the Documentary Channel. Narrative, Animation and Documentary shorts will be judged by Lauren Avinoam, founder of LA Publicity; Dorothy Henckel, director of Acquisitions for the Documentary Channel; and Suzie Howard, award-winning filmmaker of “Fans and Freaks” and the short film “Creme Roll Confessions.”

A complete list of previously announced feature films in competition and non-competition categories, as well as animated, narrative and documentary shorts, is available on the festival website.

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