Nashville Film Festival’s 50th Anniversary Wrap-Up

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival has come and gone. New friends were made. Good times were had. And, most importantly, wonderful films were shared.

The 2019 Nashville Film Festival featured over 300 of the year’s best independent films from all over the world. But the one that captured my heart was Nashville’s own Bluebird, Brian Loschiavo’s mesmerizing documentary about The Bluebird Cafe, an accidental landmark that changed the course of music history with its Sunday audition nights and implementation of the “in The Round” method, whereby, writers sit in the center of The Bluebird singing, taking turns and telling stories. A must-see!

JoJoRabbit opened the festival and set the bar for quality entertainment. The Opening Night Party piggybacked onto Taika Waititi’s moving WWII drama, featuring Scarlett Johansson, Roman Griffin Thomas, and Thomasin McKenzie, with a celebration at The Clementine. Executive Director Jason Padgitt welcomed festivalgoers and without adieu, turned the satge over to some of Nashville’s hot, rising talent. If there’s one thing in particular, Nashville does well, it’s entertain!

Opening Night-1
Singer/songwriter Lauren Jenkins performs at The Clementine to kick off the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

Out of the fire and into the ashes, a phoenix rising in the form of the Creators Conference ushered in opening weekend with its combined mojo of professional development and festival-style kinetic energy. Friday, October 4, 2019, Evolve Studio, a start-up venture from brothers, Joel and Jessie Edwards, who shared their exerience and hope working and creating in Nashville, personified the Creators spirit.

Friday night Chuck Berry, directed by Ron Brewer, made its world premiere at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, Friday, October 4, 2019, Regal Hollywood ScreenX & RPX Cinema – Nashville. Berry, an extraordinary entertainer, ushered in the era of rock-n-roll, with a showmanship that has often been imitated and rarely duplicated. Rock legend, Alice Cooper appeared in the film saying Mr. Berry created a blueprint for what rock-n-roll should be with his pioneering style. Highly recommended!

Berry Family
The Berry Family on the red carpet at the 50th Nashville Film Festival (Photo courtesy of NashFilm)
Bery Fam
The Berry Family on the red carpet at the 50th Nashville Film Festival (Photo courtesy of NashFilm)

Saturday was highlighted by a keynote panel with HBO’s Len Amato and Evyen J. Klean, providing key insights into how ideas are chosen by the network giant and brought to life. Johnathon Shcaech and Jessica Barth’s #METOO panel, and an all-star comedy panel were just a few highlights from day three.

The girls from NashFilm’s Living Reel Project debuted their song and short created for the festival. The Livin’ Reel Program, gives at-risk teens a hands-on experience in filmmaking and songwriting. During the project, a group of teens dedicates after-school hours to write a song telling the story of their strength and the struggles they have overcome. By the end of their production week, they have a finished song and a short film documenting their entire process. This film is then taken on the road to the Nashville Film Festival and various TV/radio interviews where their work and proven strength within adversity is celebrated.

‘Who’s The Girl? The Ashley Cleveland’ had a sell-out crowd on day four.

Who's the Girl
Cast of Who’s the Girl? at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival (Photo by Donny Evan)
Music Supervisors
The Music Supervisors at the 50th Nashville Film Festival Opening Night After Party (Photo courtesy of NashFilm)

Cat Rhinehart and Lahna Turner screened the world premiere of What’s Eating Ralphie May. 

For Turner, the event allowed for a sense of closure. “The Nashville Film Festival was the perfect place to premiere what’s Eating Ralphie May? Nashville was one of Ralphie’s favorite cities but even more significant is that the premiere took place on the day after the two year anniversary of Ralphie’s passing. Ralphie would have been very proud that we were able to remember and honor him with this amazing film.

For me the premiere allowed me to close some doors and open new ones. I haven’t been back to Nashville since having to do some very painful things like clean out our home, so it felt really nice to return to a town that I love so much to celebrate and create new happy memories.”

Rhinehart echoed, “I thought Nashville’s 50th was the perfect time and place to premiere. Ralphie loved Nashville – and he talks about it in the film. I could tell the audience felt that affinity – so I couldn’t imagine a better fit. Ralphie would have been proud.”

What’s Eating Ralphie May won an audience award and received a third screening with the Best of Fest lineup, Saturday, August 12th. Highly recommended!

Cat Turner
Comedian Lahna Turner, left, and Filmmaker Cat Rhinehart on the red carpet, October 7th, 2019, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival. (Photo credit: Donny Evan)

The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash also screened at 6 pm. posing quality of life issues for many festivalgoers, including myself. I put this one on my list of films to see and it received tearful admiration from more than one fan.

Cash Red Carpet
John Carter Cash on the red carpet at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival (Photo by Donny Evan)

NashFilm also hosted the Tennessee premiere of Bluebird with Amy Grant, Tenille Townes, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Callie Khouri, Ruby Amanfu, Tony Arata, Dave Barnes, Steve Buchanan, Gary Burr, Roger Cook, Barry Dean, Tom Douglas, Mark Germino, Don Henry, Claude Kelly, Luke Laird, and more coming out to support the Nashville film. Filmmaker Brian A. Loschiavo welcomed the sold-out house with an outpouring of emotion, “This is so overwhelming to see a spirited group in the room with songwriters and bluebirds as we make our official Nashville premiere. There is a real community in this town (Nashville). Thank you for coming out to hear and see the music and songs. We are family.”

The filmmaking team of Bluebird on the red carpet at the 50th Nashville Film Festival (Photo credit by Donny Evan)
The ABC Nashville television series star and producer team on the red carpet for the Tennessee premiere of Bluebird at the Nashville Film Festival (Photo by Donny Evan)

The Screenwriting Competition took place on Tuesday with over 1600 entries. A slew of readers provided a treatment of all the finalists’ work. Mo Morgan took honors in the Narrative Feature and Kelly Anelons took home honors in the Comedy Feature category.

Mo Morgan
Mo Morgan poses for a photo after receiving the trophy for Best Narrative Feature for his screenplay, Sight, in the 2019 Nashville Film Festival’s Screenwriting Contest. (Photo courtesy of NashFilm)
Kelly A
Kelly Anelons poses for a photo after receiving the trophy for her Best Comedy Feature screenplay, Life’s a Beaut, in the 2019 Nashville Film Festival’s Screenwriting Contest. (Photo courtesy of NashFilm)

Eternal Winter took home the Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature. Beautifully shot film complete with powerful acting and strong production values. Highly recommended. Another top narrative feature, in my opinion, was Alice, a bold and audacious drama delving into the female psyche from start to finish. See the full list of Jury winners here.

The closing night party was held at The Valentine in downtown Nashville. The festival continued into Saturday with the “Best of the Fest” films running all day Saturday, Oct. 12. On the list – HollywoodGlee makes Feedspot Top 20 Hollywood Blogs. Thank you, Anuj Agarwal!

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!



The Nashville Film Festival (NashFilm) is a globally-recognized non-profit organization and cultural event presenting the best in the world cinema, American independent films and documentaries by veteran masters, up-and-coming directors, and first-time filmmakers.

With Academy Award® qualifying status, the Nashville Film Festival celebrates innovation, music and the many voices of the human spirit through the art of film. Originally founded in 1969, the Nashville Film Festival is one of the first film festivals in the United States.

*Featured photo: Larry Gleeson, left, with filmmaker Flavio Alves (The Garden Left Behind) at Best of Fest, Saturday, October 12th, 2019, at the 50th Anniversary Film Festival Nashville. (Photo credit: Giuliana Mignone)

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