On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest
Thursday through Sunday, April 28. Festival pass: $55. Individual movie tickets: $10. Visit onlocationmemphis.org for more information.
Opening Night: Memphis music documentaries “The Memphians” and “Ole Beale Street Revue,” 7:30 p.m., Paradiso, 584 S. Mendenhall. Admission: $15.
April 26-28: Films at Studio on the Square, 2105 Court.
April 26-27: Music showcases at Purple Haze, 140 Lt. George W. Lee Ave.
While such contemporaries as B.B. King and Isaac Hayes became household names, producer, songwriter and recording artist Dan Greer is perhaps best known to the crate-digging collectors and cultists who prize Memphis soul music from the 1960s and ’70s above almost all other sounds.
Greer’s solo career will be celebrated June 3 with the release of the CD compilation, “Beale Street Soul Man: The Sounds of Memphis Sessions,” from England’s archival Ace Records label. In the meantime, the veteran soul man will make his debut as a different type of artist: a filmmaker.
Greer, 71, is the producer of “Ole Beale Street Revue,” a documentary celebration of the legendary Memphis district where, according to Greer, “true American music had its roots ... coming from field hands, dock workers and wagon drivers.”
Is Greer also the movie’s director? “I guess I directed it if anybody did,” he said.
Featuring interviews, archival material and concert footage shot mostly over the past 27 years at the local Music Pioneers Awards ceremonies organized by Greer, “Ole Beale Street Revue” premieres Thursday as the opening night feature for the 14th annual On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Fest.
The screening is at 7:30 p.m. at the Malco Paradiso. The next day, the On Location: Memphis festival moves to the Studio on the Square, where screenings continue April 26-28.
In recent years, the festival had been at the Ridgeway Four, but “with all the resurgence around Overton Square, we felt it was time to move back,” said Lisa Bobal, president of On Location, an organization tasked with “promoting education, cultural diversity, and economic development through cinema arts,” according to its mission statement.
About 30 film programs — including features, shorts and music videos — are scheduled for the Studio. The festival also will host panels — “Creating Creepy FX” sounds like a good one — at various venues. Live music showcases are set for Purple Haze, a nightclub off Beale Street.
Bobal said this year’s movie lineup is particularly diverse, with films from Italy (“The Duck Hunter”), Russia (‘2-ASSA-2”), Lithuania (“Narcissus,” starring former Memphis Symphony Orchestra concert violinist Susanna Perry Gilmore), Germany (the acclaimed “Barbara,” winner of the Best Director award at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival) and India (the Bollywood production, “Chittagong,” and director Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children,” based on the novel by Salman Rushdie).
Some other notable selections include “The Story of Luke,” a comedy-drama with cult favorites Lou Taylor Pucci (currently being dismembered in “The Evil Dead”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”), Seth Green (“Robot Chicken”) and Kristin Bauer van Straten (“True Blood”); the documentary “Skum Rocks!,” described as a real-life “Spinal Tap”; “The Last White Knight,” a documentary inspired by the modern Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, directed by Paul Saltzman, whose previous film was “Prom Night in Mississippi”; and a University of Memphis short films program.
The two-hour “Ole Beale Street Revue” will be preceded by a 20-minute “sneak peek” at “The Memphians,” an upcoming documentary by California musician/filmmaker Martin Shore. Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars is a producer.
Constructed from some 500 hours of footage shot at 22 studios and venues, “The Memphians” honors the city’s history but is intended to demonstrate that Memphis music remains “a very current, urgent, relevant, living and breathing art form,” Shore said.
Even so, it was the spate of Memphis music deaths that gave the project urgency. Said Shore: “Losing Jim Dickinson, Willie Mitchell, Alex Chilton and Isaac Hayes in such a short period, that was the call to action.”
If “The Memphians” is not yet finished, “Ole Beale Street Revue” also is something of a mystery. The entertainment value and historic significance of its contents could be great, but few have seen the film, even as a work in progress. Greer said he was working hard to finish the feature by festival time; whether to give himself a director’s credit is among his decisions.
The film was edited primarily at Nu Focus Media Productions, a Memphis company that began working with Greer’s vast store of material about two years ago. Memphis artists, past and present, who appear include Bobby “Blue” Bland, Fred Ford, Emerson Able, the Mad Lads, Gatemouth Moore, Floyd Newman, the Temprees, the Ovations and the Hi Rhythm Section, to name a very few. The concert footage includes some incredible moments, Greer said, citing a 1985 performance that teamed Charlie Rich with Memphis jazz greats Harold Mabern (piano) and George Coleman (saxophone).
Greer worked with multiple labels during the classic soul period, including Goldwax, Fame, Peacock, MGM, Hi and Fernwood, among others. His partner on many projects, George Jackson, died Sunday at his home in Ridgeland, Miss., at 68. Jackson is perhaps best known as the co-writer of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” a hit for Bob Seger.
Greer said he hopes the film will bring attention to Memphis music and therefore to his other initiatives, including the United Music Heritage board, which produces the annual Music Pioneer Awards ceremony, and his dream project, the “Music Heritage Center,” a home for senior musicians. “We have much more interest around the world than we do locally.”