The Big Ears Festival continues to expand film programming and collaboration with The Public Cinema, a Knoxville-based group dedicated to sharing vital works of contemporary American and international film. The weekend will feature a variety of screenings of ground breaking work, a few classics, and several cinema-related live musical performances as well. Films will be screened at the Historic Tennessee Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the downtown Regal Riviera Stadium 8 Theater, and UT’s Downtown Gallery.
All film events will be open to all Big Ears passholders, with a film program-only pass on sale this Friday, December 9 at 10:00am ET. Enjoy the best of both music and film with a weekend pass — available for purchase now! Secure yours!
Big Ears Festival film programming is made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group, Visit Knoxville Film Office, Tennessee Entertainment Commission, Tennessee Department of Tourism Development, and University of Tennessee School of Art.
Big Ears is proud to welcome Jonathan Demme for a carefully-curated ten-film retrospective, JONATHAN DEMME: LIFE IS PERFORMANCE / PERFORMANCE IS LIFE, including a double-feature of the legendary Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and a rare theatrical presentation of 2016’s widely acclaimed Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids at the official state theater of Tennessee: Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theatre. A humble giant of American cinema, Demme has crafted a humanistic, multicultural vision of America throughout his long career — a place where lives are shaped by the roles we perform, and where diverse expressions of music are an ever-present reminder of our differences and commonalities. LIFE IS PERFORMANCE / PERFORMANCE IS LIFE juxtaposes some of Demme’s most acclaimed narratives and documentaries (including the Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs) alongside hard-to-see gems (2015’s Another Telepathic Thing) to present a filmmaker whose vision is as generous, unified and protean as any American filmmaker of the last forty years.
The 2017 festival will feature independent filmmaker Jem Cohen and his Big Ears-specific project, Gravity Hill Sound+Image. Cohen will join forces with a special selection of versatile and adventurous musicians to collaboratively explore image and sound in a wide range of combinations: scored and improvised, indoor and outdoor, quiet and loud. Collaborators will include Guy Picciotto, festival alumni Xylouris White, Jessica Moss, Matana Roberts, Todd Griffin, Katherine McRae, Mira Billotte, and multimedia tech team, Dawn of Man, who will be projection mapping site-specific images on Knoxville architecture throughout the weekend. Cohen says, “The combination of moving images with music is too often taken for granted or left unexamined. Gravity Hill Sound+Image will explore how the union of music and film can avoid elevating one at the expense of the other.” Cohen’s indoor show will be an intimate experience that encourages close, contemplative looking and deep listening. The outdoor project will be an adventure in dissolving usual conceptions of cinema and concert with musicians responding both to unusually displayed images and to the overall Knoxville environment. In addition to the multimedia performances, Big Ears will also include several of Cohen’s films in its feature program at the Regal Riviera Stadium 8 Theater including World Without End (No Reported Incidents), which premiers at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, and Instrument, which chronicles 11 years of Fugazi from its early days to the peak of its success in the mid 1990s.
One of America’s most critically acclaimed and prolific experimental filmmakers, Kevin Jerome Everson will return to Knoxville to present a program of short films and install a new, multi-screen work in UT’s Downtown Gallery. Everson’s films challenge traditional notions of documentary form and are concerned, primarily, with the everyday experiences of African American life. The Surface Below: Short Films by Kevin Jerome Everson is a sample of his work curated specifically for Big Ears that includes eight films, beginning with Ring (2008) and ending with the award winning Ears, Nose and Throat (2016). Everson is a Professor of Art at the University of Virginia and a recipient of the Alpert Award in Film/Video as well as numerous grants, commissions and fellowships. His work has screened at major American and international film festivals and been exhibited at museums, galleries and art biennials, including, most recently, selection in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. A retrospective at the Tate Modern, London is planned for fall 2017.
Named one of the top avant-garde filmmakers on Film Comment’s “Best of the Decade” list, Janie Geiser will join Big Ears for a program of recent short films, Double Vision. Geiser’s work includes multiple disciplines, such as film, installation, visual art, sound, and performance, often working and reworking bits of discarded materials. Janie is on the faculty at CalArts, and her work has been recognized with a Doris Duke Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an OBIE Award. Her films have screened at the Whitney, the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Centre Pompidou, Pacific Film Archives, and at major film festivals in New York, Rotterdam, London, Oberhausen, and Hong Kong.
Roger Beebe will perform Films for One to Eight Projectors, an immersive audio/visual experience that Creative Loafing called “both erudite and punk, lo-fi yet high-brow shorts that wrestle with a disfigured, contemporary American landscape.” Roger has screened his films around the globe at such unlikely venues as the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square and McMurdo Station in Antarctica as well as more likely ones including Sundance and the Museum of Modern Art with solo shows at Anthology Film Archives, The Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City, and Los Angeles Filmforum among many other venues. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Art at the Ohio State University.
The Big Ears Festival continues to blur the lines between film and music with multiple live score performances set to take place over the festival weekend. Gavin Bryars’ Ensemble will perform the classic experimental piece Sinking of the Titanic with turntablist Philip Jeck and projection design by Big Ears alumnus Bill Morrison. In addition, Xiu Xiu will perform the music of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which Pitchfork described as “one of their most beautiful and listenable albums.” Rounding out the live score performances during Big Ears will be Dave Harrington Group performing a live, improvised score to the Coen Brothers’ on-screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men.
The Big Ears film program will also present important cinema from the past. Events will include a celebration of the recently-published Complete Film Criticism of James Agee with critic and Agee scholar Charles Maland introducing the North American premiere of the new restoration of Georges Rouquier’s groundbreaking Farrebique (1946). Agee raved about Farrebique, calling it “the finest and strongest record of actual people that I have seen.” The Tennessee Theatre will host a rare 35mm screening of Meredith Monk’s 1988 experimental feature film Book of Days, which Monk describes as “a film for the ears.”