In its 12th year, the Macon Film Festival functioned like a well-oiled machine. From the slick events program to the detailed map and shuttle schedule, this was a proficiently produced film festival of which the organizers and the board of directors can be proud. The absence of a mainstream actor may have had some effect on attendance, but the downtown crowds were enthusiastic and the screening venues saw respectable attendance.
The special screening of the film “Stardancer’s Waltz,” directed by Diana Reichenbach, which was adapted to the selection by the same name from Mike Mills’ album, “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra,” featuring violinist Robert McDuffie, was a gala festival opening for July 20 in the planetarium of the Museum of Arts and Sciences. Mills and McDuffie grew up together in Macon, but followed divergent paths to musical success, the former with the rock band R.E.M., and the latter as a violinist known throughout the country and in Europe for his virtuosity.
Reichenbach, professor of animation at Savannah College of Art and Design, has more recently been interested in developing film projects for dome production. After the concert Thursday night, she answered questions from the curious attendees on just how you orchestrate and handle the logistics of filming “in the round.” The effect of seeing a planetarium show that tells a story with music rather than reproducing the natural movement of our celestial neighbors was spellbinding, received so well it required two screenings that evening.
The narrative and documentary short films addressed social issues and personal situations, offering insights, with pathos and humor, into timely topics which appealed to a wide audience. The key apprising viewers of subject matter which would not be appropriate for children made it possible for parents to include children that would enjoy portions of the film festival. The minutiae of planning a film festival can be daunting — the organizers and facilitators left no stone unturned in taking care of the details.
A crowd favorite was “Lucky,” screened at the Douglass Theatre on July 22, which chronicles a year in the life of Harry Dean Stanton, a nonagenarian who plays himself with the crustiness of a man who does not take himself seriously and scoffs at those who unnecessarily create problems for themselves — they annoy him and he does not mince words in saying so or waste his time on them. Although his life in the desert is ordinary, he still engages with friends and is curious enough to want to know more about people he does not know well. How he handles his solitary existence with no family and few contemporaries left is refreshing, funny and poignant, in scenes when his naivety or inexperience is exposed.
On July 23, also at the Douglass Theatre, was the screening of “Please Call Home,” a condensed history of the few years the Allman Brothers, with family and friends, lived at the Big House, a house they rented on Vineville Avenue big enough to serve as home for anyone the brothers found added another dimension to their creative lives. Directed by longtime road manager for the band, Kirk West, and produced by Elliot and Beth Dunwody, owners of Blue Sky Productions, the story is based on Beth Dunwody’s interviews with surviving members of the band and their families and with other principals involved in the band’s history.
The question and answer session after this special screening gave the audience an opportunity to ask more questions of West and some of his friends who were part of the original ABB mystique: Paul Hornsby, who moved to Macon to work for Phil Walden, also worked with the band, and owns Muscadine Recording Studio in Macon; Willie Perkins, who left a job his father considered commendable for a recent college graduate, that of a bank auditor, to go on the road with the ABB as a manager; and Chank Middleton, a lifelong close friend of Gregg Allman. The repartee between the audience and the guys on stage was lively and enlightening, ending the festival on a happy and hopeful note for next year.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.