By Leslie C. Halpern
The 26th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held from April 21st through the 30th throughout Central Florida, offers more than 180 feature-length and short films from 40 different countries, in addition to special events, film forums, parties, and celebrity guests including Billy Crudup, Lea Thompson, David Zucker, and Robert Hays.
This year’s festival includes 19 features and 65 short films competing in narrative features and documentary programs for the American Independent Competition. The programming includes special screenings of food films, international films, midnight movies, family programming, spotlight films, retro films, and Florida films. In keeping with its annual tradition, this year’s Festival also offers a music sidebar, in which two fascinating full-length music documentaries and one short film provide looks at lesser-known people, places, and musical traditions.
Honky Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke
This fun documentary focuses on an Austin, Texas, honky tonk celebrating its 50th anniversary. Broken Spoke, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team James and Annetta White, welcomes the biggest names in country music to perform on its modest stage for enthusiastic locals and tourists from all over the world. Performers are quick to point out that Broken Spoke is not a classy dance hall where patrons get dressed up, nor a concert hall where people come merely to listen. This is a honky tonk where musicians play music so people can dance for hours on end. Known for its authentic Texas ambience, long-standing tradition of exclusively hiring country music bands, and serving its famous chicken fried steak (using Annetta’s family recipe), this well-known establishment remains unchanged amid the rapidly developing neighborhood around it. This satisfying film examines the music, food, family, culture, and history behind Broken Spoke.
- Director: Sam Wainwright Douglas and Brenda Mitchell
- Stars: The White family and dozens of country music stars including Willie Nelson and Dale Watson
- Run time: 75 minutes
- Screenings: Tuesday, April 25, 4:30 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village); Saturday, April 29, 2:30 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village)
- Rating: 3.5 / 5
In its World Premiere, this short film looks at the aesthetics of vinyl records and why for some music lovers, CDs and digital downloads just won’t do. Three Florida record store owners offer their opinions on the subject.
- Director: Shasta Ford
- Run time: 10 minutes
- Rating: 3 / 5
- Additional Information: Screens with Honky Tonk Heaven
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
This ambitious documentary traces Native American influence on rock and roll, blues, and folk music. Spanning decades in time and locations around the country (including some scenes in Toronto, Canada) and filled with interesting historical information, the film provides profiles of nearly a dozen musicians of Native American descent. Beginning with Link Wray, whose notorious 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble” was banned from radio because of its perceived ability to incite violence, the doc uses live interviews specifically for the film (Stevie Salas, Robbie Robertson, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Slash, Steven Tyler, Buffy Saint Marie, Taj Mahal, Martin Scorsese, etc.), in addition to archival interviews and concert footage. The filmmakers provide a broad picture of the evolving music scene and how it relates to Indian history and culture. The film never promises to be all-inclusive and it’s not. Some indigenous musicians are excluded and certain aspects of Indian culture are minimized or ignored. However, the exhaustive amount of research and obvious dedication to bring little-known information to the general public, make this an important film for all music lovers.
- Director: Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana
- Run time: 103 minutes
- Screenings: Monday, April 24, 9:00 pm. (Regal Winter Park Village); Saturday, April 29, 6:30 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village)
- Rating: 4 / 5
Visit the Florida Film Festival website for full movie listings and ticket information.