Tupelo Film Fest Has Early Start

14 May

By Melanie Addington

Hey Scenesters! Sitting in an old theater you watch Japanese television and Elvis, the early years. Where else can you be but in Tupelo? Pat Rasberry, the director of the fest, warmly greeted people as they streamed into the theater. As the rain began to pour down, we felt warm and safe. The ambiance was relaxed and I felt like a little kid with my bag of popcorn and soda.

The Tupelo Film Festival had a special showing of three festival judge’s films tonight. Due to one of the judge’s (Harris Saloman) not arriving until tomorrow, we saw only a preview of his new show, Jerzeyland. He is also presently Executive USA Producer for Office Kei Japanese Television in New York – one of the largest producers of programming for Japan in America. Because of that (and probably a little bit because Toyota coming our way) the fest opened with three clips from Japanese television with a translator explaining the scenes. It was an odd and yet delightful way to kick off a fest.

Afterwards, Elvin Whitesides introduced his documentary Jacob Lawrence: An Intimate Portrait about the great African American artist that died in 2000. Art historians claim his work as dynamic cubism from his sharp angles and beautiful sense of color, but most of his influence was from his early years in Harlem. In the 70’s he and his wife, Gwendolyn Knight, also an artist, moved to Seattle where he continued his work along with teaching. The film reflected his experiences as a teacher with an interview from one of his former students.

After the film I had the opportunity to talk with Whitesides about his upcoming work about Latino art in Los Angeles. We discussed living in California and then about his experience growing up in Tupelo. He had previously told the audience that he grew up in The Lyric with his dad running the show and his grandmother selling tickets. He made his first film out of scraps from the projection room. “Unfortunately that film no longer exists, mostly because it made no sense,” said Whitesides.

After his experience of growing up in a theater, Whitesides has gone on to be a writer/director/producer and actor. He has had roles on Frasier, Glengarry Glen Ross and Ghost World. According to the Tupelo Film fest website, currently, he is in production on Phantom Sightings, an art documentary spotlighting Cheech Marin. Elvin has previously won numerous awards for documentary filmmaking, three of them now in national distribution – Color and Fire and Galanos on Galanos represented by Films for the Humanities, and Jacob Lawrence represented by Homevision.

After a short break, producer Mimi Freeman’s documentary, Elvis: The Early Years played. I skipped out early to rest up before the next three days of constant movie watching. After my experience tonight, I am looking forward to tomorrow starting with Melungeon Voices at 11 a.m.

Oh and a heads up! Due to rain, tomorrow’s outdoor screening of Genghis Blues at 8 p.m., has been changed to The Lyric.

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