Day 6 – The 23rd Sedona International Film Festival: Everything in the Song is True

For Day 6 at the 23rd Sedona International Film Festival, part of Thursday’s schedule definitely belongs to the kids. Beginning at 9am this morning, the youthful new adventure Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket will screen at Sedona Performing Arts Center in front of a specially invited audience.

Fifteen-year old Annabelle Hoooper (Bailee Madinson) is the greatest mystery writer you’ve never heard of. With a little help from an unlikely group of friends, Annabelle uncovers a haunting Nantucket mystery involving eccentric psychics, a shadowy figure dressed in white, a couple of gentlemanly thieves, and a mysterious young boy named Billy. It could well be the inspiration Annabelle needs for her future best selling novel.

Specializing in family entertainment, director/producer and co-writer, Paul Serafini is a Daytime Emmy Award winner and has worked with Nickelodeon, Disney and PBS, among many others. If there’s anyone qualified to know what’s needed when it comes to entertainment aimed at a younger set, it’s Paul Serafini. Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket will have a second, public screening this Saturday morning, 9:00am at Harkins Sedona 6 – Theatre 1.

Keeping with the theme of kids, this evening’s shorts program is called Shorts Program 2: Kids and Animation. Just as the title suggests, part two of this year’s festival shorts schedule consists of 8 films that are either animated or feature kids in the lead role. This 100 minute program will screen films ranging from 10 minutes in length, to 20 minutes and can be seen tonight at Harkins Sedona 6 – Theatre 1, with a second full screening this Saturday at Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 12:00 pm.

This morning’s 9:00am Filmmaker Conversations at Mary D. Fisher Theatre tackles the subject of Women Make Movies. What challenges do women filmmakers face in a male-dominated movie industry? With a discussion led by the women whose films are featured in this week’s festival lineup, join the conversation and get some inside secrets on what should be a highly informative and entertaining workshop.

Today’s movie highlight is a hugely entertaining documentary revolving around an American lifestyle that many of us rarely notice, yet there it is, hiding in plain sight; Everything in the Song is True, screening this afternoon at Mary D. Fisher Theatre at 3:00pm.

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There’s a calming, leisurely rhythm throughout the new documentary feature, Everything in the Song is True, that is reassuring, even inviting, and it nicely captures the feel and the western lifestyle of the characters depicted in the film.

Director Douglas Morrione spent two years working on the filmmaking of this unique documentary, traveling alongside four colorful characters who, each in their own, highly individual way, represent what it is to be a part of the modern American western culture. For many, even for those of us who live here in the great south west, it’s a culture often unseen, and yet, there it is, all around us, and director Morrione, with sights, songs and sounds, brings that culture alive.

The first character we meet is Gary McMahan, a western singer/songwriter, comically described in the film’s titles as a cowboy poet and a general nuisance. “Your songs are like your kids, you know,” he explains to an audience. “They stay at home and never do nothing.

With his cowboy hat and his white, droopy, Wilfred Brimley style mustache, Gary is also a champion yodeler and gives a brief lesson on how to yodel, the champion way. “You can’t have a weak falsetto,” Gary insists. “You need a real falsetto, like Mickey Mouse.” He then demonstrates exactly what he means.

Then there’s Jeff Nourse, a rancher, champion bull breeder and singer/songwriter. Alongside singing around the campfire, Jeff’s old-fashioned, western way of the cowboy life is one he clearly loves. “I feel really blessed to be a part of this lifestyle,” he insists as we witness his branding of cattle, the old way, on horseback. “You don’t make a lot of money,” he insists, “but it’s a great way of life.”

Next is Yvonne Hollenbeck, an award-winning poet, originally from South Dakota where as a teenager she used to play organ at rodeos. During a National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada we’re treated to one of Yvonne’s homespun poems, one that she wrote late at night after watching Martha Stewart on TV and feeling somewhat bemused by the celebrity’s fame, fortune and technique. In a poem titled What Would Martha Do? Yvonne, standing in front of a highly appreciative Nevada audience, recites: “She licks the batter off her fingers right there on TV/And why she’s getting paid for it sure beats the likes of me.”

Yvonne is also a quilt-maker, admitting that she has as an arsenal of fabric down in the basement. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” she insists. If the film has one issue it’s that we don’t get to spend as much time with Yvonne as we might like, but at least the time we do get to share with her is, just like her quilts, one of quality.

And finally there’s trick-roper and animal trainer, a hugely likable Brice Chapman, whose work shoeing horses often takes its toll on his hands and finger nails. “In the winter, I use a lot of white tape and superglue,” he explains as he shows his damaged fingernails to the camera. The film’s most poignant moment belongs to Brice when he talks of a horse he recently lost. Brice, who clearly loves the animals with whom he works, tears and can hardly get through the story. As fellow cowboy, Jeff Nourse sadly remarks, “It’s part of the deal. It’s gonna happen.

But it’s that all-round general nuisance, Gary McMahan who deservedly receives most of the screen time, relating stories and funny anecdotes of his life and his overall observations of what it means to live the lifestyle that defines the American West in modern times. His is also the film’s last word as he reflects realistically on aging and fading away. “We want to leave the West in at least a good-a-shape as we found it,” he states.

With a running time of eighty-three minutes and illustrated with early, black and white photographs, historic audio recordings, shots of both small town main streets and wide open country vistas, plus a huge helping of some warm, country humor, Everything in the Song is True truly captures a way of life that is uniquely American. More importantly, it’s also a work of art.

Everything in the Song is True can be seen today, Thursday February 23, 3pm at Mary D. Fisher Theatre, with a second screening on Saturday, February 25, 6pm at Harkins Sedona 6 – Theatre 1

Posted in 2017 Sedona International Film Festival Reports

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