Nashville Film Festival 2014: Happy Valley and More Opening Night

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Today is the opening day of the Nashville Film Festival and I couldn't be more psyched. I've been anticipating the fest for weeks, counting down the days while my inbox has been filling up with email reveals of all the films that will be showing in each category — along with all the events, appearances, workshops and parties that will span the next 10 days.

The fest won't get started until this evening and tonight's schedule of shorts, documentaries and narrative feature films feels a bit like the calm before the storm. That said, two programs of short films by Tennessee filmmakers have already all but sold out and so has the world premiere of The Identical, which was shot in Dickson and tells the story of twin brothers who are separated at birth but remain connected through their mutual talent for music. The twins are both played by newcomer Blake Rayne, and Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd play the adoptive parents of one.

My top priorities are Chasing Ghosts and Happy Valley. Ghosts was shot here in Nashville by local director Josh Shreve. It tells the story of Lucas, a young boy who captures a ghost on a video camera after the death of his older brother. The video becomes a YouTube hit and Lucas's grief is interrupted by his new-found fame. SNL veteran Tim Meadows plays a local author who befriends the boy and helps him to make sense of it all. There are still tickets available for the 9:15 P.M. screening tonight.

Happy Valley is a documentary about the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University helmed by the able Amir Bar-Lev, whose The Tillman Story showed him to be the kind of director who can turn national news into compelling, revelatory storytelling. Happy Valley screens tonight at 7:30 P.M.

I remember when the fest was just a pint-sized party that all took place at Sarratt Cinema at Vanderbilt, but this year's fest will be happening all over town. Downtown at Walk of Fame Park, there's a pop-up pub, live music and free film screenings throughout the festival. Tomorrow is Women in Film and Television - Nashville Day at the park, which will include Lunafest Films by Women at 3 p.m. and Thelma and Louise showing at 8 p.m. (For the latter, Nashville creator Callie Khouri, whose roots here run deep, won the Oscar for her original script.) Bring your own chair or blanket and download the full schedule of events here.

Check in on Country Life daily as we'll be bringing you reviews, previews, tips and insider information throughout the festival. See you there!

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