Compelling documentaries highlights latest slate at Nashville Film Festival

“The Reunited States” explores the growing political and racial divide in the United States.

The 51st Nashville Film Festival wrapped up Wednesday, capping a week in which the annual event switched to a virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new format didn’t hamper the quantity – more than 200 films were available for viewing this year – or quality.

A few of the films really stood out – highlighted by a couple of compelling documentaries “The Reunited States” and “Wildflower.”

In “The Reunited States,” director Ben Rekhi explores the growing political and racial divide in the United States by following four specific stories of people looking to provide a bridge to that divide. They include Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer (the woman killed during the Charlottesville, Va., protest); Greg Orman, a Kansas independent who has recently run for governor and the U.S. Senate; Steven Olikara, founder of a bipartisan coalition of young elected officials; and David and Erin Leaverton, a former Republican and his wife who traveled to all 50 states in an RV with their family to get a better understanding of the country’s divide.

All four stories are compelling, showing how much both sides have displayed an unwillingness to reach across the aisle. Bro and the Leavertons’ stories resonate the most, providing a humanization that at times has been missing in today’s political environment. These stories should be seen by all Americans as we embark on the November elections.

“Wildflower” tells the story of a teenage girl named Christina, whose mother was born mentally handicapped and father suffered a severe brain injury in a motorcycle accident in his 20s. This led to a unique upbringing for Christina, who had to choose between going to college and staying home to care for her parents. This is a touching and inspirational film about family bonds.

Some more highlights of the film festival included “Electric Jesus” and “The Outside Story.”

“Electric Jesus” is a wonderful coming-of-age story about a group of teens who form a Christian rock band and go on tour during the summer of 1986.

The nostalgia factor is fun, giving off a “Sing Street” or “Almost Famous”-type vibe, with writer/director Chris White showing great care for his characters and making them more than just punchlines.

“The Outside Story” gets by on the charm of its lead actor, Brian Tyree Henry, who plays an introverted film editor who gets locked out of his apartment and is forced to interact with the neighbors he has chosen to ignore.

It’s really fun to see Henry in a light leading man role. The story may feel more like an extended short than a feature film, but Henry is so likable it’s easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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