NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS WORLD PREMIERE OF THE KEEPERS
Saturday, April 18 - 4:15PM * Monday, April 20 -12:15PM
Documentary Offers Unprecedented Behind-the-Scenes Access to a World-Class Zoo Exploring the Fascinating Lives of Zookeepers and the Relationships to the Animals in their Care
NaFF Films Directed by Women
Memphis-based Filmmakers Sara Kaye Larson & Joann Self Selvidge
Nashville, TN - The Nashville Film Festival (NaFF), presented by Nissan, announces the World Premiere of The Keepers, a documentary portrait of the work and personalities of zookeepers shot with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access at the Memphis Zoo. Produced and directed by Sara Kaye Larson and Joann Self Selvidge (True Story Pictures production), the film is an indie-filmmakers take on the unique career of zoo keeping. From the penguin keeper who sings her own hymns to the exotic birds in her care to the Dungeons and Dragons-playing big cat keeper, they all tell the rare story of finding a perfect place to work. The first screening will be Saturday, April 18, at 4:15pm, with a second screening on Monday, April 20 at 12:15pm (part of NaFF’s Free Film Day). Tickets available online and at the box office. Nashville Film Festival week at the movies runs April 16–25 at Regal Green Hills Cinema. Zookeepers from the film and from the Nashville Zoo will attend.
The Keepers is a bittersweet non-judgmental portrait of work, exploring the personalities of zookeepers who show what it means to be dedicated to a job because they love it. The documentary takes the moviegoer on the other side of the zoo: into the lives, hearts, and minds of the people that provide the zoo experience: the keepers!
When the filmmakers were asked how they were able to secure access to shoot this film, Director Joann Self Selvidge explained, “It’s nearly impossible as an independent film crew to get this kind of access, because zoos are highly sensitive to the public’s perspective of what they do. When we said we wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the people who work closest to the animals, the Memphis Zoo’s CEO got it, because he used to be a zookeeper himself. They appreciated our perspective, and basically waived their traditional media policies so we could make the film this way.”
“As a filmmaker, I’m interested in the personalities of people that do work behind the scenes,” remarked Director Sara Kaye Larson. “In this documentary, the zookeepers are put on center stage, showing us what it is like to work a job nearly all of us wanted to do at one point, one where giraffes and tigers are your coworkers. It isn’t like your typical animal film.” Larson’s Maps and Weather Productions teamed up with True Story Pictures to create this film that follows several keepers at various stages in their zoo-keeping career and explores their work and the strong bond they have with the animals. Founded in 2010, the Memphis-based True Story Pictures produces documentary stories that educate, inspire, and connect communities. Selvidge comments, “The Keepers continues my production company’s mission to promote the power of personal stories. The diverse staff of zookeepers with their unique experiences were overflowing with great stories and this documentary is just a start to an ongoing conversation.”
The Keepers is one of the highlighted NaFF films directed or co-directed by women, making up 75 percent of documentary films in competition and 45 percent of feature films in competition. “I think it speaks to the fact that women are really making strides in the film industry,” said Brian Owens, NaFF artistic director. “We didn’t do anything special in terms of announcing the festival to women. They’re just making quality films.”
For the second screening of The Keepers on April 20 at 12:15PM, Nashville Film Festival and Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) will present a day of free films for the Nashville community. For one day only, Bridgestone has purchased every film ticket at the festival and is making all of them available to the public at no charge. All tickets must be reserved at www.nashvillefilmfestival.org or at the festival box office while supplies last. “NaFF will present 26 film screenings that day, everything from comedy, drama, and documentaries, to inspirational films,” said Ted Crockett, executive director of the Nashville Film Festival.
Sara Kaye Larson is a writer and filmmaker. Her work focuses on domestic travel, the American experience, and old fashioned storytelling exploring the curious corners and marginalized populations of the United States. Sara's autobiographical documentary about being a young adult cancer survivor, Going Nodal: The Hodge Experience, won first place in the documentary category at the Next Frame Film Festival and was part of the Kodak Emerging Filmmakers Program at the Cannes International Film Festival. She is currently working on a documentary about the mysterious and intense world of high school Mock Trial, partially filmed in Nashville.
Joann Self Selvidge founded True Story Pictures in 2004 - and again in 2010 - first as a nonprofit, and later as a social venture company. She has a passion for stories and storytelling that shares stories of music and art, race relations and leadership, education, inspiration, and social justice. Her films, include The WLOK Story (2002), The Arts Interviews (2005-2008), Leveling the Playing Field (2008), Voices of Jericho (2007, 2010), The Music Interviews (2009), The Art Academy (2012), and The Keepers (2015). She is currently working on a feature length film that explores the reality of juvenile justice in America from the perspective of the mothers and sons who are caught in its maelstrom.
Film Score Composer Tim Regan will also be in attendance at the festival. The original music in the film was recorded in Austin, Texas. The film’s sound design and mix was done by six-time GRAMMY-nominated producer Kevin Houston at the Music + Arts Studio in Memphis.
Nashville Film Festival (NaFF), April 16–25, 2015, presented by Nissan North America, brings the world to Nashville in a 10-day celebration of film. NaFF celebrates the diversity of the human vision by curating diverse program segments. Founded in 1969 by Mary Jane Coleman, it is one of the oldest film festivals in the U.S. NaFF is an Academy Award Qualifying Event.