top of page
  • Writer's pictureMary Ann


MARCH 26-29, KNOXVILLE, TN FEATURING STANDARD DEFINITION, a program of artist cinema from the early digital-video era Visiting artists JESSICA SARAH RINLAND and LILY KEBER STEREO VISIONS, a selection of 3D films A celebration of the collaboration between TINDERSTICKS and Claire Denis ALONGSIDE LIVE FILM SCORE PERFORMANCES

A THOUSAND THOUGHTS by Kronos Quartetand Sam Green Sound for Andy Warhol's KISS by Kim Gordon, Bill Nace, Steve Gunn, John Truscinski ELECTRIC APPALACHIA by William Tyler and Mary Lattimore THE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE WORKING by Phill Niblock FILM PASSES ON SALE NOW

Named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazinein 2018, Big Ears Festival returns this year with an eclectic and exceptionalprogram of more than 60 films. Curated in collaboration with The Public Cinema, a Knoxville-based group dedicated to sharing vital works of contemporary American and international film, the program will be screened at the downtown Regal Riviera Stadium 8 Theater and the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery, with several cinema-related live events presented during the festival weekend. All film events will be open to Big Ears pass-holders, and a “film program only” ticketing option is on sale now at

Big Ears Festival 2020 film programming details: Standard Definitionis a curated program of nearly 20 films that demonstrate the astonishing breadth of work made during cinema’s short-lived “standard definition” era. The introduction of early consumer-grade digital cameras in the mid-1990s marked a key moment in cinema’s transition from celluloid film to digital. The small and relatively inexpensive technology allowed for greater access to the tools of filmmaking and gave established filmmakers and artists an opportunity to discover new images and new methods of production. Focusing primarily on non-commercial art, Standard Definition includes major auteurs who added digital video to their existing practice, including Agnes Varda (The Gleaners and I), Chantal Akerman (Down There), Abbas Kiarostami (Five), and Hal Hartley (a program of shorts), alongside rare theatrical screenings of SD pieces by major moving-image artists Michael Snow (Corpus Callosum), Apitchatpong Weerasethakul (Worldy Desires and Windows), Kevin Jerome Everson (Company Line andSpicebush), and James Fotopoulos (Christabel). Big Ears is especially excited to present the U.S. theatrical premieres of important films by Dominik Graf(Friends of Friends) and Franco Piavoli (Affettuosa presenzaand Paesaggi e figure). As a special, non-SD treat, Corpus Callosumwill be preceded by Snow’s latest short, Cityscape, which has screened only a handful of times. Argentine-British artist Jessica Sarah Rinland will present a nearly comprehensive showcase of her work, including an installation at the UT Downtown Gallery and three theatrical screenings. Her prize-winning, playful, and fiercely intelligent films sit between documentary and fable, and have screened at prestigious festivals in New York, Locarno, Toronto, Vienna, London, Rotterdam, and Oberhausen. Rinland’s installation, The Society at Black Pond, consists of three film works and explores the activity within a common land in the south of England that was previously occupied by The Diggers, a collective of 17th century agrarian socialists. Her recent feature debut, Those That, At a Distance, Resemble Another, continues her exploration of the socio-cultural meanings of museums and preservation by participating in the process of creating a museum-quality replica. Along with screening nine of her own short films, Rinland will also present a selection of educational films by WWII-era British documentarian, Mary Field. In 2018, Big Ears and The Public Cinema presented Stereo Visions, a wide-ranging survey of nearly 30 3D films that employed a variety of 3D technologies and required five different kinds of 3D glasses. Stereo Visions returns in 2020 with a smaller selection of films that represent the “golden era” of 3D, along with contemporary work, both commercial and experimental. Recently restored and being screened in 3D this spring for the first time in more than 60 years, El Corazon y la Espada (Edward Dein and Carlos Vejar hijo) stars Cesar Romero and was the first 3D production in Mexico. The first 3D musical, Lewis M. Foster’s Those Redheads from Seattle, is a silly, decadent, Technicolor confection. In Cunningham Alla Kovgan sculpts a rapturous tribute to dance icon Merce Cunningham’s mammoth body of work, immersing the audience in present-day displays of longtime CunninghamCompany dancers in motion. Stereo Visions again showcases more formally challenging 3D work with Blankets for Indians, Ken Jacobs’s feature-length manifesto on the revolutionary potential of abstract art, and a program of experimental short films, including work by Lillian F. SchwartzNazli DincelScott StarkSebastian BuerknerMalcolm Le GriceJohann Lurff, and Blake Williams.

As part of the festival’s larger exploration of the music and culture of the Cuba-Haiti-NOLA triangle, Big Ears welcomes filmmaker Lily Keber, who will present two films and discuss and show clips from her latest work-in-progress, a documentary exploringSanteria and Palo devotional ceremonies in Cuba. Winner of two awards at the 2018 New Orleans Film Festival, Buckjumping takes the pulse of present day New Orleans by turning to its dancers, the men and women who embody the distinct rhythms of their communities. The Hollywood Reporter’s “#1 Must See Music Movie at SXSW 2013,” Bayou Maharajah explores the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker, the man Dr. John described as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” As a tie-in with the Standard Definition program, we will also revisit Bill and Turner Ross’ 2012 breakout feature, Tchoupitoulas, about three boys who, upon missing their boat ride home, embark on a sleepless odyssey through New Orleans’s buzzing nightlife. The Ross brothers use DV’s unique light textures to paint the Big Easy as a brilliant, neon streaked funhouse, where ferryboats become ghost ships and strip joints dissolve into satin-draped palaces.

For nearly 25 years, acclaimed French filmmaker Claire Denishas worked closely with Stuart Staplesand Tindersticks, who have scored nine of her feature films. As part of the music programming Big Ears is presenting Tindersticks’ first U.S. performance in nearly a decade, in addition to that live show, film programming will offerfour of the band’s most recent collaborations with Denis: BastardsLet the Sunshine InHigh Life, and a rare theatrical screening of The Waiting Room, a “visual album” of Tindersticks’ 2016 release, which includes a short film by Denis. The film program also includes Toward Mathilde, Denis’s documentary portrait of Mathilde Monnier, director of the Centre Choregraphique National de Montpelier. Toward Mathilde ties together several threads running through the film program, connecting Alla Kovgan’s Cunninghamto Lily Keber’s Backjumpingto Hal Hartley’s choreographed standard definition experiments. Shot on Super 8 and 16mm and projected digitally, Toward Mathildeoffers a variation on the low-budget, early-2000s theme. While not scored by Tindersticks, the film demonstrates Denis’s Big Ears-friendly musical taste, with cues by PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth. Big Ears continues to explore the intersectionbetween music and film with multiple music / filmpresentationsset to take place over the festival weekend. A Thousand Thoughts, a project of Kronos Quartetand filmmaker Sam Green, is a “live documentary” — Green joins Kronos onstage, he narrates while they perform the soundtrack. The project, an official selection of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, chronologically unfolds the Kronos’ groundbreaking, continent-spanning, multi-decade career. Kim Gordon’s Sound for Andy Warhol’s Kiss, is a live performance / film project commissioned by The Andy Warhol Museum. Gordon and her band — collaborators Bill NaceSteve Gunn, and John Truscinski— play a continual soundtrack for Warhol’s infamous hour-long 1963 film Kiss, that captures close-ups of fourteen couples kissing for three-and-a-half minutes each. Electric Appalachia is a world-premiere collaboration of harpist Mary Lattimore, guitarist William Tyler and film archivist Eric Dawson of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS). The project, a film and music meditation on electricity and modernity in East Tennessee, draws footage stretching from the New Deal to the World’s Fair. Avant-garde composer and filmmaker Phill Niblock will screen segments from The Movement of People Working, a long series of films made between 1973 and 1985 in rural areas in countries around the world. Niblock will provide the score for these films, which will be interspersed with live video from filmmaker Katherine Liberovskaya. Further Details: The Big Ears Festival  The mission of the Big Ears Festival, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is to bring artists and audiences together to create and share transformative experiences. Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American, Big Ears Festival has established itself as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings in the world, bringing together a virtual who’s who of established and acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators and influencers with younger artists who are synthesizing their own experiences into fresh, new creative work. Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville — and taking place in its world-class historic theaters, excellent clubs, and unique alternative performance spaces — all within easy walking distance of one another and intermingled with superb restaurants, bars, and shops — Big Ears offers an unparalleled experience for adventurous artists and audiences alike. While primarily focused on music, Big Ears is also developing a strong independent/experimental film component while also presenting installations, exhibitions and interactive experiences. “Contained within a walkable radius of historic downtown Knoxville — in a range of ornate landmark theaters, refurbished industrial spaces, art galleries, churches, and clubs — it creates its own atmospheric climate, along with a center of gravity,” describes NPR Music. “From its first iteration in 2009, the festival has been a locus of expedition, defined more by a go-anywhere ethos than by any style or genre allegiance.”

Big Ears Festival 2020 Lineup

75 Dollar Bill A Winged Victory for the Sullen Andrew Cyrille Annette Peacock Anssi Kartunnen Anja Lechner Anthony Braxton Areni Agbabian Arooj Aftab’s Vulture Prince Ensemble  Astrid Sonne Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses Bang on a Can All-Stars Bell Orchestre Ben Lamar Gay Quartet Caroline Shaw Caterina Barbieri Che Apalache Christian Scott Claudia Quintet Damo Suzuki Network with Ceramic Dog Dan Weiss Starebaby Daniel Pioro & Valgeir Sigurðsson Devendra Banhart Dos Santos Efterklang Electric Appalachia (William Tyler & Mary Lattimore) Ensemble Dal Niente + Ken Vandermark  Fred Lane & his Disheveled Monkeybiters Fennesz Gunn Trucsinki Duo Gyan Riley Gyda Valtysdottir The Haden Triplets Harriet Tubman Jacob Kirkegaard Jaimie Branch's Fly or Die Jason Moran Jeff Parker & the New Breed Joe Henry's 115th Dream Josephine Foster Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society Kim Myhr Kronos Quartet Marc Ribot Maurice Louca Mdou Moctar Meredith Monk Molly Tuttle Moonlight Benjamin mssv (Mike Baggetta, Stephen Hodges, Mike Watt) Múm Myra Melford's Snowy Egret MZM (Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins, Myra Melford) Nadah El Shazly Natalie Joachim The Necks Nivhek nief-norf Patti Smith Paul Lazar's Cage Shuffle Pedrito Martinez Peter Brötzmann Phill Niblock Sam Gendel Concert Group Sarah Davachi Saul Williams Shabaka and the Ancestors Sō Percussion Sons of Chipotle (John Paul Jones & Anssi Karttunen) Sound for Andy Warhol's KISS (Kim Gordon, Bill Nace, Steve Gunn, John Truscinski) Spektral Quartet Steve Coleman & Five Elements Sudan Archives Sxip Shirey Tamino Terry Riley Theo Bleckmann & Joe Branciforte Theremin Noir Thundercat Tindersticks Xylouris White Zeena Parkins

The Public Cinema Co-founded by Darren Hughes and Paul Harrill, The Public Cinema exists to share vital works of contemporary international and American cinema, works that might otherwise be unseen or overlooked by Knoxville audiences. In 2018 Toronto-based filmmaker and critic Blake Williams joined The Public Cinema’s programming team for Big Ears. Often playing host to Tennessee, regional, and even North American premieres, The Public Cinema aims to create a space for cinema as an art form and to promote discussion among discerning moviegoers. Found on the web at, on Facebook, and on Twitter. The 2020 Big Ears Festivalis made possible by the generous support of The Aslan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Visit Knoxville, Tennessee Department of Tourism, Pilot Flying J, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee Arts Commission, and additional devoted sponsors, foundations, and individual donors. Big Ears film programmingis made possible by support from Regal Entertainment Group and the University of Tennessee School of Art.


bottom of page