World Premiere of "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet" One of Early Highlights of 40th Nashville Film Festival

The 40th Anniversary to include notable World and US Premieres, retrospective screenings and a tribute to cult classic "Easy Rider"

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – February 11, 2009 -- Star Trek icon and Boston Legal star William Shatner will join composer Ben Folds at the world premiere of WILLIAM SHATNER'S GONZO BALLET, a film chronicling the quest to create a new ballet based upon Shatner's critically acclaimed album, Has Been, when the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) takes place April 16-23, 2009 at Regal Green Hills Cinema.

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, the Festival will include several world premieres, among them FLYING BY by director Jim Amatulli, starring Billy Ray Cyrus, Heather Locklear, Olesya Rulin (High School Musical) and 2008 NaFF Lifetime Achievement recipient Patricia Neal, and the documentary THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LENS by Reed Cowan (USA). Joining a multitude of US and Southeastern US premieres will be a special screening of a restored print of the classic film EASY RIDER, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, which also celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Festivalgoers will also be privy to early festival-circuit showings of TRUE ADOLESCENTS (Craig Johnson, USA), starring Academy Award nominee for Best Actress, Melissa Leo, and THAT EVENING SUN, filmed in Tennessee and starring Academy Award winner Hal Holbrook, with Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Dixie Carter and Mia Wasikowska ("Alice" in Tim Burton's upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland).
"It's astounding to me that the longest-running film festival in the South is now 40-years-old, and we're still growing," said Sallie Mayne, NaFF Executive Director. "We said last year -- after smashing all previous attendance records -- the only way we could grow was by adding additional theatres. Now with two additional theatres, we'll be able to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, and better serve festivalgoers, with more films, more events and more screenings.”

To mark the Festival's 40th Anniversary, artistic director Brian Owens has programmed a special retrospective of notable films that have screened at the Festival back to its days as The Sinking Creek Film Celebration. Included in the retrospective are NIGHT ON EARTH (Jim Jarmusch, Germany, 1991), CLERKS (Kevin Smith, USA, 1994), Burden of Dreams (Les Blank, Netherlands, 1982) and Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, USA, 1994).

"This is a festival built on 40 years of dedication to both the craft of filmmaking and the diverse interests of this community," said Owens, who is programming the Festival for the first time. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to program the Festival, and what a fantastic year to do it, when I can honor both its past and present commitment to great film.”

WILLIAM SHATNER'S GONZO BALLET, directed by Bobby Ciraldo, Andrew Swant and Kevin Layne, chronicles famed choreographer Margo Sappington's quest to create a new ballet based upon Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner Shatner's critically acclaimed album, Has Been. Produced by Ben Folds and recorded in Nashville, the album includes songs co-written by Shatner and contributions from Folds, Henry Rollins, Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann and country superstar, Brad Paisley. The completed ballet, "Common People," set to six songs from "Has Been," was captured on film when it debuted in 2007 with the Milwaukee Ballet.
Other notable documentary screenings at this year's Festival include the US premieres of EMPRESS HOTEL (Allie Light, Irving Saraf, USA) and CITIZEN JULING (Kraisak Choonhavan, Ing K, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Thailand), and the Tennessee premiere of director Kimberly Reed's PRODIGAL SON (USA).

Narrative features in competition include AFTERSCHOOL, by director Antonio Campos (USA), which stars Paul Sparks, Rosemarie DeWitt, Emory Cohen and Ezra Miller. It will make its Tennessee premiere with Campos in attendance.

Opening and closing night films, additional highlights, and a complete list of films and events will be announced in the weeks ahead. Patron Memberships that includes a Festival Pass can be purchased now at

Individual tickets for the 2009 Nashville Film Festival will go on sale online at in early April.

Members of the media interested in attending the Festival and applying for media credentials should fill out the media credentials request form available in the press room at (

The longest-running film festival in the South, NaFF also ranks among the most prestigious, continually garnering accolades and notice from a wide range of entertainment and trade publications, including the Associated Press, MovieMaker Magazine, Film Festival Today, IndieWire, Variety, Billboard, New York and Script Magazine. Between 2003 and 2007, NaFF’s attendance numbers doubled, capped off with a staggering 26% increase in festival goers between 2006 and 2007. In 2008, more than 22,000 film lovers, entertainment professionals and industry insiders from all over the world made the trek to NaFF, enjoying 240 films from 44 countries, incisive industry panels, music showcases and spirited party mixers. Among the diverse group of celebrities who have attended NaFF in the past either as film presenters, award recipients or film fans are William H. Macy, Vincent D'Onofrio, Patricia Neal, Rob Thomas, Lawrence Bender, Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Craig Brewer, Harmony Korine, Al Gore, Nicole Kidman, Kiefer Sutherland, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, Patrick Swayze, Rick Schroder, John Waters, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Redford, Harry Belafonte, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Moore, and D.A. Pennebaker.

About Nashville Film Festival
Nashville Film Festival is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and receives funding from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The H. Franklin Brooks Philanthropic Fund, William N. Rollins Fund for the Arts of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, The Frist Foundation, The Memorial Foundation, Nashville Metro Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Ragsdale Family Foundation, Target Stores, Tennessee Arts Commission, and its generous patrons and sponsors.