This Friday will see the theatrical release of Tennessee, a feature film scripted by former Knoxvillian Russell Schaumburg. Equal parts family drama and road movie, Tennessee is the story of two brothers (Adam Rothenberg and Ethan Peck) who fled their abusive home years ago, only to embark on a cross-country trip back to Knoxville when an illness forces them to seek out their estranged father. Along the way the brothers are joined by an aspiring singer (Mariah Carey) trying to make her way to Nashville.
"I'm especially looking forward to sharing the finished product with local Tennessee audiences, particularly in Knoxville," Schaumburg says. "I grew up here … and was constantly influenced by the people and places and overall spirit of East Tennessee. When I started writing Tennessee in 2000, it was meant to be an off-kilter love song to Knoxville. I hope the local audiences are proud and entertained and moved by the depiction of their hometown in this particular light. I wrote the movie for them."
Directed by Aaron Woodley and beautifully shot by cinematographer David Greene, Tennessee features strong performances by both leads and a surprisingly competent turn from Carey. It should appeal to fans of sentimental indie dramas, provided they like their entertainment a little on the melancholy side.
"Even if the subject matter appears dark on the surface, I think it is, ultimately one of the most redemptive and hopeful movies out there," says Schaumburg, who now lives in Los Angeles. "And I hope they feel something when it's over, whatever the emotion is. Previous audiences have had fairly visceral reactions and that has been gratifying to see."
Tennessee premiered last year in New York at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.