Texas Film Fests
If I had to place a wager on who will "out-Mars" Austin talent Jonny Mars with the number of film projects that one Texan can possibly be associated with in one year, my bet for the top contender is Dallas-based Farah White. At this year's Dallas International Film Festival, White was involved in five films as either a member of the cast and producer.
Hell hath no fury like a Texas woman scorned in Rachel Shepard's About Mom and Dad, a comedic drama of a couple whose decades-long marriage disintegrates. White leads the ensemble Texas cast as Teri, effortlessly delivering many of the film's witty lines including, "There are no sides -- you just need to know that I am right." Dallas-based Brent Anderson stars as dad Eddie, and Austinites Heather Kafka and Jonny Mars also appear in supporting roles in the movie.
White is also executive producer for About Mom and Dad, having acted in and produced Shepard's road journey drama Traveling, which premiered at DIFF 2011. About Mom and Dad stars Reece Rios, Melissa Odom and Texan actress McKaley Miller, and was shot in Marfa as well as the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Writing and directing team Nathan and David Zellner (pictured above) have been to film festivals all over the world recently with their latest narrative, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (my review) -- from Sundance in Park City to Berlin, Buenos Aires and Austin for SXSW. This week the film screens at the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter stars Rinko Kikuchi as a lonely young woman disconnected from her coworkers and the traditional culture of Tokyo. Her obsession with the mythical treasure from the movie Fargo leads her on a journey well outside her comfort zone and knowledge, through the United States.
I spoke with Nathan and David Zellner last month when Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter screened at SXSW Film Festival in Austin. Here's what they had to say about the film.
In his feature directorial debut, Canadian writer-director Mark Raso takes viewers on a personal journey for Will (Gethin Anthony), a young man who must face himself while seeking clues about his father. He is helped in his search by the young yet mature Effie (Frederikke Dahl Hanssen) who must deal with her own challenges at home.
While at Slamdance, I had an opportunity to speak with Raso, Anthony and Hanssen about Copenhagen. Here's what they had to say about the film.
The 2014 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) opened last week with the premiere of Words and Pictures, a lovely comedic drama starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen as teachers at a prestigious academy who go head-to-head over the timeless literary vs. artistic debate.
As it's shot in Vancouver by Australian director Fred Schepisi and features big-name and critically acclaimed stars, this movie's Texas connection may not be obvious at first. However, Schepisi -- pictured above with his wife and "muse" Mary Schepisi -- proclaims a strong bond to the Lone Star State because his first American film Barbarosa, starring Willie Nelson and Gary Busey, was filmed in west Texas in 1982.
Schepisi quipped during the Q&A that "Texas is the one state that has the same sense of humor as Australia -- I feel sorry for you," but spoke highly of the support from Dallas. Words and Pictures would not have been possible without its producers, who are mostly Dallas-based private investors including Curtis Burch, Derrick Evers and Bob and Judy Gass.
To what length will mothers go to protect their children -- or grandchildren -- and what's the definition of a "bad" parent?
That's the core theme of Flutter, the narrative debut for Austin filmmaker Eric Hueber, who wrote this moving family drama as an homage to his own deceased own mother. That personal connection lends to an intimate portrayal of a mother's unconditional love for her son.
Johnathan (Johnathan Huth Jr.) is obsessed with the sea, and battles the imaginary creatures within along with his 300-pound pet pig Wee Wee. Due to an often debilitating condition of of nystagmus and severe glaucoma, Johnathan must take medication to relieve the excruciating pain and pressure that could cause irreversible blindness.
The 2014 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) is changing it up a bit this year with the film venues and number of screenings. Although there are fewer screenings per day, it will be easier to make it to consecutive movies centralized at the Angelika rather than catching a shuttle to the Magnolia, which is not a DIFF venue this year.
The film festival opens on Thursday, April 3 at the Dallas City Performance Hall, with Words and Pictures starring Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen. This narrative feature portrays the challenges faced by educators in their attempts to inspire students in art and education in a day and age full of obsessions with social media, grades and status among peers.
I am looking forward to several of the international titles that are premiering in Dallas, including my personal 2014 Slamdance Film Festival favorite and Audience Award winner Copenhagen (screening times), written and directed by Mark Raso. Read my Slamdance review, and check back soon for an interview with filmmaker Raso and stars Gethin Anthony and Frederickke Dahl Hansen. On a side note, when I asked Hansen about her acting influence she named Juliette Binoche.
The 2014 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) runs from Thursday, April 3 - Saturday, April 13, and features over fifteen films that originated in the Lone Star State. From Texas musicans to epic Southern fables, there's plenty of great Texas-based content stretching from Dallas to the Piney Woods of East Texas to the coastal towns of Taft and Port Neches.
Austin-based writer and director Eric Hueber made his feature directorial debut at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011 with his documentary Rainbow's End. Originally from Nacogdoches, Hueber studied film at Stephen F. Austin State University and has worked as an editing assistant for director Terrence Malick. Hueber returns to DIFF with the touching family drama Flutter (screening times).
Flutter focuses on nine-year-old Johnathan (Johnathan Huth Jr.), who loves sea monsters and his massive pet pig Wee Wee. His eyes flutter and he is also going blind as a result of nystagmus and severe glaucoma. Johnathan's mother JoLynn (Lindsay Pulsipher) raises him on her own with some help from her husband David's parents. David (Jesse Plemons) is absent, out on the road in search of musical fame as a singer/songwriter. JoLynn makes personal sacrifices for her son that jeopardize her own safety.
The final day of the Austin Polish Film Festival held, by far, the most intriguing of all the films screened that weekend; each one more different than the last, and each one mesmerizing and completely unforgettable.
Up first was Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir by film historian and documentarian Laurent Bouzereau. I must confess this was the film I was looking forward to all weekend, being after all a student of film, an admirer of Bouzereau and a fan of Polanski. The movie was shot during Polanski's time under house arrest in Switzerland following his entry into the country in 2009.
Shot as a conversation between Polanski and his long-time friend and collaborator Andrew Braunsberg, the famed director gave what is perhaps his most frank and candid interview ever. No subject was off-limits for Polanksi, including his experiences as a child during the invasion of Poland, the murder of his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child, and the charges brought against him that still prevent him from ever returning to the United States.
The Lone Star Film Festival kicks off tonight in Fort Worth, and it will live up to its name with a number of Austin and Texas selections, as well as some honored guests. The festival runs through Sunday, November 10.
The Austin Chronicle co-founder and SXSW director Louis Black, musician and actor Lyle Lovett and Fort Worth businessman Stephen Murrin, Jr. will be honored tomorrow for their role in film and the arts at the Fort Worth Club. In addition, the following movies all have Austin or Lone Star connections:
- Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, about two friends who reunite at a conference, just won the Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award at this year's Memphis Indie fest. Writer/director Eric Steele and producer Adam Donaghey are owners of the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, Texas. Donaghey also produced LSFF selection Little Hope Was Arson.
- Tim's Vermeer, LSFF's opening night film, follows Texas-based inventor Tim Jenison on his quest to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring).
- Little Hope Was Arson (Elizabeth's interview) made its Texas premiere at Austin Film Festival. This debut documentary from Theo Love takes a look at the string of fires set at East Texas churches in January 2010, igniting the largest criminal investigation that area has ever experienced.
The second annual Oak Cliff Film Festival seeks to showcase the best of independent filmmaking of all genres from Oak Cliff (a Dallas district), Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth and Austin. From June 6-9, these films will be screened in the heart of the city's burgeoning Bishop Arts District and in some of its most historic movie theaters, like The Kessler Theater, which is said to have opened in the spring of 1942. The fest's home theater is the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, which hosts eclectic repertory film programming year-round (and which has a colorful history).
The nonprofit fest, which donates a portion of all ticket and badge sales to the North Texas Food Bank, announced its lineup earlier this week. Highlights include movies screened at this year's SXSW Film Festival, like Oak Cliff's opening night films Drinking Buddies (Rod's review), about the relationship between two co-workers at a Chicago brewery, and the documentary Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer, that follows three members of a Russian art collective who were arrested on charges of religious hatred after performing a 40 second "punk prayer" inside one of the country's main cathedrals.
In addition, the fest's closing-night film is the regional premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait's latest movie, Willow Creek, a horror film starring Alexie Gilmore. And DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) will present some short films, a secret screening, and a not-so-secret screening of McCabe and Mrs. Miller.