As the Oak Cliff Film Festival enters its sixth year, you see it growing into its future. Filmmaker friends of the festival have become more established, giving the content added weight – along with highly anticipated regional and statewide premieres.
Left-of-center visionaries keep a revolving seat at the table for this year's fest from June 8 to 11 at the Texas Theatre, with the platter passed down to the psychedelically surreal Alejandor Jodorowsky. And the rest of the lineup is packed gently with charming surprises and gory delights, plucked from the indie ether (and OCFF’s ever-growing list of collaborators).
The big announcement (which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering half of OCFF worked on the film, and it releases a month later) is the Texas premiere of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. The minimalist tale of grief, love and time’s passing was snatched up by A24 at Sundance earlier this year. Starring Lowery-favorites Rooney Mara and the now Academy Award-winning Casey Affleck, we’ll move through love lost with Mara and finally see her eat that freaking pie.
On the auteur mascot shelf, OCFF offers up Alejandro Jodorowsky, our patron saint of freaky obsession. His newest film, Endless Poetry, puts his youngest son, Adan, into Alejandro’s personal storyline of a young poet weeding through it all. Packed with magical realism and picking up where his 2013 The Dance of Reality let off, this film played Cannes in 2016 but hasn’t gotten much screentime locally, until now.
Adan Jodorowsky will be onsite for Saturday’s airing and perform a concert as his alter ego Adanowsky, post-film. Pairing old with new, OCFF will crack open the cult horror vault and screen Jodorowsky’s 1989 Santa Sangre, Adan’s first on-screen role.
Other festival highlights (there are a lot), include some doc love for our synth mom and shero, Susanne Ciani, with A Life in Waves, both directed and attended by Bret Whitcomb. More local attachments come from festival friends Toby Halbrook and James M. Johnston with their newly co-produced comedy (along with Sara Murphy), Person to Person, which was directed by Dustin Guy and snatched up by Magnolia, post-Sundance. It’s got a great cast of weirdos and wraps us up in the New York lives of Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera, and a whole bunch of others.
When Peter Vack’s Assholes premiered at SXSW, every review was more fun to read than the last. Rob Trench of Talkfilmsociety said “…through most of my first viewing it seemed like an utterly horrible experience.” David Ehrlich of IndieWire called it “The kind of movie you wish you could unsee.” So, there’s that. Assholes is a body horror/gross-out/love story (…ladies?) of two addicts at their worst. If you have a sensitive stomach and are prone to vomit, sit behind someone tall and wide.
Opening the festival is Lemon, Janicza Bravo’s feature directorial debut. She’s worn a lot of industry hats, possibly in a literal sense considering her extensive work in wardrobe. Recently she’s directed episodes of Divorce and Atlanta, and with Lemon, she doubles as co-writer, (the other writing duties being handled by cult favorite Brett Gelman, who also stars). Both will be at OCFF, basking in nerdly fandom, as the absurdist comedy kicks things off on Thursday night. I’m excited about this one, and Oak Cliff Film Fest will be its DFW Premiere.
IndieWire’s chief film critic, Eric Kohn, pleaded the case for six films from SXSW that he felt deserved distribution, and three of those are slotted for OCFF screenings. Lucky brings our forever-favorite Harry Dean Stanton center stage in this XYZ Films project, directed by John Carroll Lynch. At 90, Stanton might be the perfect voice to deliver humorous meditations on death and legacy – added bonus, David Lynch as the bartender.
Austin-based director Bob Byington’s newest dark comedy Infinity Baby is more than just a great cast collection (Nick Offerman, Kevin Corrigan, Martin Starr, Kieran Culkin and more), it’s a stab in the dark at a freaky future which weirdly seems less unlikely with each daily calendar flip. Abortion is banned in this dystopian sphere, but dry your eyes! Stem cell research is limitless, so everyone is more-or-less happy. When the extreme left and right collide, we get a marketplace of babies that stay cuddly forever, without all of that pesky growing up, saying “no,” stuff.
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Based in Austin, rooted in turmoil, La Barracuda is a tight little family drama/thriller/slow-burn of a thing, directed by Julia Halperin. Merle’s father was a country music star before his passing, and as she’s moving forward with her wedding plans a woman arrives claiming to be her half-sister. Tensions build. Planted with rich music and Southern suspense, this one plays well into OCFF’s love of film and music hybrids.
There’s more. A lot more. See the whole list below. We’ll keep posting as this one rounds out.
OCFF 2017 FEATURE PROGRAM
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
LEMON (USA, 90 mins)
Dir. Janicza Bravo
Drama teacher Isaac Lachmann (Brett Gelman), a tall, balding man of extreme moods, is argumentative with everyone except for one student, Alex (Michael Cera). Willing to debase himself to get any kind of job in TV commercials, Isaac lets his relationship with longtime girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer), a blind woman, fall to pieces. In her directorial debut, Janicza Bravo displays an impressive sense of composition, timing and humor wrapped in absurdist comedy.
Filmmaker Janicza Bravo and writer/star Brett Gelman in attendance
CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION
A GHOST STORY (USA, 87 mins)
Dir. David Lowery
With A GHOST STORY, acclaimed director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pete's Dragon) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life's ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A GHOST STORY emerges ecstatic and surreal.
Filmmaker David Lowery in attendance. Producers Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, and Adam Donaghey in attendance
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
ASSHOLES (USA, 75 mins)
Dir. Peter Vack
Adah and Aaron are recovering addicts who are struggling to stay sober. After meeting in their psychoanalyst's waiting room, they fall in love, relapse on poppers and become the biggest assholes in New York City. Literally. Writer/Director Peter Vack makes his feature directorial debut with an undeniably special, WTF film, that will have you cry-laughing-nauseated.
Director Peter Vack in attendance
Preceded by CHILD PSYCHOLOGY (USA, 15 mins)
GOLDEN EXITS (USA, 94 mins)
Dir.Alex Ross Perry
Alex Ross Perry's (Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth) fifth feature is an intersectional narrative of two families in Brooklyn and the unraveling of unspoken unhappiness that occurs when a young foreign girl (Emily Browning) spending time abroad upsets the balance on both sides. With an ensemble cast, including Jason Schwartzman, Adam Horovitz and Mary-Louise Parker, GOLDEN EXITS is a finely tuned, unhurried examination of characters in stasis.
THE STRANGE ONES (USA, 81 mins)
Dir. Christopher Radcliff, Lauren Wolkstein
Co-directors Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein's feature length debut stems from a short by the same name, following the mysterious events of two alleged brothers as they travel across a remote, American landscape. Along the way, questions arise as to the nature of the relationship between the two drifters, as what first seems an innocuous vacation, slowly burns, giving way to a much more complicated and darker truth. Atmospheric and heady, THE STRANGE ONESfocuses on isolation and dissonance, while presenting hints at the supernatural and ambiguous nature of two wanderers hiding from something in their past.
LUCKY (USA, 88 mins)
Dir. John Carroll Lynch
Does legendary character actor Harry Dean Stanton play himself in this pseudo comedy western about a 90-year-old cowboy who can't figure out how he's still alive? Probably. The film also features great turns by Ron Livingston and Tom Skerrit, as well as David Lynch as an old bar friend who just wants to find his pet tortoise.
Producer John Lang in attendance
INFINITY BABY (USA, 80 mins)
Dir. Bob Byington
Owing to a genetic mix-up involving stem cell research, the recently founded company Infinity Baby, run by the garrulous Neo (Nick Offerman), is able to offer a service for aspiring parents who never want to leave the baby bubble: infants that do not age. Ben (Kieran Culkin), a serial monogamist who says he wants to find the right woman, but is always looking for the next one, and his competent pals Larry (Kevin Corrigan) and Malcolm (Martin Starr), are hired to market the service to those keen to nurture. Does having a baby automatically confer some level of maturity? Will Ben's mom, the sarcastic and demanding Hester (Megan Mullally), approve of Ben's new girlfriend (Trieste Dunn)? Will Malcolm recover from a disastrous accident with kitchen cleaner? The answers to these questions and more await in Byington's heady and hilarious potpourri.
Director Bob Byington in attendance
LA BARRACUDA (USA, 100 mins)
Dir. Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund
A young British woman named Sinaloa comes to Texas to find Merle (Allison Tolman), her half-sister by way of their dead country musician father. And while the family music legacy brought this stranger to town, darker motives are woven into the songs she sings, showing glimpses of a violent rage that's been building for years. LA BARRACUDA is a subtle, creeping thriller with a good dose of country music.
Filmmakers Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin in attendance
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY (USA, 81 mins)
Dir. Ronnie Garza and Charlie Vela
An overlooked part of America, the Rio Grande "Magic Valley" boasts one of its most eclectic music scenes. From 1960's garage rockers, to Tejano punks wearing lucha libre masks, and everything in between, the area has served as a melting pot over the years - not just for different genres, but for Mexican and Texan cultures. Covering four generations worth of music history through testimonials and archival footage, AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY champions the do-it-yourself spirit and finding your voice.
CINEMA TRAVELERS (INDIA, 96 mins)
Dir. Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
Showmen riding cinema lorries have brought the wonder of the movies to faraway villages in India once every year. Seven decades on, as their cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their patrons are lured by slick digital technology. A benevolent showman, a shrewd exhibitor and a maverick projector mechanic bear a beautiful burden: to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.
CALIFORNIA DREAMS (USA, 83 mins)
Dir. Mike Ott
Filmmaker Mike Ott (Lake Los Angeles, Littlerock) follows a rag-tag ensemble of small-time underachievers whose shared, cherished fantasy of making it in the movies gets them up in the morning, but not much further than that. Blurring the line between simulated vérité and authentic observation, it's often impossible to tell whether those on camera are playing themselves, simply being themselves or a combination of the two. Throw in Mike Gioulakis' (It Follows) serenely gorgeous cinematography and you're in for both a beautiful and perplexing experience.
TRUE CONVICTION (USA, 84 mins)
Dir. Jamie Meltzer
There's a new detective agency in Dallas started by Johnnie Lindsey, Christopher Scott and Steven Phillips, who have decades in prison between them. Now exonerated, the trio has formed their own pseudo-detective agency that frees innocent people from behind bars. The cases they pursue resemble their own: the sort of cases that the justice system should backstop, but usually does not. Taking viewers into the real-life crime drama that surrounds these imperfect freedom fighters on their quest for justice, TRUE CONVICTION highlights the importance of asking the questions that bureaucracy does not.
The men of TRUE CONVICTION - Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey & Steven Phillips in attendance
WORLD WITHOUT END (NO REPORTED INCIDENTS) (USA, 57 mins)
Jem Cohen, best known as the filmmaker behind the Fugazi document Instrument and the elegiac Museum Hours, brings us a new anti-documentary film in WORLD WITHOUT END. Cohen travels to a sea village near London to interview locals and survey the land. As per his Viennale statement, "I embraced the chance encounter and rejected the very idea of the definitive. What I discovered is that the estuary and its insistent tides brought in not only nature and history, but prize-winning Indian curries, an encyclopedic universe of hats and a nearly lost world of proto-punk music."
ENDLESS POETRY (Chile, 122 mins)
Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky
Alejandro Jodorowsky's films are like no one else's. The 88 year-old Chilean maestro sends perhaps his most autobiographical film to OCFF as a continuation piece to 2014's Dance of Reality. The film stars two of Alejandro's sons, Brontis Jodorowsky and Adan Jodorowsky (who also composed the score), as father and son; sometimes Alejandro himself breaks the fourth wall and enters the family within the film as well. (Don't worry. It will all make sense once you lick that Aztec frog.)
Composer and Lead actor Adan Jodorowsky in attendance
68 KILL (USA, 93 mins)
Ex Troma screenwriting hero Trent Haaga comes out swinging hard in his sophomore directorial effort. Lead actor Matthew Gray Gubler ("Intern" from A Life Aquatic) throws everything into hyper-drive in this punk-rock after-hours epic bloodbath about femininity, masculinity and the theft of $68,000.
THE LITTLE HOURS (USA, 90 mins)
Dir. Jeff Baena
A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the middle ages. Yet another scene-stealing performance from Aubrey Plaza will quench the thirsts of the faithful. A blessed ensemble cast, including Alison Brie, whose turn as a nun feels ordained, fills out this entertaining medieval romp with foul-mouthed nuns. If you wanted an absurdist version of The Witch, this will work just fine for you.
Filmmaker Jeff Baena in attendance
PORTO (USA/ Portugal, 76 mins)
Dir. Gabe Klinger
Gabe Klinger's PORTO brings a new style and sensibility to the American-meets-a-pretty-girl-in Europe genre. Lensed by Wyatt Garfield, the film uses mixed films stocks and aspects via Super 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm to present a certain melancholy, lived-in feel and one of the last on-screen roles from Anton Yelchin.
DFW PREMIERE - Presented on 35mm
Filmmaker Gabe Klinger in attendance
PERSON TO PERSON (USA, 84 mins)
Dir. Dustin Guy Defa
Bene hosted a party at his place last night, and this morning, there's a stranger passed out on his floor who won't leave. This is NYC, so Bene isn't the only character grappling with the mundanity of life. An ensemble cast of Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Michaela Watkins, and Bene Coopersmith together depict a group of New York oddballs - a reserved apartment dweller, an impassioned record collector, and a field reporter on her first day of work, among others - over the course of one day. Their stories don't necessarily intersect, but it's their experience of the city that ties them together.
Producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston in attendance
DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (FRANCE, 115 mins)
Dir. Albert Serra
The annual OCFF "Sunday Slow-Core" returns with French King Louis XIV (played to perfection by Jean-Pierre Léaud - the kid from 1959's The 400 Blows!) wearing a wig and surrounded by servants who just want him to eat an egg. Candlelit Cinematography: check; one epic dolly shot with equally epic music cue: check; Crying out in the night for water: check; bloodletting and other questionable medical practices: check. Nursing your hangover with the depiction of the laborious, painful death of an elderly king: check!
THE CHALLENGE (FRANCE/ITALY, Arabic language, 70 mins)
Falconry has a history that stretches back over 40 centuries. In the West, it was a prevailing passion of the medieval aristocracy, but its prestige continues undiminished in contemporary Arab culture. The spirit of a tradition that today allows its practitioners to keep a close rapport with the desert, despite their predominantly urban lifestyle, is captured grace of three years of field observation. In the glaring light of an empty landscape, following flight lines and lures, the film recounts a strange kind of "desert weekend," in which technological and anthropological microcosms hang in the air, like the falcon, drifting on the irreversible currents of images. Also one of the shieks owns a well behaved cheetah and an impractical Lamborghini.
SUPER DARK TIMES (USA, 100 mins)
Dir. Kevin Phillips
Best friends Zach and Josh are like any other teenagers growing up in mid-'90s suburbia. They lead normal lives that revolve around high school, their crushes on the same girl and loitering about town. When an afternoon in the park takes a grave turn, however, the boys try to pretend as though nothing has happened. The guilt soon starts to eat away at Zach as he is caught between nightmares and an increasing paranoia that Josh is no longer the same.
SCARRED HEARTS (Romania, 141 mins)
Dir. Radu Jude
Emanuel, a man in his early 20s, spends his days at a sanatorium suffering from bone tuberculosis. He narrates his and his fellow patients' attempts to live life to the fullest as their bodies slowly wither, but their minds refuse to give in. SCARRED HEARTS is a dark and sometimes silly comedy inspired by Romanian author Max Blecher's 1937 book about love, terminal illness and how to sometimes look on the bright side of life. Shot on 35mm in a 1.37 Academy ratio with bright colors and gorgeously framed static shots, the film presents a stylized window in the past. An art film with many rewards for the patient moviegoer, or as The Hollywood Reporter recently warned, "beyond a tough sell."
A LIFE IN WAVES (USA, 74 mins)
Dir. Bret Whitcomb
"I wanted technology to be sensual, that was always my directive." Early synth music pioneer Suzanne Ciani was behind some of the most innovative sounds and jingles of the '70s and '80s, including spots for Atari and Coca-Cola and multiple soundtracks. A LIFE IN WAVES utilizes a wealth of archival footage from Ciani's endless catalog of music. It's a compelling look at one woman's ability to break into a mostly male-dominated field, against all odds.
Director Bret Whitcomb in attendance
SANTA SANGRE (1989) (MEXICO, ITALY, 123 mins)
In SANTE SANGRE, the traumatized son of a circus knife thrower and a trapeze artist bond grotesquely with his now-armless mother. The movie is often considered Jodorowsky's most accessible and, although many Jodorowsky films defy easy categorization, the film has found a life as a cult horror film. Roger Ebert said of SANTA SANGRE: "It is a horror film, one of the greatest, I am reminded by Alejandro Jodorowsky that true psychic horror is possible on the screen - horror, poetry, surrealism, psychological pain and wicked humor, all at once". The film stars Alejandros's sons Axel Jodorowsky and, in his first on-screen performance, Adan Jodorowsky, as the young son who would grow up to be insane.
Actor Adan Jodorowsky in attendance
SOMETHING WILD (1986) (USA, 114 mins)
The uneventful life of a the businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) suddenly changes when he meets the wild and sexy Lulu (Melanie Griffith). But, the fun quickly takes a dangerous turn when her ex-convict husband (Ray Liotta) shows up. An unbridled Jonathan Demme effortlessly weaves a slapstick tone with unflinching drama. Part romance, part road movie, part blood-spattered drama, "it's a schizophrenic movie," Demme has said, "a screwball comedy that turns into a film noir, as life itself does."
FREE OUTDOOR SCREENING
Oak Cliff Film Festival, June 8-11, 2017, Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., and other locations in Oak Cliff. Tickets are $11.50 each, or get a VIP badge for $175. For more info on the schedule and screening locations, visit oakclifffilmfestival.com.