A great Endeavor

Let meow-t: The Cat Diaries is the cat's meow.

In the last hour, 23 people in the metroplex will have decided to start their own film festivals -- in a theater, perhaps, or maybe in their living rooms or in the back of their vans. Where there was once but a single film fest on the local horizon (the USA Film Festival, birthed 30 years ago by Dallas-born filmmaker L.M. Kit Carson), there are now a handful, and the growth shows no sign of slowing. Indeed, most have popped up in the last year or two -- the Fort Worth Film Festival, the Vistas Film Festival, and the Deep Ellum Film Festival are among the most prominent, though they hardly count as the only new fests. For every one you've heard of, there's a gay-and-lesbian or video fest you ought to check out. Right now.

But when a new venture pops up, even in Fort Worth, it's hard not to take notice -- especially when it's a film fest, of sorts, that doesn't feature a tribute to the director of Renaissance Man. On May 14, Carlos Aguilar debuts his Endeavor Cinema -- an ongoing celebration of filmmakers, most of them local and relatively unknown -- at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, which will host Endeavor Cinema every Sunday for the foreseeable future. This week's lineup features a handful of short films that appeared at the South by Southwest festival, some works by filmmakers from area universities and a feature-length documentary titled American Chain Gang, directed by Xachery Irving.

"I've just really gone nuts about the whole film thing," says Aguilar, a Fort Worth native who has paid the bills composing soundtracks for multimedia projects. "That's why I was interested in trying to put it together -- to get filmmakers together. There are a lot of filmmakers in the area who don't have a place to show their work. My father is an artist as well, and he's done a lot of work for the arts community in Fort Worth, so I know what it takes to put together a community -- and, basically, it's a lot of just helping out."


Endeavor Cinema

Debuts May 14

The Ridglea Theater,
6025 Camp Bowie Blvd.,
Fort Worth

Doors open at 3:30 p.m., and screenings begin at 4 p.m.

American Chain Gang will screen at 6:15 p.m., and director Xachary Irving will attend

Among the shorts being screened on Sunday is I Still Miss Someone, cowriter-star Mark Collie and cowriter-director John Lloyd Miller's fictionalized account of Johnny Cash's drugs-and-drink dark period. The film, made in Nashville and filmed mostly (of course) in black and white, is a revelation. Collie, once a Nashvegas hunk, looks like the ghost of young Cash; he sweats booze, pops pills off the floor, and recounts his tragic tale to a journalist like a half-mad criminal looking to make a jail-cell confession. At once loving and leering, I Still Miss Someone is one of those films no one will ever see outside of the festival circuit, which is a shame; it must be seen to be believed -- and felt, because it's that damned good. Someone took first runner-up in the short-film competition at SXSW in March; this will be its first metroplex screening.

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Also screening is the oddly beguiling and occasionally hysterical Hate: A Comedy, in which a domesticated chicken stalks his next-door neighbor, insisting "Professor Moriarty" stole his statue 12 years ago in Morocco. The joke goes on long enough that you begin to accept a universe in which chickens drive, speak, wear night-vision goggles, and cook poisoned Mexican food. The talking-animal bit can also be found in Millard Rice's appropriately short The Cat Diaries, in which a French-accented feline recounts his days spent in captivity. ("The dog," he muses, "is an informer.") Genevieve Anderson's Sunlight, a freaky-creepy sci-fi film using puppet animation, is also on the bill -- meaning Aguilar has assembled, on a shoestring budget, a film fest that rivals anything around these parts with corporate sponsorship.

"What we're doing is more of an exhibition of different works from all over the country," Aguilar says, insisting his fest is not a competitor with any of the area's other festivals. "I am trying to show some of the best shorts and features from Sundance, from SXSW, the New York Film Fest -- all of those. I am trying to give the general public the opportunity to understand what's going on in our film community and with independent filmmakers."

To that end, Endeavor Cinema will screen films every Sunday at the Ridglea; sometimes, films will repeat, in case you missed them the first time (the gripping American Chain Gang repeats May 28). And, until June, the screenings will be free -- a sure sign Aguilar's in it for the love of cinema and nothing more. And, really, what more is there?

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