The Texas Theatre has become a cultural anchor amid the shifting tides of Oak Cliff, and the Oak Cliff Film Festival is fast becoming an important part of the beer-pouring, 35MM-spooling theater's diverse arsenal.
This year's sophomore version, which opens Thursday, will only further secure that anchor. Dallas' small film scene had an especially vibrant year, with Shane Carruth's Upstream Color and David Lowery's forthcoming Ain't Them Bodies Saints representing another shift.
"In the past five years, I've seen something emerge," says Eric Steele, who runs the festival alongside Aviation Cinemas' Jason Reimer, Barak Epstein and Adam Donaghey. "When you have the Shane Carruths and David Lowerys, and they're making their films and finding their teams in Dallas, it's a good indicator that something is bubbling up here."
It's an idea they worked to convey in the video teaser for the fest. Directed by Jason Reimer, it features a soldier dramatically planting a flag by the Trinity River. "I think it's one of those sweeping gestures that means different things to different people," Steele says. "To me, it's more a sign of indie film at large. As filmmakers, we're faced with this shift in the industry, this digital disruption, where more people are watching video on demand, and movie theaters had a 16-year low last year. We are figuring out the new model, in order to make films that say something. "It also means our community," he goes on. "This is where we are, and we're not going anywhere."
Below are our picks for the weekend. Visit oakclifffilmfestival.com for more info.
Thursday Opening night is contained to the Texas Theatre (231 W. Jefferson Blvd.), with the debut of Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies (7:15 p.m.), a film about two friends (Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson) who work in a brewery and find themselves in more-than-friends territory, a theme Swanberg has been exploring since 2006's LOL.
After that, a screening of Dana O'Keefe's nine-minute short, Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration, provides context for Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (9:20 p.m.), a documentary on the Russian feminist collective imprisoned for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow church in early 2012. Their fates are still playing out, but the film - which debuts on HBO this month - offers a look into the political climate that produced such a protest, and the media spasm that ensued. Vulgar Fashion and Wild in the Streets provide the soundtrack for your rage in the lobby at 10:30 p.m.
Friday McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Texas Theatre, 7 p.m. Dallas director/screenwriter/editor David Lowery will be introducing this 1971 Robert Altman film, starring a swarthy Warren Beatty and Julie Christie just before she did Don't Look Now. It's rumored to have been an influence on Lowery's new film, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, which stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as two doomed outlaws in love. At 9:30 p.m., Lowery will be hosting a "secret screening" of his new one at Texas Theatre. At 11 p.m., go behind the screen for performances from Def Rain and Cutter. Saturday Computer Chess, Texas Theatre, 3:30 p.m. Andrew Bujalski's latest film, shot on a vintage black and white Sony video camera, focuses on a handful of computer programmers stuck at a hotel computer chess convention in 1980. There's much heady dialogue to get through (Bujalski cast several actual programmers), but eventually you see the bigger picture: Bujalski is meditating on our current dependance on technology, starting with artificial intelligence's early years. UT Dallas' chess team will be playing matches in the lobby before and after.
Nile Southern Presents: End of the Road, Texas Theatre, 5:45 p.m. Dallas' own Terry Southern may be best known for his Dr. Strangelove script. Here, his son, Nile, presents a lesser-known 1970 film, End of the Road, which stars a young Stacy Keach and James Earl Jones. Steven Soderbergh made a documentary about the film last year, which helped get it in front of a few more eyes.
Ain't In It For My Health, Kessler Theater, 7:45 p.m. The death last April of Levon Helm, longtime drummer for The Band, was not unexpected, but it didn't soften the blow of losing one of music's sweetest voices. Jacob Hatley documented Helm's last years leading up to his death - his tours, his doctor's visits, everything - to show just how dedicated Helm was.
Silent Shadow of the Bat-Man, Texas Theatre 9 p.m. Following up last year's screening of Sunrise, with a live score by My Education, is Andre Perkowski's silent tribute to the enduring figure of Batman, which was created by Bob Kane in the '30s. Perkowski weaves together images from silent films, to give us an idea of where Kane might have pulled inspiration for his characters. Houston's Two Star Symphony provides the score.
Music Video Showcase, El Sibil, 9 p.m. Last year, Mind Spiders' sci-fi tribute "Wait For Us" won the prize for best music video. This year at El Sibil (122 E. 5th), there will be screenings of Eric Wareheim's bonkers Beach House video (starring Ray Wise) and more. Stick around for Buffalo Black and DJ Tony Schwa at 10, then close out the night at Texas Theatre with Tommyboy's Night Comfort, an audio-visual trip through late-night '80s programming, at 10:30.
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Sunday Mono No Aware, School Class, noon School Class (1222 W. Davis), the new Oak Cliff institution of higher learning, is offering a five-hour intensive class on how to edit film by hand, hosted by Dallas video artist Michael Morris. The finished films will be screened later in the evening. Space is limited.
Shorts Program Two, Bishop Arts Theatre, 1 p.m. There are shorts programs all weekend at Bishop Arts Theatre (215 S. Tyler) and Oil and Cotton (837 W 7th), but this one is especially good, namely When We Lived in Miami, starring and directed by the ubiquitous Amy Siemetz; Celia Rowlson-Hall's candid The Audition; and Jillian Mayer's animated tribute to the Miami Heat, Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse.
André Gregory: Before and After Dinner, Kessler Theater, 3:30 p.m. A look at the life and work of actor/director André Gregory (My Dinner with André), directed by his wife, Cindy Kleine.
Willow Creek, Texas Theatre, 8 p.m. Bobcat Goldthwait's recent string of movies - World's Greatest Dad, God Bless America - are not for the easily offended. Willow Creek takes a different approach, satirizing our culture's obsession with documenting everything, and putting a new spin on the Bigfoot story. Stick around for the closing night party with George Quartz and Gabriel Mendoza, at 10 p.m.