Fest Intentions

"It is hardly appropriate just now to be calling upon famous people to travel unnecessarily," says the Fort Worth Film Festival's artistic director and vice-president Dwight Greene, explaining why the annual fest--which has in the past hosted such names as Gregory Peck and John Waters--will be short on star power this year. The reality, according to the festival's founder and president Michael Price, is that this year's installment will be "scaled down and more modest," but that only shifts the focus of the festival back to its artistic heart: the films.

The festival will look forward to the winter release of the first film of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy with a showing of as-yet unseen trailer footage "spooled into a featurette," a showing of the animated feature The Hobbit and a reading from Lord of the Rings by KRLD's Charlie Jones ("The biggest Tolkien fan in the English-speaking world," says Price), which rounds out the Middle-Earth portion of the festival.

Also on the animation front is the high-profile heavyweight attraction: the just-confirmed regional premiere of Waking Life, the anticipated experimental and mildly psychedelic film/animation piece from Slacker director Richard Linklater, who used the "rotoscoping" technique to color, animate, punctuate and otherwise enhance a live-action film about what can best be described as Slacker-like characters asking big, important questions.

But the real heart and soul of the festival just might be a trio of films by North Texas filmmaker Spencer Williams Jr., an African-American writer-director-actor who made a collection of films in Dallas during the 1940s. Two of the films, Juke Joint, a domestic situation comedy, and The Blood of Jesus, a spiritual fable, were uncovered in the early '80s in a warehouse in Tyler. They had never been seen "outside the black neighborhood theaters of the pre-integration South," Price says. He notes that Williams' third film, Son of Ingagi, is at once dreadful and a "beautiful example of DIY filmmaking." What could be more appropriate for this young, independent film fest?