Four Decades After L.M. Kit Carson Birthed Dallas's Modern Film Scene, His Diary Returns

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

From time to time we'll name-drop L.M. Kit Carson, perhaps the most influential local-born filmmaker, with good reason: The Irving-born actor (Running on Empty, great on Miami Vice) and writer (Paris, Texas with Sam Shepard; that Breathless remake) was co-founder of the USA Film Festival, feted at the first Deep Ellum Film Festival in 1999, mentor to Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson and co-conspirator with Jim McBride on the 1967 mockumentary David Holzman's Diary, which was hatched on the University of Dallas campus and sits between Daughters of the Dust and The Day the Earth Stood Still on the Library of Congress's National Film Registry, where it's been for 20 years. For starters.

He remains active, of course: Carson's looooong-in-the-making Africa Diary, made with wife Cynthia Hargrave, will finally premiere on the Sundance Channel in the fall; here he is talking about it -- and everything else mentioned above -- with Gadi Elkon at the Dallas International Film Festival a couple of months back.

But tomorrow, for the first time in decades, David Holzman's Diary makes its full-on re-premiere on Fandor.com, where, in advance of the occasion, you'll find Kevin B. Lee's two-part video essay series on the influence of the film -- "one of the first films to use the first-person approach to documentary filmmaking," Lee writes, "a technique we now take for granted in the era of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock." Only, of course, it was all made-up. Straight-up fiction. Turned faction filmmaking up to 11 before Spinal Tap. That's but one of myriad looks-at Holzman on the Fandor blog; it's hardly a "best-kept secret" over there.

On influential indie film producer Ted Hope's blog, Carson writes of the movie's origins:

OK, fact is - 1967: Me and Jim McBride were writing the first-ever book about cinema-verite - it was an interview/theory book for New York City's Museum of Modern Art; we were calling it: THE TRUTH ON FILM. We were interviewing the roster of new-documentary filmmakers from Robert Drew to Leacock and Pennebaker to the Maysles Brothers - including interviewing Andy Warhol for his pop-verite. Halfway through the book-writing, McBride says to me: "There is no Truth on Film. Basically as soon as you turn the camera on - everything changes - to not real - gets like unreal." So we decide it's more quote/unquote "un-truth-ful" to write this book - we decide not to write this book.

Instead they spend 10 days and $2,500 on their little movie, which Hannah Takes the Stairs director Joe Swanberg writes is the first ... everything we take for granted now:

I hate the term "ahead of its time," because it lets people off the hook for not recognizing themselves in their own time. David Holzman's Diary is one of the rare, great films that's of its time. Jim McBride recognized that small, affordable film equipment would become both a mirror and a megaphone for filmmakers. The film is a blog. It's a Facebook page. It's a Twitter account. It's also the sharpest critique of, and deepest investigation into, those media that I know of.

Below is the first part of Kevin Lee's video essay; here's the link to the second half. Dig it now, then watch the movie tomorrow.

Diary on David Holzman Part 1: The Sons and Daughters of David from Kevin Lee on Vimeo.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.