2018 is a huge year for the Houston Cinema Arts Festival as we will be celebrating our tenth anniversary! Last year’s festival was a major success, even after all of the setbacks caused by Hurricane Harvey, so we are thrilled to see what this year has in store. As always, the festival will have great films, fun events, and a variety of experiences to excite your imagination. To celebrate our big milestone, we’ve also cooked up some special surprises that you will not want to miss! Past HCAF favorites (like Richard Linklater and Lynn Hershman Leeson) will be returning for talks about the festival and its impact. There will also be a number of panels, art installations and special events to keep you entertained while you’re not watching films. We have a lot of exciting things planned for our big 2018 festival and can’t wait to share them with you all!
Less than three months after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston, the Houston Cinema Arts Festival kicked off its’ ninth year of festivities. In the wake of the storm venues had to be replaced and plans had to be changed, but we all pulled together to create the best HCAF yet! The festival included everything from Oscar hopefuls (and eventual winners) like Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to travels through space and imagination with CineSpace and beyond. The Cinema Arts Celebration at White Oak Music Hall was a hit, combining the classic Singing in the Rain with modern music and dance performances. The eclectic event included performances by Bun B, Kat Edmonson, members of the Houston Ballet, and many other talented artists. Bodied, from director Joseph Kahn, was another crowd favorite at the 2017 festival. The film showed to a packed theatre and was followed by a Q&A from the director and Bun B, as well as an amazing live rap battle by local rappers. Through the storms and setbacks, HCAF 2017 managed to become one of the most engaging, electrifying festivals in Houston Cinema Arts Society history thanks to all of the wonderful patrons, volunteers, filmmakers and artists!
Dear HCAS Community- I have been involved with the Society since its inception, but everything is new to me now! I am honored to lead the Society after participating for the last nine years as a board member. I have watched the Society and Houston Cinema Arts Festival grow from a small group of people with an idea to an 8-day celebration of cinema arts about and by artists, that attracts visitors from inside the loop to around the globe. I have witnessed the development of year-round programming such as our summer Julydoscope celebration, our Artist’s Choice series, and recently CineSpace, our short film competition in cooperation with NASA. So let’s stop for a moment and celebrate what has been built – it is not easy to turn an idea into something that lasts 8 years. Our challenge now, as we approach our 10th anniversary in 2018, is to “cement the legacy” and solidify the Society and our programming for the foreseeable future. And we can only do that with the people that are more important than the creators themselves – you – the supporters of the artists and our organization. As we near our tenth year celebration, you will start to see new year-round programming that reaches new communities and constituents around this ever growing and ever more diverse city. Our marquee event, Houston Cinema Arts Festival, which will take place November 9-16 in 2017, continues to garner more regional and international interest, and CineSpace will soon open its call for entries for the third season. 2017 will be an exciting year here at the Society, and we hope to see you at our events. I look forward to hearing your new ideas and suggestions for our continuous improvement. In the meantime please enjoy the show and don’t forget to turn off your cellphones. Patrick Kwiatkowski
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This year’s Houston Cinema Arts Festival will continue to celebrate film and its intersections with the arts, an emphasis that is unique among American film festivals. At the same time, in common with a host of other film festivals, we are exploring several areas that we feel are vital to address at this historical moment. Foregrounding voices neglected by mainstream media is a mission we share with other film festivals. This past year, especially, outrage has grown over the persistent, shameful scarcity of women directors in commercial film (4% of the past decade’s top releases, according to a 2015 USC study). The Traverse City Film Festival countered this by having all of its 2016 official selections directed by women, adding a token sidebar of “Films by Men.” In our case, we are partnering with the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW), which, since 1974, has trained hundreds of women in screen directing (including, in the first class, Maya Angelou, the subject of one of our feature documentaries). Three recent DWW filmmakers will screen works on November 13 at the MFAH, and then join in a panel discussion along with many of the women directors in this year’s festival. These include veteran independent feature directors Beth B (Call Her Applebroog) and Katherine Dieckmann (Strange Weather), as well as a group of new feature film directors whose works are among the most exciting I’ve encountered this past year: Celia Rowlson-Hall (MA), Amber Tamblyn (Paint it Black), and Cheryl Nichols (Cortez). The neglect of black filmmaking voices, which also reached a boiling point this year in the #Oscarssowhite protest, will be partially countered when we honor the pioneering independent film director Billy Woodberry. In the belly of the beast, Woodberry helped lead the 70s and 80s “L.A. Rebellion” of black independent directors. He was joined by, among others, Julie Dash, Charles Burnett, and Carroll Parrott Blue, the esteemed media artist who now lives and works in Houston, and who will be joining Woodberry in conversation following his latest feature And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead on November 12. Woodberry will also be joined by his former CalArts student, Akosua Adoma Owusu, when he presents his classic Bless Their Little Hearts at the Houston Museum of African-American Culture on November 11. Owusu’s experimental films, more of which will be on view at The Brandon at Brasil on November 12, have attracted enormous international acclaim. Exposing audiences to new forms and technologies of cinematic practice is another shared function of adventurous film festivals. Interactive media installations have supplemented theatrical screenings throughout our festival’s history, and several will be on view in MFAH Cullinan Hall (Wangechi Mutu’s The End of Carrying All), The Brandon at Brasil, and the Menil Collection, where artist Amie Siegel will present her remarkable work, Provenance, exploring the odyssey of Le Corbusier furniture from Chandigarh to high-class homes. The advanced mode of production attracting many filmmakers and festivals these days is immersive cinema, primarily seen in 360-degree films made to be experienced on VR HMDs (virtual reality head-mounted displays; now you too can speak the jargon). Narrative and documentary filmmakers are excited about the capacity of VR to intensify empathetic identification. We have a variety of powerful VR experiences in store for those of you who come to our VR Gallery at The Brandon at Brasil from November 11-13. One of them, Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness, expands on the extraordinary Notes on Blindness film in our program to give spectators a deeper understanding of the experience of being blind. A couple of other VR works are by visual artists who have created 360-degree experiences of their paintings (Rachel Rossin) and animations (Maarten Isaäk de Heer), providing the viewer more room for exploration. De Heer, who will be visiting from the Netherlands, will show his animated FEBRUAR as both an Oculus Rift VR film at The Brandon at Brasil, and as a “fulldome” experience in the planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on November 13. “Fulldome” is the other, less commonly explored branch of immersive cinema that we are highlighting this year, thanks to our new partnership with HMNS, which will also be showcasing our second annual CineSpace awards screening the same night. At HMNS, we will be projecting a surprising selection of animated and dance films created expressly by artists for fulldome encompassing viewing. We are thrilled to be part of the film festival universe driving cinema forward, opening it to new forms and diverse voices. We are also proud to be improving and expanding on our own unique niche, which is the celebration of the arts. Along with our annual selection of the year’s best new films about the visual, performing, and literary arts (see the index of films by art form on page 59), we have, as always, several “live cinema” events that will combine live music and film, from the opening night presentation of Honky Tonk Heaven with a performance by Dale Watson through the live appearance at the Asia Society by Slanty Eyed Mama following their Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show: The Movie. Above all, the art of cinema will be honored through the presence of special guest Eryk Rocha (Cinema Novo) and our tribute to one of our greatest cinematographers, Frederick Elmes, who will accompany two films directed by his longtime collaborators David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, Blue Velvet and Paterson. Dive into this catalogue for more gems, including the major upcoming releases La La Land, Jackie, Lion, and Neruda, and plan to take our weeklong journey from the opening night Honky Tonk Heaven at the MFAH through the closing night free screening of Contemporary Color on Main Street Square, with stops along the way at the Menil Collection, Aurora Picture Show, HMNS, HMAAC, Asia Society Texas Center, and Rice Cinema. Buckle up!
I’m writing from the Toronto Film Festival, where I have been immersing myself in films by and about artists, as I make the final selections for our upcoming festival, November 10-17. It’s frankly a relief to have a theme (the arts) to narrow my focus in this deluge of 300 features and 100 shorts from 83 countries. Literature was the dominant art form of my selections this year. Among my favorites were former festival guest Matias Pinero’s Hermia and Helena, a very free adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Katherine Dieckmann’s Strange Weather, which was filled with the spirit of great Southern literature. Five of the first seven films I caught here were about poetry, and the very first one, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, remained my personal favorite of the 25+ features I took in. Neruda by Pablo Larrain was an imaginative and unusual biography of the Chilean poet, with real and invented characters. Other poetry films I liked very much included Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming, Ann Marie Fleming’s Canadian animated film based on her graphic novel, and Ruth Beckermann’s The Dreamed Ones, an experimental documentary re-enacting the romantic correspondence of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. Pablo Larrain, by the way, topped Neruda with another film that exploded the limited boundaries of the traditional biopic, Jackie, with Natalie Portman giving a brave and astonishing performance as Mrs. JFK. The film devotes a lot of attention to her work remodeling the White House and constructing the ‘Kennedy Camelot’ myth, so maybe I can rationalize showing this as a portrait of an artist. Rationalization’s not necessary, however, since Jackie is clearly a portrait by an artist, Pablo Larrain, who is heroically reinventing the tired biopic genre. Just behind literature as the dominant art form of my Toronto experience came jazz, which has been inspiring some great cinema lately (for example, the magnificent The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith, which screened in the MFAH Jazz on Film series). Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is a solid “American Masters” -style portrait elevated by its amazing archival performances. More impressive to me was I Called Him Morgan, about trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife, Helen, who murdered him. The film’s compassionate understanding of her act and his art moved me deeply. Finally, there’s Damian Chazelle’s La La Land, his follow-up to his earlier jazz films Whiplash and, from our very first festival in 2009, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. Chazelle and Ryan Gosling, as a purist jazz musician, are going to turn a lot of people onto jazz when this film becomes the hit it is destined, and deserves, to be. For the record, I also saw these features: Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, A Monster Calls, Nelly, Terence Malick’s Voyage of Time, Mali Blues, Lion, The Eagle Huntress, Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit (Searchers), and two films that I adored by veteran filmmakers: Andrzej Wajda’s Afterimage and Errol Morris’ The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography. And finally, my second favorite film this week was the magnificent Moonlight by Barry Jenkins. Susan Gerhard wrote a fantastic article about its reception in Toronto, which you can read here, that ends with a beautiful statement about why festivals matter: Experiencing a film in a public setting like this, with cinephiles clambering up the seemingly endless escalators of the Bell Lightbox to get to seats, struggling together before the first minute of the film plays, is one of the only ways that the medium can give itself a chance to survive. The mental/physical/emotional workout of a festival viewing experience is how we build stories of transcendence about watching that will sustain a film through its lifetime and create a lasting impression that it’s must-seeable—whether at a faraway festival, or in a comfortable setting close to home, or via a personal device on a train. If film as a culture of watching moving images, reacting to them, and sometimes transforming because of them is too often said to be dying in an overheated digital climate, we can think of festivals as the way we get its heart pumping again. I’m inspired by the Toronto Film Festival and Gerhard’s take on it, and will now do my best to bring some cinematic rapture to Houston.
I’m very pleased that, for our annual Julydoscope free event at 7:00p.m. on July 16 at Discovery Green Park, we have landed one of the greatest arts films of the year, Sonita. This film picked up both the Jury and Audience prizes for World Cinema at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sonita Alizadeh is the 17-year old Afghan teenager who, while living in Iran, made a viral rap video that protested her family’s efforts to sell her as a child bride. The film was directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, whose Going Up the Stairs, about an untrained Iranian woman artist who attracts international attention, screened to great acclaim in HCAF 2012. Maghami is a creative and engaged director, and not a detached observer of Sonita’s plight. Her film is a wrenching, ultimately exhilarating experience that you don’t want to miss. Sonita is a fine musical talent, and the film’s performances will likely have people dancing in the park. However, she is an even more inspiring human rights activist. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I brought her to the Ashland Independent Film Festival this past April. When she appeared onstage at the end of the film, surprising the audience who had been unaware of her presence, Sonita stood and acknowledged the rapturous applause with tremendous dignity. She then answered questions eloquently and spoke passionately about Sonita’s Campaign to battle child marriage. She also connected with another Afghani refugee in the audience, Arash Seddique, who was the subject of another film at Ashland, Alexandria Bombach’s How We Choose, which you can check out here. It was clear that they both missed their homeland terribly, but were inspired by each other’s courage. Sonita’s musical studies are keeping her from attending Julydoscope, but I am working hard on attracting other filmmakers and artists who are subjects of their films to our annual festival in November. In the meantime, Julydoscope, our biggest annual event apart from the festival, will supplement the screening of Sonita with exciting live performances of dance, hip-hop, and spoken word, so you are in for a memorable night.
I attended the Cannes Film Festival last week, after skipping it for the last two years. Cannes can be frustrating without a high-level access badge and, in 2013, my market credentials were just good enough to get me, and then strand me, on ticket waiting lists. As with most festivals, though, having experience and getting advice from others (including Marian Luntz from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, who also attended this year) helped me better navigate the event, and I had much greater success. Marian and I got terrific seats in the Palais for the premiere screening of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, her first American feature film. I’m a great admirer of Arnold’s British films, Red Road and Fish Tank, and even the two episodes she directed of my favorite current TV series, Transparent. European directors’ visions of America have generated some terrific films (including Paris, Texas, Stroszek, Stop the Pounding Heart, etc.) and American Honey is a road movie filled with a foreigner’s perceptive and humorous observations of contemporary American culture. Somehow, Arnold managed to elicit a strong and disciplined performance from Shia LeBoeuf. And Sasha Lane from Frisco, Texas, who plays opposite Shia, gave the most dazzling acting debut of the festival. My personal favorite this year was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry, the second of his autobiographical features after The Dance of Reality. Jodorowsky, famously the director of El Topo, is still bursting with surrealistic, cinematic ideas, and watching the film was exhilarating and, at the end, deeply moving. The Palme d’Or winner, I, Daniel Blake, by the director Ken Loach, painted a devastating picture of the deteriorating welfare state, and I admired it, but would not have given it the Palme. The Golden Eye documentary prize went to Eryk Rocha’s passionate, experimental film exploring the Latin American film movement, Cinema Novo, in which his father, Glauber Rocha, was a leading figure. I will definitely pursue the Jodorowsky and Rocha films for HCAF 2016. My Cannes festival navigation skills improved this year, but still have a way to go. I was shut out of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, adored by critics I respect. I did manage to get into one of the hot ticket screenings, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, starring Kristen Stewart, to my regret. Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, which we screened two years ago in HCAF, proved Stewart has more range as an actress than many of us had realized. Here, she is trapped in an un-scary, meta-horror film that, like Sils Maria, is also, but less interestingly, meta on the subject of celebrity. It was a big disappointment from one of my favorite directors, but, luckily, most of what I saw was strong. I can attest, then, that the new crop of art films coming out of of Cannes and headed to HCAF, MFAH, and your other favorite venues, is a rich one.
Hello everyone. 2013 was a great year with Festival films AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, ERNEST & CELESTINE, NEBRASKA, PHILOMENA, CUTIE AND THE BOXER all up for Oscar nominations. So many great films to choose from. If you are like me and didn’t get to see them all, here is your up-to date list on where to find them! If you saw them – let us know with a post on social media #HCAFilms, and we will enter your name in a drawing for a weekend pass to Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2016, coming this November 10 – 17.
ALL THE LABORAmazon, iTunes
AN UNREAL DREAM: THE MICHAEL MORTON STORYAmazon, YouTube, iTunes
APPORVED FOR ADOPTIONAmazon, YouTube, iTunes
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTYAmazon, YouTube, Netflix DVD and Instant, iTunes
THE BALLAD OF THE WEEPING SPRINGAmazon
BECOMING TRAVIATAAmazon, Fandor, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD
BIG JOYAmazon, Fandor, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix Instant
CHARLIE COUNTRYMANAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant
FROM ABOVE (formerly known at HCAF as CHASING SHAKESPEARE)Amazon, iTunes, Netflix DVD
CUTIE & THE BOXERAmazon, iTunes, Netflix DVD
ENZO AVITABILE MUSIC LIFEAmazon
ERNEST & CELESTINEAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD
HARRY DEAN STANTON: PARTLY FICTIONAmazon, Fandor, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD
JAMEL SHABAZZ STREET PHOTOGRAPHERAmazon, YouTube, iTunes
MY FATHER AND THE MAN IN BLACKAmazon, YouTube, iTunes
NEBRASKAAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD
PERSISTENCE OF VISIONVimeo
PHILOMENAAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant
REQUIEM NNAmazon, YouTube, Vimeo
SHEPARD & DARKAmazon, Fandor, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD
VIOLAAmazon, Fandor, iTunes, Netflix DVD
WILD STYLEAmazon, Fandor, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant
DAZED AND CONFUSEDAmazon, YouTube, iTunes
NARCO CULTURAAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant, Vimeo
PARIS, TEXASAmazon, iTunes, Netflix DVD
LUCKY THEMAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant
HONOR FLIGHTAmazon, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix DVD and Instant
Last month I started a quest to share where to find the films from HCAF 2015. This month we step back one more year to 2014. If you find yourself with time to watch a movie from the theater seat where you are and wonder what to choose, take a journey through these films curated for HCAF 2014 by Artistic Director, Richard Herskowitz. Enjoy! Back next month with the films from HCAF 2013!
1,000 TIMES GOODNIGHTYouTube, Netflix Instant or DVD, Amazon
A THOUSAND SUNSiTunes, Vimeo, Amazon
ACTRESSFandor, Netflix Instant, iTunes, Amazon
ART AND CRAFTNetflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon
BJORK: BIOPHILIA LIVEiTunes, Amazon
BORN TO FLYNetflix Instant, iTunes, Amazon
BURROUGHS: THE MOVIEYouTube, Amazon
THE CITY OF YOUR FIINAL DESTINATIONNetflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIAYouTube, Netflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon
DIOR AND IYouTube, Netflix Instant and DVD, iTunes, Amazon
EVERYBODY STREETYouTube, iTunes, Vimeo, Amazon
EXHIBITIONFandor, Netflix Instant and DVD, iTunes, Amazon
GUISEPPE MAKES A MOVIEYouTube, Amazon
THE IMITATION GAMEYouTube, Netflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon https://youtu.be/S5CjKEFb-sM
IN THE STREETFandor, YouTube
JALANANVimeo, Amazon, Amazon
A LESSON BEFORE DYINGYouTube, Netflix DVD, Amazon
THE MAN OF THE CROWDiTunes
A MASTER BUILDERNetflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon
MUDBLOODSiTunes, Vimeo, Amazon
MUSE OF FIREiTunes, Vimeo, Amazon
THE REMAINS OF THE DAYNetflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon
STATIONS OF THE ELEVATEDiTunes
THROUGH A LENS DARKLYNetflix Instant, iTunes, Amazon
TOMATO REPUBLICYouTube, Amazon
WILDNetfilx DVD, iTunes, Amazon
Whew! I haven’t written a blog since last August. My only excuse is that there is almost as much to do after every Festival as there is before and during, especially now with more year-round programming but that is a topic for another day. It might surprise you to know that as the Executive Director of Houston Cinema Arts Society, I often don’t get to see the films in Houston Cinema Arts Festival (HCAF) until months after it closes. Why? Well (see previous statement) there is just so much to do before, during, and after! My solution? Every year about this time I start looking to Fandor, YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, and Vimeo for what to watch next. Now you too can benefit. I’m planning a monthly blog to share my list of past festival films available to watch now and their sources starting with 2015 and working my way backward. If I stick to the plan, I should be able to share the films all the way back to the first Festival in 2009 just in time for pre-HCAF 2016 launch to start. Please reach out to me on Facebook (Houston Cinema Arts Festival) or Twitter @CinemaArtSociety #HCASED with comments to let me know what you think about the films or if you found another source to list. Here are the HCAF 2015 films available now and where to find them along with trailers. Check back from time to time and I will update this blog entry with more as they become available. Netflix (Instant), iTunes Fandor, Vimeo