The 2015 festival is over, the best-attended and received of the seven (out of seven) I’ve programmed. Appreciative expressions by both festival audiences and guest artists have been conveyed to me and other festival personnel in many messages and ways. These have wiped away my exhaustion, and so I’m recharged and nearly ready to get started on HCAF 2016.
First, however, I want to reminisce. I’m reaching into my iPhone and the festival’s photo albums to share a few favorite images and memories. Opening day began with a visit to Bun B and Anthony Pinn’s “Hip-Hop and Religion” class at Rice University. I escorted the class’s special guest, Christopher “Play” Martin, seen here being greeted by Bun. What a phenomenal interviewer Bun B is, as he proved again that night on stage talking about Janis’ Port Arthur roots with Amy Berg after our Texas premiere of Janis: Little Girl Blue. Sitting in front of me in class, greatly enjoying Play’s reflections on hip-hop music, dance, fashion, and fame, was the amazing Lynn Wyatt, who posed with Play later at our opening night reception at the MFAH.
Cut to two nights later, and you’re backstage with me at the Cinema Arts Celebration at Brasil, where Kid ‘n Play were about to launch into their “rap battle” from House Party (after a microphone glitch was solved in the nick of time with the help of Brasil’s calm and collected owner, Dan Fergus). A Facebook post of their timeless dance number at Brasil has garnered nearly two million views. How are we ever going to top this party? Well, we will certainly try.
Technical issues also created suspense at the screening of Satellite Beach, the culmination of our glorious CineSpace Day at the MFAH. Luke Wilson managed to get on Skype for the first time ever, after a bout of the flu kept him from flying to Houston. When the connection was made after 20 minutes, during which time co-director Andrew Wilson and producer Steve Eckelman and moderator Joe Leydon kept the crowd informed and entertained, Luke burst onto the screen, looming like Big Brother over his actual big brother Andrew. Dosed on Robitussin, lounging in the kitchen with a dog ambling in and out of the frame, Luke was comfortable and hilarious. We should definitely do more Skypes with guest stars in the future.
Here’s another favorite image from the festival, photographed by Jeanne Liotta, showing Julia Oldham, Jeanne’s fellow artist in the CineSpace gallery installation at She Works Flexible on Dunlavy and Westheimer. Julia is standing alongside a section of Kidlat Tahimik’s temporary installation, depicting the allure and resistance to Hollywood by Third World filmmakers, in the gallery. Kidlat himself can be seen photographing the installation, which he and his son carried with them from the Philippines. The CineSpace exhibition of outer space-themed media art works by Liotta, Oldham, Laura Heit, Kelly Sears, and David Janesko is on view through December 5, and, take my word for it, you should run to see this.
A few other unforgettable moments:
As I moderated the post-Krisha discussion with Krisha Fairchild and Trey Edward Shults, recipient of the first Levantine Emerging Artist Award, his cast (mostly members of his family) stormed the stage and joined in one of the most lively and moving discussions I can remember.
Live music at our festival was more lively and varied than ever before. Audiences who arrived at Sundance Cinemas for The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes, and the Course of Country Music, were treated to a pre-screening concert by the dazzling Americana group, Hogan and Moss. And audiences who came to see The Jones Family Will Make a Way at the MFAH and Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten at the Asia Society heard stirring performances by the Jones Family Singers and Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman of Dengue Fever.
There were so many wonderful guest artists at this year’s event, and they were very happy to socialize together in the Lancaster Hotel, visit the Rothko exhibit at the MFAH and the Menil Treasure Rooms together, and, especially, attend each other’s programs. I will have more to say about their events in our Yearbook, which will be published and made available online in mid-winter. Each guest took home a whistle (seen below) specially carved by Connie Roberts to reflect the work the artist presented in the festival. They could not have been more delighted.