That’s a Wrap: Houston Cinema Arts Festival Concludes Milestone Fifth Year
Mark Sullivan / Nick Scurfield
On the Mark Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HOUSTON – The 2013 Houston Cinema Arts Festival (HCAF) featured 68 films, exhibitions and live performances, bringing a rich array of cinematic experiences to Houston from Nov. 6-10 in the festival’s milestone fifth year.
Among the highlights of the festival – which celebrates the cinematic and visual, performing and literary arts – were a special 20th anniversary screening of teen movie classic Dazed and Confused presented by Houston-born director Richard Linklater, who received HCAF’s annual Levantine Cinema Arts Award; a sneak preview of Lucky Them with Academy Award-nominated actor Thomas Haden Church, director Megan Griffiths and producers Emily Wachtel and Amy Hobby; a screening of Nebraska with actor Will Forte and prolific producer Ron Yerxa; and the highly-anticipated August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts presented by screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Homeland star Tracy Letts.
“We’re absolutely glowing in the success of our fifth festival, which by all accounts was our best yet,” Houston Cinema Arts Society (HCAS) Executive Director Trish Rigdon said. “So many guest artists told me this was the best-organized festival they had ever attended, and that Houston hospitality was phenomenal. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and the wonderful reception of the programming from the community.”
The festival kicked off on Wednesday, Nov. 6, with the red-carpet Houston premiere of Cutie and the Boxer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). A documentary by Zachary Heinzerling, a Houston native and 2002 graduate of St. John’s School, the film was complete with a post-screening Q&A with Heinzerling, film subjects and artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara and HCAF Artistic Director Richard Herskowitz. Noriko thanked HCAS board chair Franci Crane for their festival experience afterward, writing: “You know, you made a beautiful icing and I, Ushio & Zack only skated on it.”
HCAF 2013 closed in style on Sunday evening at the MFAH. First up was the 4:00 PM world premiere of Houston Ballet: Breaking Boundaries, a documentary presented by international star Debbie Allen, director John Carrithers, producer Delicia Harvey and former and current Houston Ballet Artistic Directors James Clouser, Ben Stevenson and Stanton Welch. Then came the festival’s closing film, An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, directed by two-time Academy Award-nominee Al Reinert. The film tells the story of Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in Texas prisons for the wrongful conviction of his wife’s murder before Houston attorney John Raley helped to exonerate him with the use of DNA evidence. Reinert, Raley and Morton were all on hand for a lively and emotional post-film discussion.
Festival venues in downtown and the Museum District included Sundance Cinemas Houston, the MFAH, Asia Society Texas Center and hotel partner The Sam Hotel, along with the nearby Aurora Picture Show and Project Row Houses Eldorado Ballroom. The third annual Film Festival Field Trip Program hosted 800 middle school and high school students free of charge – up from the 600 students who attended last year – at screenings of Ernest and Celestine, Chasing Shakespeare and Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer. The students had a chance for personal interaction with filmmakers Norry Niven, Charlie Ahearn and Al Reinert, who were energized and moved by the enthusiasm of the younger audiences.
Among the other notables at HCAF 2013 were two of the preeminent experimental filmmakers in the United States, Jonas Mekas and Barbara Hammer, as part of the annual Cinema on the Verge series of experimental films and installations. Mekas, 90, presented his feature Sleepless Nights Stories and conducted a tour of his photography and video exhibition at the Deborah Colton Gallery. Hammer, 74, whose pioneering works of experimental and queer cinema have been celebrated worldwide, presented a live performance of a new work inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini entitled Witness: Palestine, a program of artist portraits and a pre-festival Master Class at the Glassell School of Art with Herskowitz.
In addition to Mekas and Hammer, Cinema on the Verge at the film festival headquarters in downtown Houston (1201 Main St. at the former Books-A-Million) also presented Meredith Danluck’s North of South, West of East, an immersive four-screen feature film installation that had only been shown previously at three other venues. HCAF headquarters also hosted Time Shift: The Films of Scott Stark, several Meet the Makers conversations with stars such as Forte, Yerxa and Swedish director Fredrik Bond (who presented his new film Charlie Countryman starring Shia LaBeouf during the festival) and a film and photography installation titled Réquiem NN by guest Colombian artist Juan Manuel Echavarría.
This year’s program was rife with international guests. Matias Piñeiro, one of the most exciting new directors in Argentine cinema, attended with a complete career retrospective of his four features: Viola, Rosalinda, They All Lie and The Stolen Man. Another international highlight was the bawdy and adventurous Chinese musical comedy The Love Songs of Tiedan, accompanied at the Asia Society Texas Center by an ensemble from China that included director Hao Jie and actors Feng Si, Yelan Jiang and Ge Xia. Following the screening, the actors gave a special live performance of the “er ren tai” style of Chinese singing and dancing featured in the movie.
Including The Love Songs of Tiedan, the festival featured four live musical performances. The others were a special acoustic set by The Hard Pans (Jimmy Smith and Claude Bernard of Austin band The Gourds) after a screening of The Gourds documentary All the Labor; a live music and film performance by Jeremy Rourke, an animator and musician from San Francisco; and The Yellow Ticket, a live musical accompaniment of the 1918 German silent film classic scored by world-class violinist Alicia Svigals, who performed during the film with jazz pianist virtuoso Marilyn Lerner.
HCAF 2013 featured numerous other films about music, including the 1983 hip hop classic Wild Style presented by New York director Charlie Ahearn, who also showed his new feature documentary Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer; director Jonathan Holiff’s presentation of My Father and the Man in Black, his portrait of the volatile relationship between his father, manager Saul Holiff, and his client Johnny Cash; Narco Cultura, presented by producer Todd Hagopian; Before the Spring, After the Fall with filmmaker Jed Rothstein; Enzo Avitabile: Music Life by Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme; and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.
Shepard & Dark, presented by director Treva Wurmfeld, explored the friendship of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark and the perils of long-term friendship. It was followed at HCAF 2013 by Wim Wenders’ Houston-filmed Paris, Texas, written by Shepard and starring Harry Dean Stanton. Other Texas-made films included Chasing Shakespeare, starring Danny Glover and presented by Dallas-based director Norry Niven, and the Texas Filmmakers Showcase featuring the best of Texas short films and videos.
Festival dates for the 2014 Houston Cinema Arts Festival will be announced in January.
ABOUT THE HOUSTON CINEMA ARTS SOCIETY
Houston Cinema Arts Society is a non-profit organization created in 2008 with the support of former Houston Mayor Bill White and the leadership of Franci Crane. HCAS organizes and hosts the annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, a groundbreaking and innovative arts festival featuring films and new media by and about artists in the visual, performing and literary arts. The festival celebrates the vitality and diversity of the arts in Houston and enriches the city’s film and arts community. HCAS sponsors include the Crane Foundation, a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Levantine Entertainment, Houston First Corporation, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Champion Energy Services, Amegy Bank of Texas, The Brown Foundation, Inc. and others. The project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission on the Arts. The 2013 Houston Cinema Arts Festival was held Nov. 6-10. For more information, please visit HCAS at www.cinemartsociety.org.