On opening night of our seventh annual Festival, a great musical artist from Port Arthur, Texas, Bun B, will pay homage to his illustrious predecessor from the same hometown, Janis Joplin. Bun will lead the Q&A with Oscar nominated director Amy Berg, who has made a provocative film exploring Joplin’s music and her complicated relationship with her native state.
And so will begin the most Texas-centric Festival we have ever mounted. It’s partly so because of the Texas artists whose stories we’re featuring, including Doug Sahm, whose filmed biography will be told and hosted here by the great Austin-based music writer, now filmmaker, Joe Nick Patoski. Sahm, like Janis, took off and achieved fame in flower-powered San Francisco. Unlike Janis, Sahm lived long enough to reconnect deeply with his musical roots, returning to launch the Tex-Mex super group, The Texas Tornados.
The primary reason for our Texas emphasis is the explosion of cinematic talent here. Raised in Houston, Trey Edward Shults filmed Krisha last year in nearby Montgomery, and the film’s cinematic and emotional power blew everyone away at the SXSW Film Festival last March; it swept both the Grand Jury and Audience Prizes. Shults and his aunt, lead performer Krisha Fairchild, will be joined by other cast and crew as he screens his film at the MFAH and receives the first Levantine Emerging Artist Award from Levantine Films. Patrick Wang, born in Sugar Land, is returning home to present two independent films that have garnered much acclaim in the indie film community, In the Family and The Grief of Others. And former Houston SWAMP and Austin Film Society staff member Katie Cokinos is bringing her debut feature, I Dream Too Much, accompanied by its producer, our state’s most highly regarded director, Richard Linklater. Rick has been making biennial visits to our Festival since we launched it in 2009 with his wonderful Me and Orson Welles.
Given our fixation on our home city and state this year, it was only natural that we turned to our most illustrious agency, NASA, for a cinematic partnership. NASA has put up its amazing archive of space footage and photography online, and together we invited filmmakers around the world to create short films utilizing this material. 194 films were submitted and 16 exceptional short films were chosen to be screened at the CineSpace Awards Screening on Friday, November 13. Five of those, chosen by Richard Linklater and NASA judges, will earn cash prizes, and the audience will also get to vote on an audience prize winner. The awards screening is the centerpiece event of CineSpace Day at the MFAH, which will also include continuous screenings of Marco Brambilla’s Apollo XVIII and a free presentation by Time Magazine filmmakers of their ongoing online documentary series on astronaut Scott Kelly, A Year in Space. That’s not all, because more illustrious Texans are dropping by – William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert will present a 20th anniversary screening of their Oscar nominated Apollo 13, and Luke and Andrew Wilson will wrap up the day with their hilarious, space shuttle-crazy short film, Satellite Beach.
CineSpace will blast off from the MFAH and land at She Works Flexible gallery beside Brasil on Dunlavy and Westheimer, where artists Jeanne Liotta, Laura Heit, and Julia Oldham will present interactive, multimedia space-themed installations and performances on view through December 12. It will also pick up a Filipino passenger, Kidlat Tahimik, who will present a screening, an installation, and a live performance at Aurora Picture Show on November 13. Tahimik’s first two films, The Perfumed Nightmare and Who Invented the YoYo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy (both in our program), fantasized the creation of a Third World space program to rival NASA. Tahimik also says that the Apollo 6 mission inspired him to become a filmmaker, and that a visit to Houston and NASA has been a lifelong dream.
There is much more to read about in the highlights and film blurbs sections that follow, including our tribute to Kartemquin Films with its legendary founder, Gordon Quinn and documentary scholar and activist Patricia Aufderheide, and two presentations by the brilliant director, cinematographer, and theorist on black aesthetics, Arthur Jafa. These programs are co-sponsored with Aurora Picture Show, Project Row Houses, and SWAMP, just three of the many Houston arts organizations who collaborate with Houston Cinema Arts Society all year on planning and mounting our ambitious schedule.
Of course, the heart of our program is the extensive collection of the best new films by and about artists, and this year’s program includes a special emphasis on “Fringe Theater and Politics,” with three visiting experimental theater directors from Estonia and Israel, and on architecture, since we have joined forces with the excellent ArCH Film Festival and welcomed them into our program. As always, we are striving to highlight film’s interactions with other art forms with live music and film performances by Kid ‘n Play, Jones Family Singers, Dengue Fever’s Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman, and Hogan and Moss. Live-ness, embodied in our many Q&As with guest artists, the interactivity of our media installations, and our many musical and theatrical performances, is what festivals like ours aim to inject back into the movie-going, screen-gazing experience. So come alive with us for a week in November!