Last weekend, a celebrated artist we had been pursuing for the past couple of weeks accepted our invitation for opening night. A great director who will receive our Levantine Cinema Arts Award had confirmed a few weeks earlier. Now, we all have to wait patiently for October 21, when I can spill their names at our annual launch event and on our beautiful new website, along with the full program of films, performances, installations, panels, and parties.

That’s a lot to spill at once (over 50 programs in the five-day festival and the “Spotlight on Texas” to follow November 17-20), and so we’ve released early announcements of our live performances and ten of our arts-themed films to the press and our attentive followers.

The “live cinema” performances are a hallmark of this festival. You see images on screen, and live performers interacting with them. These are fully theatrical performances, and have to be experienced live, with others, in a theater, during the one time they are scheduled to take place.

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Thomas Allen Harris
, after showing his powerful film about the history of African-American photography, Through a Lens Darkly, at the Eldorado Ballroom on November 13, will project family photographs brought in by Houstonians that illuminate the history of the Third Ward. His Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow has elicited tremendous audience participation all over the U.S.

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Ken Jacobs will be carrying his projection apparatus, the Nervous Magic Lantern, to the Aurora Picture Show on November 14. Jacobs studied abstract expressionist painting with the artist Hans Hoffmann, and has been one of our most important avant-garde filmmakers since the early Sixties. This projector, his invention, produces uncanny three-dimensional moving images without film; they are abstract, but at times seem photographic. Seeing Jacobs generate these forms at a performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was one of the greatest art experiences of my life, and I cannot wait to share them with Houston audiences.

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Deke Weaver is a performance artist who assumes various personas, including a forest ranger and various animals, in the latest multi-media performance in his “Unreliable Bestiary” series, Wolf. Weaver, a mesmerizing and hilarious storyteller, will spin his tales at the Rice Media Center on November 15.

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Finally, on November 16, the Revolve Dance Company of Spring, Texas, will dance along with and between short films directed by the LA-based filmmaking team, Heather and Benjamin Epps. The filmmakers have created eight cinematic dances with Revolve, and the first of these, Angsters, deservedly won the Audience Award at the Dance Camera West festival.

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You may have noticed that music plays a lesser role than in past festival performances, which emphasized live musical accompaniment. I’m fine with that, especially since we are inaugurating a series of new Musical Movies that will screen outdoors, for free, from November 13-16 on the Café Brasil Patio and at Miller Outdoor Theater. So, as a reward for reading this far down in my blog, here are four more titles in the festival program we haven’t officially announced yet:

  • Jalanan Daniel Ziv’s film about street musicians in Jakarta;
  • Stations of the Elevated, a restored version of Manfred Kircheimer’s legendary depiction of ‘70s NYC subway graffiti, scored by Charles Mingus;
  • Living Stars, a Sundance sensation showing everyday Argentines dancing with abandon to pop songs (just try to sit still for this one);
  • Sounds of the Soul (Sons de L’Ame)­ featuring pianist extraordinaire Lang Lang accompanying Stanton Welch’s choreography for Houston Ballet dancers. Its U.S. premiere will be at the Miller Outdoor Theater as one of our closing night events on November 16.