Two acclaimed directors with contrasting styles will headline the sixth annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, organizers announced at a launch party at the Sam Houston Hotel Tuesday night.
James Ivory, whose much praised drawing room films include Room With a View and Howard's End, will receive the festival's Levantine Cinema Award on Nov. 14, where he will showcase his newest film, City of Your Final Destination.
Ivory will also screen his 1990 film, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, on Nov. 15 and his classic 1993 film, Remains of the Day, on Nov. 16.
"The festival program is unbelievably dense, but it doesn't look like a thicket to me; it's a garden. There are paths to take through the wilderness, kind of like Reese Witherspoon traveling through Wild."
Julie Taymor, the director of Broadway's cutting-edge The Lion King as well as the controversial Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, will open the festival on Nov. 12 with her new film, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and discuss it afterward with Alley Theatre artistic director Greg Boyd.
The festival, which combines films, live performance, music, dance and photography, will run from Nov. 12 - 16 with a full slate of offerings at such locations as the Museum of Fine Arts, Sundance Cinemas, The Aurora Picture Show, Rice Media Center, Miller Outdoor Theater and two new venues, The Menil Collection and Brandon Gallery, next to Cafe Brasil.
There is so much packed into the five-day festival that it can sometimes overwhelm participants, festival artistic director Richard Herskowitz acknowledged. His solution: Concentrate on the areas that interest you most — there are films on literature, theater, architecture and design, fashion, the cinema, photography, music and dance — many with a live performance component.
"In our catalogue and on our website, we list films by art form," Herskowitz says. "So if you are passionate about dance you can go see Elizabeth Streb present Born to Fly or you can go to Revolve on Camera, a live dance on film (featuring the Spring-based Revolve Dance Company).
"There's a mini-festival of dance woven throughout the festival, a mini-festival of music. That's something we're very conscious of. The festival program is unbelievably dense, but it doesn't look like a thicket to me; it's a garden. There are paths to take through the wilderness, kind of like Reese Witherspoon traveling through Wild."
Witherspoon's new movie, which details the real life story of a woman who hiked the Pacific Coast Trail alone, and The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch who portrays one of Britain's most extraordinary war heroes — both considered to be major Oscar contenders — are part of the festival schedule.
Other distinctive films include The Sound and Fury, directed by and starring James Franco, Clouds of Sils Maria, from celebrated French director Olivier Assayas and starring Juliette Binoche and Kristin Stewart, and the U.S. premiere of the Houston Ballet/Lang Lang collaboration Sons de L'âme ("Sounds of the Soul").
The festival's other featured guests include legendary avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs, Dee Halleck, founder of Paper Tiger TV, and acclaimed Brazilian director Marcelo Gomes, who will present two of his films.
Unique “live cinema” performances will take place each night of the festival, including the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow with Thomas Allen Harris, in which attendees are asked to bring family photos, and Wolf: A live performance by Deke Weaver, where the actor takes on the roll of an animal.
"We've expanded that component of the festival — live performances, a theatrical experience you can't get at home, unique one-time events that you have to see when we show them, that's your only chance," Herskowitz said.
A large chuck of programming centers on street photography, with films, like Cheryl Dunn's Everybody Street, and a gallery exhibition featuring the street photos and videos of guest artists James Nares, Jem Cohen, Ken Jacobs and Dunn.
"Zeroing in on this fascinating aspect of art that is made outside of confined spaces is really a rich way of looking at film and the interrelationships between films," Herskowitz said.
"Street art is artistic expression, uncurated. It's out there in the streets becoming the museum. Street photography is people finding wondrous things to behold in the streets that we take for granted. Reactivating democracy is what really excites people about the street."
For more information about the 2014 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, visit the festival's website.