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Houston Cinema Arts Festival guide: Local stars shine, plus Oscar buzz

Houston Cinema Arts Festival guide: Local stars shine, plus Oscar buzz

Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki in Widows
Oscar watch: the hyped and buzzworhy Widows Photo by Suzanne Tenner
Queerskins virtual reality movie VR experience
Queerskins opens the fest with a virtual reality ride.  Photo courtesy of Queerskins
Richard Linklater
Academy Award-nominated, Houston-born filmmaker Richard Linklater will discuss his films.  Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Vittorio/Getty Images for BFI
Bun B hat stadium
Houston rap icon Bun B will add to the fun.  Photo by Maigen Berg
Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki in Widows
Queerskins virtual reality movie VR experience
Richard Linklater
Bun B hat stadium

It's the 10th year for the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, and the fest is going all out for its anniversary. The local film festival that merges film with the arts, put on by the Houston Cinema Arts Society, offers up a host of selections this year, each representing a genre of art (see a theme here?).

Movies for art lovers 
Interested in a movie about opera? Maria by Callas, the new documentary on opera-singing great Maria Callas, will screen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Saturday, November 10. Are you bookish about authors? The fest will screen Lethem, a documentary on acclaimed author Jonathan Lethem, at MFAH on Sunday, November 11. Lethem himself will be there, as he'll also be in town to read from his latest book, The Feral Detective, at Cullen Performance Hall on Monday, November 12. Are you feeling peckish for a film on culinary arts? Look for Chef Flynn, a doc on teenage chef Flynn McGarry, at Rice Media Center on Friday, November 9. 

But this festival isn't just made up of docs on fascinating artists. Many artists will be around taking part in several, fascinating events. Things kick off Thursday, November 8 at noon at Rice Media Center with Queerskins: a love story, a virtual reality experience from Illya Szilak and Cyril Tsiboulski which positions visitors, wearing Oculus headsets, in the backseat of a car where two grieving parents take them on a journey of their son's life.

Star watching
Academy Award-nominated, Houston-born filmmaker Richard Linklater, who kicked off the first HCAF with a screening of his film Me and Orson Welles, will discuss the music of his films Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some! with rapper Bun B at White Oak Music Hall on Friday, November 9. Alex Cox, the British filmmaker behind the cult films Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, will introduce the late Dennis Hopper's long-lost, 1971 film The Last Movie at Rice Media Center on Monday. Composer/musicians Donald Sosin and Alicia Svigals will provide the music for a screening of the 1923 silent film The Ancient Law (Das Alte Gesetz) on Sunday, November 11. 

The fest will end on Monday night at the Aurora Picture Show, where returning, experimental-film artists Brent Green and Vanessa Renwick will do some audio-visual wizardry with their films.

And the Oscar goes to...
HCAF will also show some highly anticipated films from visionary filmmakers that may possibly get some Oscar nods soon, including Steve McQueen's Widows, Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, and UH graduate Julian Schnabel's At Eternity's Gate.

A bittersweet curtain call 
But this festival is also a bittersweet one, as this will be the final one for longtime artistic director Richard Herskowitz. He will step down to focus on continuing his work as executive and artistic director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival in Oregon, where he also lives. 

While he has fond memories of bringing people like Robert Redford, Tilda Swinton, and even '90s hip hop duo Kid 'N Play (who showed up one year for a screening of House Party) to the HCAF, he's most proud of how the festival has became a yearly compendium of ambitious, experimental filmmaking, with various venues and organizations gladly coming onboard to help showcase the visual artistry.

"These are people who are like my allies all through the year," says Herskowitz. "They sometimes bring ideas to me. I bring ideas to them. I kind of make sure I'm in touch with them all the time, so when something pops up that I think will be of interest to the dance community or to the literary community or to the theater community, I'l consult with them... That's why it's a year-long process of pulling this together.

"It is unusual for a film festival," he adds, "because film festivals are usually compilations of movies that have been submitted and vetted and reviewed. This one is highly curated, but not just by me. It's by me in collaboration with all these partners I've built up over the ten years I've been here."  

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The 2018 Houston Cinema Arts Festival runs Thursday, November 8 through Monday, November 12, at various locations. Ticket prices may vary. For information and daily schedules, visit the official site.