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Houston Cinema Arts Festival Guide: Local filmmakers, Oscar movies, Singin' celebration

Houston Cinema Arts Festival celebrates local filmmakers, Oscar movies

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There's already Oscar buzz for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which will screen at the MFAH on November 10. Photo by Merrick Morton
Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert at Houston CInema Arts Festival
The Houston Cinema Arts Festival will host the world premiere of Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert Courtesy of HCAF
HCAF17-Repellent Fence
One of the many Houstonian directors at this year's Fest will be Sam Wainwright Douglas with his film Through the Repellent Fence. Houston Cinema Arts Festival Courtesy Photo
HCAF17-Love Cecil
Lisa Immordino Vreeland's Love, Cecil opens HCAF17 on November 9.  Houston Cinema Arts Festival Courtesy Photo
News_Singin' in the Rain_Gene Kelly
A celebratory screening of Singin’ in the Rain at White Oak Music Hall will feature Bun B, jazz singer Kat Edmonson and Houston Ballet dancers. Courtesy photo
Bodied, Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Rice Media hosts the second opening night film, Joseph Kahn's Bodied Courtesy of HCAF
Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert at Houston CInema Arts Festival
HCAF17-Repellent Fence
HCAF17-Love Cecil
News_Singin' in the Rain_Gene Kelly
Bodied, Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Fall might not bring much in the way of colorful foliage to Houston, but for nine years the Houston Cinema Arts Festival has delivered an autumnal selection of artful film and beautiful films about art. This year’s festival, running November 9-13, arrives after-Harvey with a renewed focus on homegrown films.

While the Fest has always highlighted Texas and Houston filmmakers, this year, organizers wanted to celebrate our city’s resilience and resurgence with an even greater emphasis on local filmmakers, our artists and artistic communities. 

With five days and nights, nine screening venues and multiple films to see every day, lovers of art, film and film about art have a cornucopia of choices. But before plunging into the extensive schedule, here’s a preview of this year’s coolest trends and highlights.

Two for One Fabulous Opening Night
HCAF mixes it up a bit this year, with two very different new films opening the Fest on November 9 at two different venues. First director Lisa Immordino Vreeland will be on hand at the Museum of Fine Arts at 7:30 pm to present Love, Cecil, her documentary portrait of photographer and Oscar-winning costume designer Cecil Beaton. Then Houston-raised director Joseph Kahn comes home, bringing Bodied to Rice Cinema, his satire set in the world of rap battles.

As an extra bonus, Houston’s arts patronage queen, Lynn Wyatt, will interview Vreeland after the MFAH screening and hip hop artist and Rice University distinguish lecturer Bun B interviews Kahn following Bodied. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Wyatt and Bun will inhabit the same space/time to interview each other. Maybe next year.

Oscar Preview
Once again HCAF presents some of the hottest fall films and likely awards contenders so cinephiles get an early look at what the rest of the movie-going public will be talking about in December and January. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will host the regional premiere of these much-buzzed about films almost every night of the Fest, including the four we’re itching to see: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (November 10); Call Me By Your Name (November 11); Bomb City (November November 12), from Texan directors Sheldon Chick and Jameson Brooks, and I, Tonya (November 13).

Art Viewed from Behind a Houston Lens
In addition to Kahn, look for several other Houston directors in this year’s Fest, including two world premiere documentary portraits of Houston visual artists painted by Houston directors. Look for H-Town art squared November 12 at the MFAH as Cressandra Thibodeaux, executive director of 14 Pews, focuses the camera eye on the life of legendary Houston artist Jesse Lott in Jesse Lott: Artist in Action, followed by award-winning director Wayne Slaten’s exploration of Wayne Gilbert’s art created with cremated human remains in Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert.

For the timeliest of art focused docs, don’t miss Sam Wainwright Douglas’s Through the Repellent Fence, which explores the Native American collective Postcommodity’s two-mile art installation along the U.S-Mexico border.

Returning Festivals within the Fest
Cinema Arts picks some pretty impressive partners to film-pal around with every year, and 2017 brings back two favorites for the third year, ArCH (Architecture Center Houston) and NASA.

The ArCH films explore how architecture can activate and change a city with a selection of architecture inspired cinema including the documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City and the drama Columbus starring John Cho and Parker Posey.

Three years ago when NASA invited filmmakers around the world to use the space agency’s recent and archival footage, they perhaps didn’t know what a creative space monster they would unleash with Cinespace, the film shorts, space-focused festival. This year, the selection committee picked 13 finalists from more than 650 global submissions. Houston's own Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater judged the lucky 13, which will be screened November 10 at Rice Media Center right before the big announcement of the winners.

Rain to Sing About
As part of its dance celebration, HCAF reminds us the joy rain can still bring us with a very special screening on Saturday, November 11, at White Oak Music Hall of Singin' in the Rain. Performances by Bun B, jazz singer and actress Kat Edmonson, singer/songwriter and guitarist Robert Ellis, blues singer-songwriter Carolyn Wonderland and dancers from the Houston Ballet will help honor Singin’s 65th anniversary and remind us how great art and even a little rain can make us all happy again.

Check the full HCAF17 schedule for the best of films on dance, music, poetry, sex and life on the artistic edge.