At The Movies

World film fest hits Houston: A fearless guide to the strange and powerful movies that will change your life

World film fest hits Houston: A fearless guide to the strange movies

Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Hydro The Film
Promo shot from Hydro The Film. Hydro The Film/Facebook
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Now We Are Alive (Et Maintenant Nous Sommes en Vie)
Scene from Now We Are Alive (Et Maintenant Nous Sommes en Vie). ClevelandFilm.org
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Sweathearts of the Gridiron Kilgore Rangerettes
Vintage photo from Sweathearts of the Gridiron. Sweathearts of the Gridiron/Facebook
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Girl on the Edge movie still
Girl on the Edge movie still. Girl on the Edge/Facebook
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Leaves of the Tree building
A scene from Leaves of the Tree. LeavesoftheTreetheMovie.com
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Leaves of the Tree cast members Sean Young, from left, Sarah Sebastiana and Eric Roberts
Leaves of the Tree cast members Sean Young, from left, Sarah Sebastiana and Eric Roberts. LeavesoftheTreetheMovie.com
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Hydro The Film
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Now We Are Alive (Et Maintenant Nous Sommes en Vie)
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Sweathearts of the Gridiron Kilgore Rangerettes
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Girl on the Edge movie still
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Leaves of the Tree building
Tarra Gaines WorldFest April 2015 Leaves of the Tree cast members Sean Young, from left, Sarah Sebastiana and Eric Roberts

With 10 packed days, more than 50 award-winning new films and 111 shorts, WorldFest Houston is certainly not slowing down after reaching middle age. Even though the 48 years-young indie world film festival will be screening the majority of its films and short programs in one place — AMC Studio 30 on Dunvale — it’s still almost impossible to see everything, unless you plan on taking an extra long spring break and just pitching a tent near the concession stand.

One look at the WorldFest 2015 schedule, and you might find yourself overwhelmed with the vast variety of comedies, dramas, documentaries and experimental films from pretty much every continent but Antarctica. (Please nobody tell penguins about film school, or else we’ll have to add another two days to the fest.) For me reading through the program guide was a bit like viewing a never ending menu.

With that analogy in mind, I thought perhaps the best way to indulge, not overindulge, in the WorldFest lineup was to create my own tasting menu. Here’s my curated attempt to sample this cornucopia of movies from around the world.

Big Bites
WorldFest opens with a Texas premiere on Friday and and closes with a U.S premiere on April 19, and both films look like they have the potential to be critical darlings.

Leaves of the Tree
Filmed in Houston and Sicily — not a combo you often hear this opening night premiere tells the story of a Houston patent lawyer who goes on a quest to find a mystical tree that might hold the cure for a disease that threatens his life. Houstonian David Healey wrote the screenplay and, along with his wife Rebecca Healey, produced the film. The Healeys made an effort to cast local actors, along with established Hollywood stars Armand Assante, Eric Roberts and Sean Young.

Young will be on hand at the April 10 screening of Leaves of the Tree to receive the annual WorldFest Remi Career Achievement Award.

After surviving an encounter with an online predator, a young woman named Hannah Green, played by Taylor Spreitler, is sent by her parents to a treatment center which specializes in equine and horticulture therapy. Hannah begins the healing process by helping to nurture a horse also rescued from abuse. Bring lots of tissue for this tale that’s based on a true story. 
April 19 at 7 p.m.
 
A Rare Ingredient Filled International Course

For something new, let’s try an English-subtitled international film in a language we’re unlikely to hear on the streets of Houston. This one is a difficult choice because what language aren’t you going to hear somewhere in H-Town? How about Tagalog, which is spoken by a fourth of the population of the Philippines as well as the characters of the comedy Ekstra (The Bit Player) about the behind the scenes, day-in-the-life drama of a struggling extra on a soap opera.

 Are soap actor antics a universal inspiration for comedy? Ekstra could be the way to find out.  

Are soap actor antics a universal inspiration for comedy? Ekstra could be the way to find out. 
April 16 at 9 p.m.

An Experimental Fish Dish

Filmed in 27 countries by 56 filmmakers aided by 16 musicians, Hydro is a stunning (at least the trailer is) and wordless sort-of documentary adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey filmed entirely beneath the oceans’ surface. 
April 11 at 9 p.m.

A French Appetizer Infused with Weirdness

We’ve got to have at least one, so perhaps take a chance on: Now We Are Alive (Et Maintenant Nous Sommes en Vie). In this world, everyone on their 25th birthday, or maybe just men, must pick their soul mate by listening to a range of voices. Tom doesn’t get what he visualized when he opens his eyes to Lea, but then gets visitations from his dream woman. This looks both strange and spooky.
April 17 at 9 p.m.

A Nutritious Documentary 

Feed your brain with some new knowledge. This year you might want to view locally with Sweathearts of the Gridiron, a doc that gives the history, along with contemporary stories, of the Kilgore College Rangerettes from Kilgore, Texas. In 1940 their founder Gussie Nell Davis changed college football halftime forever with the creation of this dance team.
April 11 at 7 p.m. 

A Spicy Comedy Starring Gary Cole
If there’s some television and movie workhorse actor Gary Cole on the menu, you got to at least try some of that. Because who doesn’t like Gary Cole? He’s like tacos.

 Who doesn’t like Gary Cole? He’s like tacos. 

In Divine Access he plays a public access television preacher who gets debunked on air. As his fortunes fall, the man who humiliated him takes to the road as a new celebrity, until they meet again for a final showdown. This movie about public-access television, spiritual celebrities and road trips, could be that quirky indy hit you’ll be telling everyone you saw first.
April 14 at 9 p.m.

A Dessert of Shorts

Almost every night of the festival has one or multiple short film programs on the schedule. I love shorts because if I don’t like the film another will be along in about five to 10 minutes. From comedies to thrillers, histories and scifi, there’s a genre for everyone. Worldfest even had enough shorts from Houston and Texas — about four hours worth — that they had to break them into two different programs — on April 11 and 14.

This is my tasting menu, but choose and substitute according to your own appetites, to make that perfect film sampler for yourself.

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