Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the 2015 Houston Cinema Arts Festival.
The lineup, unveiled at a cocktail party at the Alley Theatre Tuesday night, has been expanded to eight days with 60 narrative and documentary films, up from 50 last year, and a wide array of live performances. The festival, which celebrates artists in the visual, performing and literary arts, runs from November 12 -19.
The iconic hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play — Christopher "Kid" Reid and Christopher "Play" Martin — will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their cult classic House Party, with a screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on November 14, followed by an audience Q&A session. The pair will also perform the movie’s “rap battle” scene at Montrose-area cafe, Brasil.
While musicians will continue to have a presence in this year’s schedule, it’s the Lone Star State that will shine the brightest, with a day devoted to NASA ties, several up-and-coming Houston area directors honored and the premiere of a biopic on iconic singer Janis Joplin.
"This is the most Texas-centric festival we've ever done," said Houston Cinema Arts Society artistic director and festival curator Richard Herskowitz. "We're emphasizing Texas because the quality of what's coming out of the state is so incredible."
Texas music legends
The festival opens November 12 with the Texas premiere of Janis: Little Girl Blue. The film, a hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival, offers an intimate and insightful portrait of the singer, who died in 1970 at the age of 27. Herskowitz was bowled over by the film when he saw it in Toronto and worked hard to get it for the Houston festival.
The film's director, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis) will attend the screening and participate in a discussion moderated by another familiar hip-hop name, Bun B, who was born in Joplin's hometown of Port Arthur.
Texas music legend Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados will be profiled in Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove. Director Joe Nick Patoski, a noted Texas music writer who has authored and co-authored biographies on Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson, will be on hand for the showing on November 13 at the Sundance Cinemas.
Houston native Patrick Wang, a Taiwanese-American film director, writer and actor who currently resides in New York, returns home to present two films: In the Family, his directorial debut about a man who, after losing his partner also loses custody of their son, and The Grief of Others, a new film about a couple struggling to cope with the death of their baby. Based on the novel by Leah Hager Cohen, it premiered at SXSW 2015.
Houston-raised Trey Edward Shults, who now splits his time between Houston and Florida, wrote, directed and produced Krisha, an acclaimed film that swept the Audience and Grand Jury awards for Narrative Feature at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. Shults, along with cast — his aunt is in the title role — and crew, will present the film that follows a woman's tense return to Texas for a holiday gathering. He filmed Krisha at his parents’ home in nearby Montgomery County in just nine days with many of his own family members in the cast.
In acknowledgment of his talents, HCAF15 will bestow the first-ever Levantine Emerging Artist Award to Shults.
The festival will also debut I Dream Too Much, a coming-of-age film that illustrates the challenges faced by three different generations of women and families. It is the first film from director Katie Cokinos, a Texas A&M graduate and former managing director of the Austin Film Society, and is produced by Houston-born Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Before Sunset), who will be at the festival to present the film.
Space age theme
Anchored by a new partnership with NASA, the festival will debut CineSpace Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on November 13. More than 20 space-themed films and programs will be featured, including Satellite Beach from Texas natives Luke Wilson and Andrew Wilson, who will present their short film, TIME Magazine’s A Year in Space documentary series, which follows astronaut Scott Kelly on the International Space Station, and a 20th anniversary screening of Apollo 13.
The event also marks the launch of the inaugural CineSpace competition by HCAF and NASA. The top 16 space-themed short films, whittled down from 194 submissions including one Houston finalist, will be shown throughout the day. Five winners will be announced as a well as an audience favorite.
The festival, in conjunction with the Aurora Picture Show, will host Kidlat Tahimik, “the father of the new Filipino cinema,” a lifelong space enthusiast whose films, The Perfumed Nightmare and Who Invented the Yoyo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy?, feature a character who aspires to build a Third World competitor to NASA.
Several live performances will highlight the festival. Houston gospel group, Jones Family Singers, will perform following a screening of The Jones Family Will Make A Way. Dengue Fever’s Chhom Nimol and Zac Holtzman will perform after a screening of Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock n’ Roll. And Hogan & Moss will play a 30-minute set of original Carter Family music before the showing of The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music.
And there's more
The festival also offers a wide array of architecture-theme films, including Telos: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui, with an appearance by the renegade visionary architect who is the film’s magnetic subject. The films are shown in conjunction with Architecture Center Houston, which has merged its ArCH film festival with HCAF.
Filmmakers from Israel and Estonia will participate in a panel on the subject of fringe theater and politics. The films, Fringe Story (Israel) with director Tor Ben Mayor and artistic director Yinon Tzafrir, and Ash and Money (Estonia) with artistic directors Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper of Theatre NO99 in Estonia, will be featured.
Other special programs include a tribute to Kartemquin Films, the Chicago-based documentary film collective behind classics such as Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, with Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn and documentary film scholar Patricia Aufderheide.
And two Oscar contending movies: Carol, starring two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and Youth with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda, are sure to get a lot of buzz.
Now in its seventh year, Houston Cinema Arts Festival will take place at multiple venues, including the MFAH, Sundance Cinemas, The Menil Collection, Asia Society Texas Center, Project Row Houses and Rice Media Center.
For the full lineup, visit the website at HCAF15.org.