Movies Are My Life

An insider's guide to Houston's international film festival: Five don't-miss movies at WorldFest

An insider's guide to H-Town's film fest: Must-see movies at WorldFest

WorldFest Houston promotional poster with smoking movie camera
WorldFest-Houston promises "killer flicks" in its promo campaign - complete with a smokin' hot camera logo.

At the 2013 WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival — the 46th edition of the long-running cinematic exposition, running through April 21 at the AMC Studio 30 — it’s still the same old story: Too many movies, too little time.

Still, some movies stand out as more see-worthy than others. While paging through the festival catalog and clicking through the festival website, I thought these five titles appeared especially promising.

1) The Mystical LawsHave to admit: Japanese anime features that aren’t the product of Studio Ghibli don’t usually rank high on my must-see lists at any festival. (I think my prejudice stems from seeing too many sci-fi fantasies in which the female leads were drawn to resemble bosomy Girl Scouts.)

 I think my prejudice stems from seeing too many sci-fi fantasies in which the female leads were drawn to resemble bosomy Girl Scouts. 

But this one looks so deliriously over-the-top, I’m willing to give it a try.

For openers, there’s a provocative plot synopsis that begins: “202X. A military and economic superpower of Asia is rocked by a coup. Tathagata Killer, a man from the military division, has assumed the position of emperor and established the Godom Empire. The U.S., a former superpower, has now lost its power, and the United Nations is also helpless against this new threat in the world.”

And for those of you who really do care about such things: Isamu Imakake, the director, was a key animator for the widely admired (not necessarily by me, you understand, but by a lot of other people) Cowboy Bebop. (9 p.m. Sunday)

2) Breaking Through – Mayor Annise Parker is ready for her close-up. She’s one of several notable interviewed in director Cindy L. Abel’s documentary about the struggles and triumphs of LGBT elected officials throughout the United States. “I was surprised,” Abel recently told, “not only by the content of their stories, but the depth of emotion they showed when telling them.

"Like when Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown fought back tears remembering the agony of living in the closet and the terror of being exposed at work. And, off camera, Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s communications director almost fell off her chair in shock when Mayor Parker candidly shared how she dealt with being separated from her first love in high school.” (9 p.m. Monday)

3) The Nowhere Son – Longtime Houston-based filmmaker San Banarje last appeared at WorldFest/Houston three years ago with Bodhisattva, his Bengali-language, English-subtitled drama about a young woman’s encounter with her estranged father years after her mother’s suicide. This year, he’s offering his latest feature, a thriller in which Banarje stars opposite renowned Indian actor Soumitra Chatterjee.

The plot involves a physician’s desperate search for his father — a professor who disappeared after refusing to sell his ancestral home to land developers. (7 p.m. Tuesday)

4) Almanya: Welcome to Germany – As immigration reform continues to be a hot-button issue, locally and nationally, it might be interesting to see how well immigrants in other countries are faring, assimilation-wise. Director Yasemin Samdereli’s well-received debut feature takes a seriocomic look at the shifting fortunes and divided loyalties of the extended family headed by Turkish-born Huseyin Yilamz, who brought his wife and children with him when he moved to Germany as a Gastarbeiter (guest worker) nearly 50 years ago.

Much like my late Irish-born father, who always considered my birth in America to be a mere technicality, Huseyin maintains strong ties to the country he still thinks of as home, and feels his children and grandchildren should share his sense of national identity. But, well, not all of them do. (9 p.m. Wednesday and 9 p.m. April 20)

5)First Dog – Way back at WorldFest 2009, Canadian-born writer-director Bryan Michael Stoller — author of, no kidding, Filmmaking for Dummies — won the Gold Remi Award for an original screenplay titled First Dog. Now he’s back with the completed film, a family-friendly comedy about a plucky young foster child (John-Paul Howard) who fortuitously finds the pet dog of the United States president when the Commander in Chief (Eric Roberts) accidentally leaves the pooch behind after visiting the youngster’s hometown.

You might want to see this one to enjoy a movie outing with your kids, or maybe because Dolly Parton provided some original tunes for the soundtrack. But I admit: I’m curious to see how Eric Freakin’ Roberts — arguably the hardest working man in the entire history of direct-to-video genre cinema — pulls off playing the leader of the free world. (7 p.m. April 19 and 5 p.m. April 20)