It’s the 51st showing of the WorldFest International Independent Film Festival, an annual gathering where Houstonians can get their global-cinema fix all in one place at one time. It’s also a festival where so many, iconic filmmakers — Coppola, Lucas, the Coen Brothers — got their first honors.
But apart from seeing the early work of future, influential directors, there are other reasons to check out the ten-day film extravaganza. Here are five reasons, along with commentary from founding director Hunter Todd:
1. The stars — such as Ethan Hawke — show up
There are going to be 200 film premieres at WorldFest this year, and those movies’ filmmakers are going to be there as well, watching it play for audiences. This year’s big get is actor/director Ethan Hawke and his latest film Blaze, which will open up the festival on Friday, April 20.
Hawke has some past experience with the fest; his debut short Straight to One won a Bronze Remi Award from WorldFest in 1993. But there will also be filmmakers from other countries – 1000, according to Todd, from 74 nations. And 200 of them will be from China. It will be WorldFest’s fourth year welcoming Far East visitors, since the Chinese government officially approved the fest as a welcoming, stateside home for Chinese filmmakers.
2. WorldFest Houston has a new home
For 14 years, WorldFest held its festival at AMC Studio 30 on Dunvale. (They moved there after the gone-but-not-forgotten Meyerland Plaza theaters were torn down.) But, as Todd puts it, the multiplex has been slipping as of late. “Studio 30 has gone down and the quality of the theater is unacceptable to us,” he says. For this year, WorldFest moved its act over to the snazzy, Cinemark Memorial City theaters in Memorial City Mall.
3. Unlike other fests, the public has access to the filmmakers
You’ll be able to both talk with and learn from the filmmakers over at the Houston Marriott Westchase — aka the Official HQ WorldFest Hotel. The WorldFest Festival Club, where filmmakers can hang with other filmmakers and festival attendees, will be open every night until 2 am. “Every night after the movies, the public can mingle with the directors and show them their script,” says Todd. Aspiring filmmakers can also attend three days of Master Classes on Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28, where actors, writers, directors and film critics will teach seminars on various aspects of the film industry.
4. Jurassic Park
The latest installment of the Jurassic World franchise will hit theaters this summer, but it's a treat to return to the source material? For the iconic film's 25 anniversary, there will a screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dino blockbuster, complete with a digitally restored print, on Saturday, April 21. There will also be a 10-minute preview of the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
This screening is another reminder of the special bond WorldFest has with yet another filmmaking legend. “Jurassic Park is a Steven Spielberg film,” says Todd, “and little Stevie Spielberg won his first award with us, for a short called Amblin’.”
5. The closing-day party
For the closing day on Sunday, April 29, WorldFest offers a bevy of goodies. Along with the closing-night film, the erotic drama Disobedience, there is also VIP NASA Rocket Park Tour (complete with police escorts), a Texas barbecue where Texas Longhorns will be on hand for photo ops, and the 31st annual Houston Yacht Club/Consular Regatta. “We do that to get the filmmakers out of the bars and show them something that would make them come back and do a movie here,” says Todd.
For more information, tickets, and full schedule of events, visit the WorldFest International Independent Film Festival site.