A dark cloud to overcome
Houston film festival gets Thunder Soul as a movie anchor, but Angelika losslooms large
Cinema Arts Society has announced the headliner for their 2010 festival taking place this November, but a blinding gap appears on the schedule: One of their prospective venues, Angelika Film Center, is no longer.
"Our original plan was to have two screens at Angelika," Cinema Arts executive director Trish Rigdon says. "We were happily in negotiations there and just waiting for a rental price. They were even entertaining the possibility of being a sponsor.
"I was quite surprised being contacted by the press for a quote (on the overnight closing). As far as what we're going to do in November, we are working on finding a new venue diligently. We are doing everything from talking to Bayou Place's main tenant and the city, and I now have calls in to AMC, Landmark, Edwards — you name a movie theater and I've called them."
At the moment, the society will be relying on screens at Houston Visitors Center, Discovery Green, Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Rice Media Center. Taking place Nov. 10-14, Cinema Arts Festival is the only U.S. festival devoted solely to films by and about visual, performing and literary artists.
Event programs are being presented and produced collaboratively with partners such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Aurora Picture Show, The Menil Collection, DiverseWorks, Houston Film Commission and Southwest Alternate Media Project. For the second year, film programmer Richard Herskowitz will serve as festival's artistic director, bringing his experience from the Virginia Film Festival, Cornell Cinema and University of Oregon.
This November, the headlining film is the multi award-winning documentary, Thunder Soul. The Mark Landsman-directed film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival in June and audience awards at South by Southwest, Dallas International Film Festival and Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.
Thunder Soul is a reverent homage to Houston native and Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame inductee Conrad O. "Prof" Johnson and his work with Kashmere High School's Kashmere Stage Band during the late 1960s and '70s. The film recounts the school's run for a national title in 1972 and the events leading up to a reunion performance in February 2008, when 30 original members (now in their mid-fifties) performed a tribute concert in honor of Johnson, who was 92.
The film's message will become all the more poignant at the festival as the Kashmere Reunion Band will performs live following the free screening of Thunder Soul at Discovery Green.
"I hope we're able to get more documentaries such as this one exposed to the people of Houston," says Prof Johnson's son, Conrad O. Johnson, "not only because it's about Houston, but also because it's about the power of achievement.".
Cinema Arts audiences are anticipating the release of the full lineup and how the organization will overcome the potential loss of the Angelika. It was the society's intention to position the venues along the light rail line to enhance navigability, but other potential venues are far afield.
"Our preference is to get as close to downtown as possible," Rigdon says. "We're problem solvers."