A stellar lineup of actors, directors and other artists are participating in Cinema Arts Festival Houston, a jam-packed multimedia event scheduled for November 11-15, 2009. Guests presenting new and classic films include actress Tilda Swinton, Texas filmmaker and director Richard Linklater and Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. The arts-oriented Festival will also host photographer Susan Meiselas, rock band Dengue Fever and members of The Yes Men and the Ant Farm media collective, among many other outstanding presenters.
The only U.S. festival devoted to films by and about artists of all stripes, the 2009 Cinema Arts Festival Houston runs at various cultural locales throughout Houston. It is more than just a film festival; it is a vibrant multimedia arts event breaking out of the confines of the movie theater through live music and film performances, outdoor projections, interactive video installations and more.
The Festival's Opening Night will kick off with two highly anticipated films and a very special guest. Richard Linklater, originally from Houston and the maker of such seminal films as "Slacker," "School of Rock" and "Before Sunset," will attend the screening of his latest theatrical release, "Me and Orson Welles." Meanwhile, the acclaimed "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" will be playing downtown.
"Me and Orson Welles" is Linklater's tribute to the ultimate maverick director, Welles, as filtered through Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name. Zac Efron graduates from teen heartthrob to serious actor and displays impressive range as Richard Samuels, a young actor drawn into Welles's theater troupe and orbit.
"The Worlds of Tilda Swinton" celebrates the Academy Award winner's many artistic achievements in producing, writing and acting, and her passionate commitment to the cinematic arts. It includes a sneak preview of her latest independent feature film. Swinton will discuss her close collaborations with two avant-garde artists, Derek Jarman and Lynn Hershman Leeson. She will present "Derek," the documentary on Jarman she wrote and narrated, followed by a showing of the cult feminist sci-fi film, "Teknolust," where she will be joined by director Hershman. The weekend culminates with "The Ballerina Cinema of Dreams," a celebration at Discovery Green featuring a free outdoor screening of "The Red Shoes" and preceded by a performance by Houston Ballet. Swinton will be on hand at each of the screenings to introduce the films and engage in conversation with the audience.
"Guillermo Arriaga, Escritor" is devoted to the work of Arriaga, the extraordinary artist who wrote the trilogy of films "Amores Perros," "21 Grams" and "Babel." Arriaga will introduce "Amores Perros," the film that first brought him worldwide acclaim. During a special workshop, Arriaga will read from his novels and discuss his approaches to writing across media.
Arriaga will also introduce and discuss his screenplay, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," a classic story of friendship, revenge and redemption, grounded in the contemporary environment of the Texas-Mexico border, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. "The Three Burials" will also be the subject of the Festival's "Setting the Scene" workshop featuring crew members exploring the production of a Texas-filmed classic.
PHOTOGRAPHER SUSAN MEISELAS AND FILMMAKER RICHARD P. ROGERS
"Creative Partners: The Films of Richard P. Rogers and Susan Meiselas" includes several screenings and events exploring the fruitful partnership of filmmaker Richard P. Rogers and photographer Susan Meiselas, including the Houston premiere of one of the year's most original and important documentaries, "The Windmill Movie." Directed by Alexander Olch and produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Susan Meiselas, "The Windmill Movie" is imaginatively composed from footage collected over many years for an unfinished autobiography by legendary art documentarian, experimental filmmaker and film professor Richard P. Rogers.
Meiselas, who was Rogers' wife, collaborated with him on two classic documentary films made in the 1980s in support of the Nicaraguan people and revolution, "Living at Risk" and "Pictures from a Revolution." Meiselas will be joined by Alfred Guzzetti, who co-directed "Pictures from a Revolution" and "Living at Risk" with Rogers and Meiselas, for discussions after the screenings.
MULTIMEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL: INSTALLATIONS
Cinema Arts Festival Houston's commitment to multiple and intersecting genres of art is realized with several multimedia events, including media art installations.
One such attraction is H BOX, the portable screening room designed by Portuguese artist/architect Dider Fiuza Faustino and sponsored by the HermГЁs Foundation. H BOX is stationed at the historic Alabama Theatre through the close of the Festival and features a rotating, diverse program of videos by ten internationally renowned artists including Yael Bartana (Israel), Matthew Buckingham (USA) and Cao Fei (China). H BOX Curator Benjamin Weil will visit Houston and speak in a "Meet the Makers" series.
Another multimedia attraction is the special preview of "What if, Why not? Underground Adventures with Ant Farm," a documentary by Texas filmmakers Laura Harrison and Beth Federici about the 1970s renegade architectural and media collective Ant Farm. Inflatable structures inspired by Ant Farm and created by University of Houston students will supplement the screening. "What if, Why not?" is the first film to delve into the work of Ant Farm, best known for its iconic land-art piece Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. Guest filmmakers Laura Harrison and Beth Federici and legendary artists and Ant Farm original members Chip Lord and Curtis Schreier will attend the screening.
MULTIMEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL: LIVE MUSIC AND FILM PERFORMANCES
The Festival will expand its multimedia focus by integrating the art forms of film and live music in unique and surprising ways, as in its presentations of "Peter Pan," "When It Was Blue" and "The Lost World."
"Peter Pan," the 1924 silent film, will be screened and accompanied by live music performed by legendary silent film accompanists Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton and Paul Reisler, founder of Kid Pan Alley. Prior to the movie, audiences will enjoy a recital by Houston elementary school students, who will be working with Kid Pan Alley the week preceding the Festival composing original songs related to "Peter Pan." This program is free of charge.
"When It Was Blue," a critical sensation at last year's Toronto Film Festival, is a double-projector performance by avant-garde artist and New York based filmmaker Jennifer Reeves with live musical accompaniment by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and composer SkГєli Sverrisson. "When It Was Blue," which features ecological footage Reeves shot around the world that was then hand-painted, seeks to convey the artist's efforts to preserve the beauty of natural environments and 16mm film, both endangered.
"The Lost World," the 1925 classic adventure flick, will feature live musical accompaniment by Cambodian-American psychedelic rock band Dengue Fever. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name, "The Lost World" features amazing stop-motion sequences by animation pioneer Willis O'Brien, who later animated King Kong, and outlandish costumes and sets. Dengue Fever's live score, which premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival last spring, playfully and lovingly evokes worlds both known and unknown and elevates "The Lost World's" offbeat humor and singular beauty.
MORE FILMS ABOUT THE ARTS
Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men will present "The Yes Men Fix the World." Winner of the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, the film is a screwball true story about the satirical activist team, The Yes Men. Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno's theatrical performances take place on unusual stages. Dressed in thrift-store suits, posing as top executives of corporations, The Yes Men lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in outrageous, yet strangely plausible ways.
Festival Curator Richard Herskowitz combed several sources and festivals, including Toronto and Silverdocs, to bring Cinema Arts Festival Houston the best recent films made by and about artists. Highlights from the film program include: "La Danse: Le Ballet De L'Opera De Paris" (Frederick Wiseman), "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" (Damien Chazelle), "Sacred Places" (Jean-Marie Teno), "Theater of War" (John Walter) and "Who's Afraid of Kathy Acker?" (Barbara Caspar).