When the ninth annual edition of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival kicks off for a five-day run later this week, both regular movie-goers and art house aficionados will be in a state of cinematic bliss.
The 2017 edition the Houston Cinema Arts Festival unwinds in venues as diverse as The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Brown Auditorium, the Rice Media Center, iPic Theater, Café Brasil, Diverse Works and White Oak Music Hall.
Free Press Houston sat down with HCAF artistic director Richard Herskowitz at Café Brasil last week wherein he elucidated the highlights of this year’s festival.
The usual suspects of studio and indie releases will have their Houston premieres: Call Me By Your Name (opening late December); I, Tonya (opening early December); the western The Ballad of Lefty Brown (opening mid-December); and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (opening mid-November).
It’s what lies below the tip of the iceberg that will ignite passion for the big screen. On Saturday, November 11, a screening of the Gene Kelly classic Singin’ In the Rain (at White Oak Music Hall’s inside stage) will feature interactive audience participation and performances, alongside the movie, with some of the songs being sung by Bun B and Kat Edmonson. Edmonson in particular made the move from Houston cabaret singer to New York City sensation and most recently appeared in the film Café Society.
The opening night features the Houston debuts of Love, Cecil, about noted costume designer Cecil Beaton, and writer/director Joseph Kahn’s Bodied. The latter film absolutely belongs on your must see list. An awkward lily-white grad student immerses himself into rap culture and eventually emerges as a contender for rapper of the year. Bodied bursts forth with amazing situations and stimulating dialogue that’s not likely to be easily matched. Bodied does not have a distributor but has been achieving kudos on the film festival route.
Kahn is a Houston native who attended Jersey Village High School back in the late ’80s. Kahn is a director known for directing music videos by some of the who’s who of performers, including Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Mariah Carey and U2.
Cinespace (11/10 at the Rice Media Center at 8:30 pm.) screens short films made with “NASA-captured imagery” that is then manipulated by filmmakers. On Saturday, November 11, the adult-oriented double feature of Flames and Pendular unwinds at Café Brasil (7 pm.). Pendular in particular merges the methods used to create art with titillating sex scenes. A Brazilian couple lives in a warehouse space and measure out their art between bouts of revenge sex.
A restoration by Milestone Films of the 1979 documentary on tap dancing, No Maps on My Taps (November 12, 1 pm. at the MFAH) explores the history of the dancers who brought this style of movement to wide acceptance.
Other don’t miss documentaries include Dam Wainwright Douglas’ Through the Repellent Fence about a two-mile long art installation on the plains of New Mexico and Citizen Jane: Battle for the City about Jane Jacobs’ fight to prevent mass gentrification through New York City in the 1960s. If you’ve lived in Houston long enough you may recall the similar controversy when parts of Highways 59 and 45 paved over minority neighborhoods to establish now existing cloverleaf entrances and exits.
And yet another don’t miss event combines experimental cinema with visual dynamics as filmmaker Blake Williams (also a Houston native) presents Prototype, which immerses the audience in a 3D orchestrated recreation of the 1900 Galveston hurricane (iPic Houston, November 12, 11 am.).
There are over thirty separate movies or events in this year’s HCAF, and they will all provoke discussion and thought. A full schedule can be found here. The real question is how many Astros World Series jerseys and caps will be on display.