Jonathan Demme Presents: Made in Texas is a series of short and experimental films that were made within the purview of the University of Texas RTF department in the late 1970s. The title Made in Texas may be misleading. It should be Carved in Stone in Texas, such is the influence of music and cultural reflection on display in these selected films.

Jonathan Demme Presents: Made in Texas plays Saturday, September 19, at 7 pm. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Shot on 16mm and Super 8mm, these shorts display the atmosphere of the era, whether it’s the bright primary red so inherent with ‘70s film stock or the grainy look of black-and-white film. (Just as an aside – have you tried to find a place that still develops 35mm still film? Remember when there was a Fox photo hut on practically every corner?)

There was a symbiotic relationship between musical artists and visual artists of the time. The scene in Austin in the late-‘70s was filled with rock groups with names like The Huns, Radio Free Europe, and The Standing Waves among others. Most of the filmmakers represented in the Made in Texas program played in such bands. There’s a visual aesthetic mined from punk and new wave acts of the day, not the least of which was The Sex Pistols who played at Randy’s Rodeo, a former bowling alley turned rock venue in San Antonio in January of 1978.briantbird

Made in Texas starts with Speed of Light by Brian Hansen and follows a young woman and her child as they navigate unfriendly back roads of Texas in a red convertible. There’s a paranoia vibe to Speed of Light as no one seems to listen to the woman when her car stalls or her child goes missing. Hansen intercuts the action with footage of the space program and John Glenn.

If you watch the credits you notice that Hansen turns up in the sound department of Mask of Sarnath by Neil Rutterberg. Sarnath unwinds with a pervading chilly mood as an ancient mask makes people go crazy. With its stalking point-of-view it’s likely that Sarnath was also influenced by the original Halloween.

Fair Sisters plays with identity as women dress up as men to rob a poker game. Leonardo, Jr., shot in the style of a comic silent film, depicts an painter trying to create great art in the woods.

Invasion of the Aluminum People, the one short made in Super 8mm by David Boone, is a take off on corny ‘60s sci-fiers like The Cape Canaveral Monsters but with a hip sensibility. Perhaps my favorite short is Death of A Rock Star by Tom Huckabee and Will Van Overbeek. Obviously based on the raucous lifestyle of Jim Morrison, Death of A Rock Star sustains its surreal mood with fantastical imagery that hypnotizes the viewer.300x300

Hansen went on to work with Jonathan Demme. Demme curated the Made in Texas program and also gave special thanks to Hansen on the credits to his 1988 film Married to the Mob. In an email response Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, stated: “Brian Hanson died in 1987 in NYC while house sitting for David Byrne. Demme use clips of both Speed of Light and Aluminum People in Something Wild [1986]. Demme hired both Hanson and Boone to shot Talking Heads concerts while he was preparing Stop Making Sense [1984], looking to them for ideas how to shoot the Talking Heads. Jonathan championed both David and Brian. I don’t think Brian was involved with Married to the Mob, I think it was just lovingly dedicated to him.”

Black, one of the filmmakers on Fair Sisters, will introduce the screening of Made in Texas and will also host a post-screening Q&A, along with Sandy Boone the wife of Aluminum People director Boone.

–Michael Bergeron