Documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer opens the Oak Cliff Film Festival in June.

Documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer opens the Oak Cliff Film Festival in June.

For the second year lights, camera, and action is coming to south Dallas as the Oak Cliff Film Festival kicks off June 6-9, 2013, showcasing some of the best Texas filmmakers.

Films and festival events will take place at the historic Texas Theatre, the Kessler Theater, the intimate Bishop Arts Theater, and the Belmont Hotel, all within a mile of the Austin-like Bishop Arts District.

Jason Reimer, creative director and partner for the Oak Cliff Film Festival, says this year’s main theme is about staking a claim.

“There’s a very determined spirit in the indie filmmaking world that all of us relate to,” he said. “This year it’s all about making our own statement. That’s why we came up with all the ‘revolutionary’ imagery and flags for marketing. It came out of the phrase ‘to put your flag in the ground.’”

Reimer said that in making film selections, the preview committee also looks for films that are interesting but also take some chances in the storytelling. Festival highlights will include a secret screening this year that Reimer is mum to comment about, only saying he is certain it will “likely be talked about for the rest of 2013.”

From Drinking Buddies.

From Drinking Buddies.

The opening night double bill is the romantic comedy Drinking Buddies starring Olivia Wilde and a documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, from HBO Films. Closing night features Bobcat Goldthwait’s new horror film, Willow Creek.

We are a true neighborhood festival that highlights the venues we feature as much as the films,” Reimer says “We also have a strong interest in supporting and nurturing the regional filmmaking community the best we can, so production of films is as important to us as viewing them since Dallas has a rich history in film production that I don’t think most people outside that industry know about.”

Other buzz films on this year’s slate include director Geoff Marslett’s Loves Her Guns, which premiered at SXSW in March and won the Louis Black Lone Star Award for Texas filmmaking for Austin-based Marslett, who grew up in the Dallas area. The story is a romantic tragedy about a young woman who flees violence in New York for the laid back environment in central Texas. Once she settles into Austin she falls into the local gun culture and some of her same worries come back to haunt her.

“This film was a big departure for me,” Marslett says. “My previous work has been primarily comedy and weird, but this project is an extremely realistic-centered drama wrapped around some darker, tougher questions.”

The film came about, he explains, when he and co-writer Lauren Modery began talking and she expressed experiencing a lot of anxieties and general feelings of fear. “It got us talking a lot about how young women often feel in urban environments and after talking to more friends who felt similar things, we decided to develop it into a story and ultimately a film,” says the director.

Shot in Texas and New York, Marslett says the film’s dialogue it is entirely improvised. A script was developed with all of the locations, plot twist events, and actions, but none of the actual spoken words. “I wanted every interaction to feel completely real and I wanted the actors to be able to bring their own experiences to the characters. This really turned out even better than I might have hoped, but it made the practicalities of shooting more challenging.”

Zero-Charisma-2

Zero Charisma.

The comedy Zero Charisma, from filmmakers Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews, also played at SXSW this year and won the audience award in the narrative spotlight category.

The story centers around a metal-loving gamer geek who lives with his ornery grandmother and works a job at a donut shop. Every Tuesday night he is the omnipotent Game Master, guiding his role-players through a tabletop journey of fantasy and adventure. However, when a neo-nerd hipster joins his game, things take a turn for the worse forcing him to take drastic steps to reclaim his honor and his identity as the Game Master.

Graham and Matthews have been a filmmaking team for a while, but this is the first time they stepped into the director’s chair working on a narrative film together.

“Scott Weidemeyer is a familiar character to most people,” says Graham of the lead character. “He’s a know-it-all, a bit of a bully, and he’s insensitive to others, but deep down he just wants people to like him, and he doesn’t have any idea of how to go about it. I think it’s safe to say everyone has known a character like Scott.”

Currently making Austin their home, the two filmsters grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Austin four years ago.

Coming from a documentary background it was easy to believe in the projects you work on because you know the characters are interesting,” Matthews says. “Of course they are; they are real people. In a narrative, you question how real everything is and are always striving to make it more realistic.”

Computer Chess.

Computer Chess.

The comedy Computer Chess, premiered at the Sundance Festival in January.

Filmmaker Andrew Bujalski describes his film as a psychedelic period piece about computer chess programmers greeting the dawn of artificial intelligence. Set 30 years in the past over the course of a weekend tournament for chess software programmers, the story aims to transport viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs.

Bujalski has spent the previous decade making movies on 16mm film, but says he was always being asked “Why don’t you shoot video?” “Some contrarian part of me thought, ‘I’ll show you video,’” he says, and so he began fantasizing about making a movie on old black and white analog tube video cameras, “the kind no one’s really touched since the ’70s. That was the seed. My subconscious did the rest over a course of years.”

Currently living in Austin, Bujalski says Computer Chess was shot in the summer of 2011 and then he tinkered with it until its 2013 premiere at Sundance, where it was hailed for its witty naturalistic dialogue and grungy imagery thus making it a cult favorite.

–RITA COOK


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