North Texas has no shortage of film festivals.
From the giants on the field such as Fort Worth’s Lone Star Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival to the smaller, more niche players like the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, Arab Film Festival Texas, the Jewish Film Festival and the documentary-oriented Thin Line Festival, it feels as if there’s a movie event going on every weekend.
Still, one of the most unique has to be the Oak Cliff Film Festival, in its third year and kicking off June 19 at the Texas Theatre. Featuring more than just an intriguing collection of new indie films, it’s eclectic enough to schedule events like a rare performance from the experimental multimedia San Francisco band Negativland and the Pola-Ride, a group bike ride through Oak Cliff that ends with a showing of the new film Wild Canaries on the rooftop of Jefferson Tower.
The festival is starting to garner a national reputation among filmmakers, with Moviemaker magazine declaring it one of the top 50 festivals worth the entry fee. (Lone Star, Austin’s Fantastic Fest, Houston’s World Fest and Victoria’s Independent Film Festival were the other Texas fests on the list.)
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Though the schedule lacks marquee names, there are many good examples of indie cinema worth checking out. So here are six picks for this year’s Oak Cliff Film Festival.
Buzzard (9:30 p.m. June 20, Bishop Arts Theatre Center): Michigan filmmaker Joel Potrykus has been gaining a reputation for edgy work and his latest, about a low-rent scam artist who descends down a rabbit-hole of paranoia, is striking.
Joshua Burge is remarkable as Marty, the bug-eyed slacker whose daily life is filled with frivolous frauds like selling office supplies from work for petty cash. But things go awry in this ultra-low-budget film when he goes for a big score: trying to cash checks made out to others. At once sympathetic and repugnant, Marty is not easy to forget.
The Dog (10 p.m. June 20, Texas Theatre): The outline of the true story at the heart of Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 hit starring Al Pacino, is fairly well-known: A man holds up a bank to get the money for his boyfriend’s sex change. But this engrossing documentary from Allison Berg and Francois Keraudren gets underneath the Pacino portrayal to offer a vivid portrait of the man, John Wojtowicz, who became a headline.
While Wojtowicz isn’t always sympathetic (note the way he treats his first wife), he’s never less than candid and charismatic. As an added bonus, Dog Day Afternoon is being shown at 7 p.m. Plus, there’s an after-party with DJ Wild in the Streets.
Stop Making Sense (5:45 p.m. June 21, Texas Theatre): Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert documentary capturing the Talking Heads at the height of their creative powers during a string of shows in Los Angeles ranks as one of the best live-music films ever made. This festival celebrates the movie’s 30th anniversary with a showing in 35mm.
Fight Church (3:30 p.m. June 22, Bishop Arts Theatre Center): Documentaries often shine a spotlight on subcultures that otherwise might go unknown in the mainstream. Such is the case with Fight Church, which looks at several pastors who are also MMA fighters. Bryan Storkel’s even-handed glimpse into this sometimes conflicted world is fascinating.
Mood Indigo (4:45 p.m. June 22, Texas Theatre): French filmmaker Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) stumbled in his bid for more visibility with the superhero flop The Green Hornet. Now, he’s back to his more personal, emblematic style with this sumptuous, fantastical romance set in a universe that’s as much Wonderland as modern-day Paris.
Romain Duris (L’Auberge Espagnole, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Chinese Puzzle) and Audrey Tautou (Amelie) are hopelessly in love in a retro steampunk world that resembles the movies Brazil and The Grand Budapest Hotel as reimagined by Lewis Carroll. Technically, it’s a masterful achievement and even if, like The Artist, it’s a trifle, it’s one worth savoring.
The Better Angels (8 p.m. June 22, Texas Theatre): I haven’t seen this one but the fact that it’s the first film from Terrence Malick associate A.J. Edwards (an editor on Malick’s To the Wonder), it stars gifted Australian actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby) as Abraham Lincoln’s father, and the focus is on Lincoln’s childhood, means this history lesson should be distinctive. Diane Kruger, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley also star.
Also, don’t forget that opening night showcases the documentary To Be Takei, about Star Trek actor/gay rights activist/Internet humorist George Takei (9:30 p.m. June 19, Texas Theatre), and a special preview of a film (7 p.m. June 19, Texas Theatre) whose title organizers can’t reveal.
However, it’s believed to be Listen Up Philip, starring Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), directed by Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel), and produced by North Texans Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston and David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints).
OAK CLIFF FILM FESTIVAL
• June 19-June 22
• Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas; Bishop Arts Theatre Center, 215 S. Tyler Ave., Dallas
• $10 per screening; $175 VIP badge
• Some events are at the Kessler Theater, Oil and Cotton, The Wild Detectives, Jefferson Tower, Oak Cliff Cultural Center and the Turner House