A significant part of this year's Dallas Video Fest will involve outreach projects intended to take the festival to the audience and out into the community. As such, one of their key events this year will be a two-day block of programming co-sponsored by the South Dallas Cultural Center. The screenings will present a selection of documentaries and dramas by new and established African-American filmmakers, many of them from the North Texas area.
Killer of Sheep
7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15 at South Dallas Cultural Center
The centerpiece of the weekend is a rare public screening of a restored print of Charle's Burnett's legendary movie Killer of Sheep at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15. Filmed in 1977, Burnett’s slice-of-life drama about a family struggling in Los Angeles’ infamous Watts neighborhood has long been considered a masterwork by those who have seen it.
The thing is, only a relative handful of viewers have seen this nearly obscure classic due to its genesis on the fringes of film production: Burnett shot the movie on 16mm black-and-white film as his master’s thesis at UCLA, but lacked the finances to convert it to 35mm or to purchase the music rights for the score (an eclectic mix that includes Dinah Washington, Sergei Rachmaninov, Etta James, Ira Gershwin, and Earth, Wind & Fire). Unable to find a distributor, it drifted along the currents of film school cult status until it was restored, transferred, scored, and finally released proper in 2007.
It’s a beautiful work rich in subtle details in a loose series of vignettes of ups and downs told in a cinema verite style, many of them spontaneous and unrehearsed. It’s a style of filmmaking that is rarely seen, one requiring a high degree of confidence in one’s skills and material, and Burnett displays plenty of both. It is not to be missed.
Prior to that, at 7 p.m., Oct. 14, the VideoFest and the SDCC present a selection of short films primarily by local filmmakers:
dawn. (20 mins.)
This dramatic short by Ya'ke Smith, Professor of Film at the University of Texas at Arlington, focuses on a young woman who, after many years in prison, is determined to right her wrongs. This may be easier said than done, given the damage wrought on her by the years spent behind bars. Smith’s short packs a wallop as it follows Dawn’s (Mikala Gibson, who co-wrote the film) uphill struggle to make the transition back into the world at large. It’s a thought-provoking look at how easily a person can fall through the cracks. (dawn. will also screen as part of The Texas Show compilation on Oct. 19.)
Out of Deepwood (23 mins.) (Photo on the cover courtesy DVF)
Craig Weflen delves into the troubled and infuriating history behind the Trinity River Audubon Center, a place of tranquility and learning that was once used as the largest illegal dump site in Texas history—first by local residents, then by city officials in violation of State and federal laws. A neighborhood cast aside by white flight, it suffered for decades until a landmark 1999 case presided over by Judge Barefoot Sanders changed everything. Once an area of pollution and neglect, it is now one of the city’s greatest accomplishments—albeit one that is unknown to most Dallasites. A solid look at a well-kept secret both beautiful and horrendous.
50 Years (40 mins.)
Made on behalf of the Department of Education, Christian Vasquez's short documentary explores the 1960s Civil Rights movement through archival footage as well as interviews with original members of the seminal Freedom Rides. Featuring footage was recorded during a celebration held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The New South Dallas (5 mins.)
A mini-documentary exploring the impact of gentrification in South Dallas produced, written, filmed, and edited by teenage student filmmakers via workshops offered by the South Dallas Cultural Center’s Summer Arts at the Center program and the Soul Children's Theater Company.
The screenings will take place at the South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas.
» Read our story on Bart Weiss and this year's VideoFest here
» See a full schedule of Tuesday and Wednesday films here
» To see the Dallas VideoFest schedule and info on dates, venues and pricing, go here.