Dallas — One of the highlights of tonight's Dallas VideoFest programming is the world premiere of Serving Second Chances (7 p.m., Angelika Film Center), a stirring and enlightening documentary by Dallas filmmaker Alan Govenar, who spent three years documenting the both the day-to-day operations of the local homeless shelter and human services provider The Stewpot—now in its 40th year of service to the community—as well as the personal struggles of three of its clients to stabilize their lives.
Located at 1835 Young Street, a location better known to some as the old 508 Park Ave. building, originally a recording studio for blues artists in the 1930s, one where Robert Johnson recorded most of his music; since the recession of the '70s, it has functioned as a shelter and service provider for the homeless.
Govenar began working with the shelter on its reconstruction plans three years ago, also work to establish the Museum of Street Culture, which he will curate as founding director, with a focus on artwork by the homeless. Asked to make a film about the museum, he expanded his focus to include the Stewpot and the people who rely on it.
"The idea was to humanize the homeless," he says. "To focus on what's being done, and how people interface with trying to get a second chance. How do they try to better their lives?"
It's an overwhelming task, and Govenar kept his focus largely on three people: Blues musician Gerald Williams, whose crack addiction ruined his career; Alisa Flores, a woman caught in an abusive relationship; and Velietta Dickens Rogers, who contracted AIDS after being raped as a teenager. A few others are encountered briefly, including an unnamed woman, an engineer who moved to Texas for a job that she lost after only eight months, and shortly after lost her husband and child to a drunk driver on Mother's Day. It's a sobering reminder of how quickly someone can find themselves in freefall. Govenar was only able to interview her once, and never saw her at the Stewpot again.
"These are real people with real problems, and wants to kind of reach out and see what can be done to better their situation if you can," says Govenar. "Through the Stewpot people have some really unexpected opportunities."
The film is shot with an assured style via handheld digital camera, and the cinematography Didier Dorant is top-notch. A shorter version of the film will air on KERA's series Frame of Mind on Nov. 6. The trailer is above.
Also screening tonight:
Love Between the Covers (7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15) A cheeky doc by Laurie Kahn, who spent three years profiling the women who write, publish, and consume romance novels—a genre for which Dallas is a major publishing hub, and one that is a multi-billion dollar industry and arguably the tentpole of modern publishing. Kahn interviews authors such as duo Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan, lesbian romance author Len Barot (a former surgeon who writes under the pseudonym Radclyffe), Mary Bly (aka Eloisa James) an English lit professor and the daughter of poet Robert Bly, and others, all of whom challenge the preconceived notions associated with the genre.
Anomalisa (9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15) A surreal stop-motion animated romance from the inimitable writer-director Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and animator Duke Johnson in which Michael (voiced by David Thewlis, The Theory of Everything), the author of a series of books about customer service, meets a woman named Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight), who changes his life forever. (The rest of the movie's characters are voiced by Tom Noonan, The Blacklist). Kaufman returns to his themes of human connection, creative expression, and the mundane with his signature style.
» The 28th annual Dallas VideoFest, presented by Video Association of Dallas, runs through Oct. 18 with films at the Angelika Film Center, Dallas. Keep watching our special section of coverage on TheaterJones, which will have features, reviews and more.
» View a complete schedule in the searchable database on the DVF website, here.