Bart Weiss, photographed for TheaterJones in 2015

Film Notes 1.6

As the Dallas VideoFest opens this week, Bart Weiss writes about local treasure Alan Govenar, who has a new documentary showing at DVF's DocuFest this weekend.

published Monday, October 2, 2017

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones


Dallas — We have many talented artists and visionaries in Dallas, many of whom you can read about on this website; but there is one who does not get enough love in his hometown: Alan Govenar. Alan is a true Renaissance man. defines this as “a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field.” In my mind it is someone who has not just acquired that knowledge but put into place in an inspirational manner that has an impact on our culture.

For those that don’t know him, the thumbnail would be that Alan is at heart a folklorist. He has the intellectual rigor in American Folklore from Ohio State, and the University of Texas in Austin and Dallas. He has written 29 books on everything from the “Stoney Knows How: The Life of a Shadow Tattoo Artist” to “Deep Ellum: The Other Side of Dallas.”

He has taken that knowledge and added his artistic vision. He created Bind Lemon Blues, a musical that played off-Broadway and toured to 11 cities in Europe. He has many great blues and other folk musicians recorded and available through the website of his organization Documentary Arts. He has had multimedia exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York; and his film Extraordinary Ordinary People has just played in New York City. Do you see the pattern? 

Alan is an international star. 

Alan is the founding director of the Museum of Street Culture at Encore Park in Dallas—creating a living enrollment to experience art and ephemera of the invisible world that surrounds us, which in a sense connects all the work that Alan creates.

As part of this new museum’s events Alan is opening a unique show of street photography both in a gallery and in the streets. The opening show is called Looking for Home: A Yearlong Focus on Mary Ellen Mark. The exhibition will present Mark’s work in an unprecedented, but mission-aligned fashion: the installation will be both outside on the street and inside some of the spaces the museum calls home: The Stewpot and Encore Park's 508 Park, 508 Amphitheater, and Community Garden. It is the first time the Mary Ellen Mark Foundation has granted permission for an exhibition of this magnitude.

Alan’s work as a filmmaker was launched in 1981 with the aforementioned Stoney Knows How, which showed around the world including at the Museum of Modern Art. It was his first collaboration with the great and departed Les Blank. It is the story of Stony St. Clair, a disabled tattoo artist who traveled with circuses for 50 years. Alan’s film work is all about seeing unseen cultural heroes and portraying their vision.

I had the pleasure of shooting for Alan once in his film Black on White, White on Black, about blues pianist Alex Moore, the first African-American Texan to receive the National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Alan has been videotaping the National Heritage Fellowship awards and has embellished by following great American folk artists from so many traditions in his new multi-platform project, Extraordinary Ordinary People, which is a book, a traveling exhibition, and now a documentary film which is the opening night film for Docufest. (See trailer below.)

DocuFest is the first part of the streamlined Dallas VideoFest, running Oct. 5-8 at the Studio Movie Grill on Northwest Highway. Govenar's film plays Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. (Get tickets here.) Come and see a renaissance man’s latest film, you will be proud that he is lives here in Dallas.

To read more about Dallas VideoFest this year, which includes the Ernie Kovacs Award given to Kids in the Hall, see last month’s Film Notes column here.





» Bart Weiss is an award-winning independent film and video producer, director, editor, and educator who has lived in Dallas since 1981. Mr. Weiss has taught film and video production at Texas A&M’s Visualization Lab, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Austin and Arlington, Dallas Community College District and West Virginia State College. He currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, serves on the Board of Directors of the University Film and Video Association, is a past Vice President of the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professionals, founder and past president of the West Virginia Filmmakers’ Guild, and co-founder of VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas. He has been a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Times Herald, United Features Syndicate and KERA 90.1 FM Radio in Dallas. Mr. Weiss received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University in 1978 and a B.A. from Temple University in 1975. Bart can be reached at

» Film Notes with Bart Weiss runs on the first Monday of the month.



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Film Notes 1.6
As the Dallas VideoFest opens this week, Bart Weiss writes about local treasure Alan Govenar, who has a new documentary showing at DVF's DocuFest this weekend.
by Bart Weiss

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