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Oak Cliff Film Festival Announces 2017 Lineup

A great-looking schedule includes the new Jodorowsky joint and the Texas premiere of A Ghost Story, the latest from Dallas filmmaker David Lowery.
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The lineup for the Oak Cliff Film Festival, announced today, is an impressive and impressively unconventional roster of movies. The two real eye-poppers are Endless Poetry, the latest feature from Alejandro Jodorowsky, the cult filmmaker behind such mind-altering experiences as El Topo and Holy Mountain (both of which played at the Texas Theatre last year), and A Ghost Story, a “phantom opus” shot in and in the vicinity of Dallas by homegrown filmmaker David Lowery.

For the former, Alejandro’s son, Adan Jodorowsky, who composed the music for and stars in Endless Poetry, will be in the house for a Q&A and live performance. Lowery will be there to present his film.

Glancing at the schedule, I’m also drawn to the opening night film, Lemon, which stars Brett Gelman (in attendance along with writer/director Janicza Bravo) and Michael Cera. Further down the list, I spot the latest from indie terror Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Phillip) and something starring Nick Offerman.

The sixth edition of the festival runs from June 8-11, with screenings at the Texas Theatre, the Kessler, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, and elsewhere in Oak Cliff. Tickets are on sale now.

The Oak Cliff Film Festival consistently brings great films to Dallas, and makes an excellent showcase for the best movie theater in town. One of the best movies I saw last year — 1983’s Last Night at the Alamo — was thanks to the Oak Cliff Film Festival. I am unreservedly anticipating this.

Here’s the full list of films and short descriptions of them, copied and pasted from a press release:

OPENING NIGHT SELECTION

LEMON (USA, 90 mins)

Dir. Janicza Bravo

Drama teacher Isaac Lachmann (Brett Gelman), a tall, balding man of extreme moods, is argumentative with everyone except for one student, Alex (Michael Cera). Willing to debase himself to get any kind of job in TV commercials, Isaac lets his relationship with longtime girlfriend, Ramona (Judy Greer), a blind woman, fall to pieces. In her directorial debut, Janicza Bravo displays an impressive sense of composition, timing, and humor wrapped in absurdist comedy.
DFW PREMIERE

Filmmaker Janicza Bravo and writer/star Brett Gelman in attendance

 

CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION

A GHOST STORY (USA, 87 mins)

Dir. David Lowery

 

With A GHOST STORY, acclaimed director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A GHOST STORY emerges ecstatic and surreal.
TEXAS PREMIERE

Filmmaker David Lowery in attendance. Producers Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, and Adam Donaghey in attendance

 

 

NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION

 

ASSHOLES (USA, 75 mins)

Dir. Peter Vack

Adah and Aaron are recovering addicts who are struggling to stay sober. After meeting in their psychoanalyst’s waiting room, they fall in love, relapse on poppers, and become the biggest assholes in New York City. Literally. Writer/Director Peter Vack makes his feature directorial debut with an undeniably special, WTF film, that will have you cry-laughing-nauseated.

DFW PREMIERE

Director Peter Vack in attendance
Preceded by
CHILD PSYCHOLOGY (USA, 15 mins)

 

GOLDEN EXITS (USA, 94 mins)

Dir. Alex Ross Perry

Alex Ross Perry’s (Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth) fifth feature is an intersectional narrative of two families in Brooklyn and the unraveling of unspoken unhappiness that occurs when a young foreign girl (Emily Browning) spending time abroad upsets the balance on both sides. With an ensemble cast, including Jason Schwartzman, Adam Horovitz and Mary-Louise Parker, GOLDEN EXITS is a finely tuned, unhurried examination of characters in stasis.

TEXAS PREMIERE

 

THE STRANGE ONES (USA, 81 mins)

Dir. Christopher Radcliff, Lauren Wolkstein

Co-directors Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein’s feature length debut stems from a short by the same name, following the mysterious events of two alleged brothers as they travel across a remote, American landscape. Along the way, questions arise as to the nature of the relationship between the two drifters, as what first seems an innocuous vacation, slowly burns, giving way to a much more complicated and darker truth. Atmospheric and heady, THE STRANGE ONES focuses on isolation and dissonance, while presenting hints at the supernatural and ambiguous nature of two wanderers hiding from something in their past.

DFW PREMIERE

 

LUCKY (USA, 88 mins)

Dir. John Carroll Lynch

Does legendary character actor Harry Dean Stanton play himself in this pseudo comedy western about a 90 year-old cowboy who can’t figure out how he’s still alive? Probably. The film also features great turns by Ron Livingston and Tom Skerrit, as well as David Lynch as an old bar friend who just want’s to find his pet tortoise.

DFW PREMIERE

Producer John Lang in attendance

 

INFINITY BABY (USA, 80 mins)

Dir. Bob Byington

Owing to a genetic mix-up involving stem cell research, the recently founded company Infinity Baby, run by the garrulous Neo (Nick Offerman), is able to offer a service for aspiring parents who never want to leave the baby bubble: infants that do not age. Ben (Kieran Culkin), a serial monogamist who says he wants to find the right woman, but is always looking for the next one, and his competent pals Larry (Kevin Corrigan) and Malcolm (Martin Starr), are hired to market the service to those keen to nurture. Does having a baby automatically confer some level of maturity? Will Ben’s mom, the sarcastic and demanding Hester (Megan Mullally), approve of Ben’s new girlfriend (Trieste Dunn)? Will Malcolm recover from a disastrous accident with kitchen cleaner? The answers to these questions and more await in Byington’s heady and hilarious potpourri.
DFW PREMIERE

Director Bob Byington in attendance

 

LA BARRACUDA (USA, 100 mins)

Dir. Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund

A young British woman named Sinaloa comes to Texas to find Merle (Allison Tolman), her half-sister by way of their dead country musician father. And while the family music legacy brought this stranger to town, darker motives are woven into the songs she sings, showing glimpses of a violent rage that’s been building for years. LA BARRACUDA is a subtle, creeping thriller with a good dose of country music.

DFW PREMIERE

Filmmakers Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin in attendance

 

 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION

 

AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY (USA, 81 mins)

Dir. Ronnie Garza and Charlie Vela

An overlooked part of America, the Rio Grande “Magic Valley” boasts one of its most eclectic music scenes. From 1960’s garage rockers, to Tejano punks wearing lucha libre masks, and everything in between, the area has served as a melting pot over the years – not just for different genres, but for Mexican and Texan cultures. Covering four generations worth of music history through testimonials and archival footage, AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY champions the do-it-yourself spirit and finding your voice.

DFW PREMIERE

 

CINEMA TRAVELERS (INDIA, 96 mins)

Dir. Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
Showmen riding cinema lorries have brought the wonder of the movies to faraway villages in India once every year. Seven decades on, as their cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their patrons are lured by slick digital technology. A benevolent showman, a shrewd exhibitor, and a maverick projector mechanic bear a beautiful burden: to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.

DFW PREMIERE

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMS (USA, 83 mins)

Dir. Mike Ott

Filmmaker Mike Ott (Lake Los Angeles, Littlerock) follows a rag-tag ensemble of small-time underachievers whose shared, cherished fantasy of making it in the movies gets them up in the morning, but not much further than that. Blurring the line between simulated vérité and authentic observation, it’s often impossible to tell whether those on camera are playing themselves, simply being themselves or a combination of the two. Throw in Mike Gioulakis’ (It Follows) serenely gorgeous cinematography and you’re in for both a beautiful and perplexing experience.

DFW PREMIERE

 

TRUE CONVICTION (USA, 84 mins)

Dir. Jamie Meltzer

There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas started by Johnnie Lindsey, Christopher Scott, and Steven Phillips, who have decades in prison between them. Now exonerated, the trio has formed their own pseudo-detective agency that frees innocent people from behind bars. The cases they pursue resemble their own: the sort of cases that the justice system should backstop, but usually does not. Taking viewers into the real-life crime drama that surrounds these imperfect freedom fighters on their quest for justice, TRUE CONVICTION highlights the importance of asking the questions that bureaucracy does not.

DALLAS PREMIERE

The men of TRUE CONVICTION – Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey & Steven Phillips in attendance

 

WORLD WITHOUT END (NO REPORTED INCIDENTS)  (USA, 57 mins)

Dir. Jem Cohen

Jem Cohen, best known as the filmmaker behind the Fugazi document Instrument and the elegiac Museum Hours, brings us a new anti-documentary film in WORLD WITHOUT END. Cohen travels to a sea village near London to interview locals and survey the land. As per his Viennale statement, “I embraced the chance encounter and rejected the very idea of the definitive.  What I discovered is that the estuary and its insistent tides brought in not only nature and history, but prize-winning Indian curries, an encyclopedic universe of hats, and a nearly lost world of proto-punk music.”

TEXAS PREMIERE

 

 

SPOTLIGHT FEATURES

 

ENDLESS POETRY (Chile, 122 mins)

Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films are like no one else’s. The 88 year-old Chilean maestro sends perhaps his most autobiographical film to OCFF as a continuation piece to 2014’s Dance of Reality. The film stars two of Alejandro’s sons, Brontis Jodorowsky and Adan Jodorowsky (who also composed the score), as father and son; sometimes Alejandro himself breaks the fourth wall and enters the family within the film as well. (Don’t worry it will all make sense once you lick that Aztec frog.)
TEXAS PREMIERE

Composer and Lead actor Adan Jodorowsky in attendance

 

68 KILL (USA, 93 mins)

Dir. Trent Haaga

Ex Troma screenwriting hero Trent Haaga comes out swinging hard in his sophomore directorial effort.  Lead actor Matthew Gray Gubler (“Intern” from A Life Aquatic) throws everything into hyper-drive in this punk-rock after-hours epic bloodbath about femininity, masculinity, and the theft of $68,000.

DFW PREMIERE

 

THE LITTLE HOURS (USA, 90 mins)

Dir. Jeff Baena

A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the middle ages. Yet another scene-stealing performance from Aubrey Plaza will quench the thirsts of the faithful, A blessed ensemble cast, including Alison Brie, whose turn as a nun feels ordained, fills out this entertaining medieval romp with foul mouthed nuns. If you wanted an absurdist version of The Witch, this will work just fine for you.

Short Synopsis: A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the middle ages.
TEXAS PREMIERE

Filmmaker Jeff Baena in attendance

 

PORTO (USA/ Portugal, 76 mins)

Dir. Gabe Klinger

Gabe Klinger’s PORTO brings a new style and sensibility to the American-meets-a-pretty-girl-in Europe genre. Lensed by Wyatt Garfield, the film uses mixed films stocks and aspects via Super 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm to present a certain melancholy, lived-in feel and one of the last on-screen roles from Anton Yelchin.
DFW PREMIERE – Presented on 35mm

Filmmaker Gabe Klinger in attendance

 

PERSON TO PERSON (USA, 84 mins)

Dir. Dustin Guy Defa

Bene hosted a party at his place last night, and this morning, there’s a stranger passed out on his floor who won’t leave. This is NYC, so Bene isn’t the only character grappling with the mundanity of life. An ensemble cast of Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Michaela Watkins, and Bene Coopersmith together depict a group of New York oddballs – a reserved apartment dweller, an impassioned record collector, and a field reporter on her first day of work, among others –  over the course of one day. Their stories don’t necessarily intersect, but it’s their experience of the city that ties them together.
DFW PREMIERE

Producers Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston in attendance

 

DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (FRANCE, 115 mins)

Dir. Albert Serra

The annual OCFF “Sunday Slow-Core” returns with French King Louis XIV (played to perfection by Jean-Pierre Léaud – the kid from 1959’s The 400 Blows!) wearing a wig and surrounded by servants who just want him to eat an egg.  Candlelit Cinematography: Check; One Epic Dolly Shot with equally Epic Music Cue:  Check; Crying out in the night for water: Check; Bloodletting and other questionable medical practices: Check. Nursing your hangover with the depiction of the laborious, painful death of an elderly king: Check!

DFW PREMIERE

 

THE CHALLENGE (FRANCE/ITALY, Arabic language, 70 mins)

Dir. Yuri Ancarani

Falconry has a history that stretches back over 40 centuries. In the West, it was a prevailing passion of the medieval aristocracy, but its prestige continues undiminished in contemporary Arab culture. The spirit of a tradition that today allows its practitioners to keep a close rapport with the desert, despite their predominantly urban lifestyle, is captured grace of three years of field observation. In the glaring light of an empty landscape, following flight lines and lures, the film recounts a strange kind of “desert weekend,” in which technological and anthropological microcosms hang in the air, like the falcon, drifting on the irreversible currents of images. Also one of the shieks owns a well behaved cheetah and an impractical Lamborghini.
DFW PREMIERE

 

SUPER DARK TIMES (USA, 100 mins)

Dir. Kevin Phillips

Best friends Zach and Josh are like any other teenagers growing up in mid-’90s suburbia. They lead normal lives that revolve around high school, their crushes on the same girl, and loitering about town. When an afternoon in the park takes a grave turn, however, the boys try to pretend as though nothing has happened. The guilt soon starts to eat away at Zach as he is caught between nightmares and an increasing paranoia that Josh is no longer the same.

TEXAS PREMIERE

 

SCARRED HEARTS (Romania, 141 mins)

Dir. Radu Jude

Emanuel, a man in his early 20s, spends his days at a sanatorium suffering from bone tuberculosis. He narrates his and his fellow patients’ attempts to live life to the fullest as their bodies slowly wither, but their minds refuse to give in. SCARRED HEARTS is a dark and sometimes silly comedy inspired by Romanian author Max Blecher’s 1937 book about love, terminal illness, and how to sometimes look on the bright side of life. Shot on 35mm in a 1.37 Academy ratio with bright colors and gorgeously framed static shots, the film presents a stylized window in the past. An art film with many rewards for the patient moviegoer, or as The Hollywood Reporter recently warned, “beyond a tough sell.”
TEXAS PREMIERE

 

A LIFE IN WAVES (USA, 74 mins)

Dir. Bret Whitcomb

“I wanted technology to be sensual, that was always my directive.” Early synth music pioneer Suzanne Ciani was behind some of the most innovative sounds and jingles of the 70s and 80s, including spots for Atari and Coca-Cola and multiple soundtracks. A LIFE IN WAVES utilizes a wealth of archival footage from Suzanne’s endless catalog of music. It’s a compelling look at one woman’s ability to break into a mostly male-dominated field, against all odds.
DFW PREMIERE

Director Bret Whitcomb in attendance

 

 

REPERTORY

 

SANTA SANGRE (1989)  (MEXICO, ITALY, 123 mins)

Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky

In SANTE SANGRE, the traumatized son of a circus knife thrower and a trapeze artist bond grotesquely with his now-armless mother.  The movie is often considered Jodorowsky’s most accessible and, although many Jodorowsky films defy easy categorization, the film has found a life as a cult horror film. Roger Ebert said of SANTA SANGRE: “It is a horror film, one of the greatest, I am reminded by Alejandro Jodorowsky that true psychic horror is possible on the screen – horror, poetry, surrealism, psychological pain and wicked humor, all at once”.  The film stars Alejandros’s sons Axel Jodorowsky and, in his first on-screen performance, Adan Jodorowsky, as the young son who would grow up to be insane.

Actor Adan Jodorowsky in attendance

 

SOMETHING WILD (1986) (USA, 114 mins)

Dir. Jonathan Demme

The uneventful life of a the businessman Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) suddenly changes when he meets the wild and sexy Lulu (Melanie Griffith). But, the fun quickly takes a dangerous turn when her ex-convict husband (Ray Liotta) shows up. An unbridled Jonathan Demme effortlessly weaves a slapstick tone with unflinching drama. Part romance, part road movie, part blood-spattered drama, “it’s a schizophrenic movie,” Mr. Demme has said, “a screwball comedy that turns into a film noir, as life itself does.”

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