Aviation Cinemas, the crew behind Texas Theatre, has been busy. Without missing a programming beat at their original Jefferson Boulevard headquarters, Jason Reimer and Barak Epstein announced they’d bought an historic Denton theater to renovate and run, just before their annual Oak Cliff Film Festival launches its 2018 run Thursday.
All that hustle has resulted in a win for audiences. If you’re a fan of hard-to-find stories about fringe musicians, conflicted art collectives, shamanic conquistadors and punk rock cowboys, there’s something in this year’s lineup that you’re going to love. Some tickets are hotter than others, though. Here are a few you’ll want to grab in advance.
Bad Reputation (A Joan Jett Documentary) | Thursday, 8 p.m.
Joan Jett’s been kicking down barriers for 40 years. It’s time someone honored her with a great rock doc, and luckily filmmaker and music video director Kevin Kerslake (Nirvana, Ramones, Sonic Youth) stepped up to the task.
A rock ‘n’ roll pistol in black leather, Jett’s reputation is anything but bad. She’s inspired generations of women to hit the stage and continues to champion everyone’s right to rock. From teen idols The Runaways to her still-touring act Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, see how Jett’s spent a lifetime shredding strings and stereotypes.
Bonus: Director Kevin Kerslake and writer/editor Joel Marcus will attend this Texas premiere. [Tickets]
The Passion of Joan of Arc with live score | Friday, 7 p.m.
Friday’s opening film, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1926 Joan of Arc, gets presented in a wash of new. A recent Janus 4K restoration makes Renée Falconetti’s eyes even more magnetic, and the live score addition by George Sarah (with String Quartet and featuring the Verdigris Ensemble) paints a rich soundscape into the previously silent film.
That this classic would be given yet anotherlife seems fitting: Once thought to be lost in a fire, The Passion of Joan of Arc’s original print surfaced in a Norwegian mental institution in 1981… in perfect condition. Maybe it’s all coincidence. Maybe it’s under a higher power’s protection. Or maybe this film demands to remain treasured with fresh eyes and ears, from generation to generation. [Tickets]
Dudes | Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Director Penelope Spheeris is intimately bound to rock ‘n’ roll. Her Decline of Western Civilization trilogy documents the rise of early punk, metal and gutterpunk scenes of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s respectively. That first installment gave the world a groundbreaking look inside the music and philosophies of now-legendary bands like The Germs, X, Fear and Black Flag.
Spheeris’ narrative feature work stayed largely in the music world with Suburbia, Wayne’s World and the punk rock cowboy comedy Dudes. It stars Daniel Roebuck and Jon Cryer (Duckie!) — with a little Flea thrown in for good measure — as punks who’s roadtrip gets sidetracked by renegade bikers, helmed by an ‘80s Lee Ving. OCFF will screen the recent Shout! Factory restoration, and both Spheeris and Roebuck (you know him as Biscuit), will be on hand for a post-film Q&A, so start scribbling out your many mohawk/wig questions now. [Tickets]
Never Goin’ Back
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Dallas’s own Augustine Frizzell is shaking things up. Her writing and directorial feature debut, Never Goin’ Back, played midnight categories at Sundance and SXSW before getting snapped up by A-24 for an August 3 release date.
The wild, gross-out party flick was shot all over DFW and produced by Dallas-based production company Sailor Bear, but hasn’t screened locally until now. Like last year’s premiere of A Ghost Story, Never Goin’ Back takes the fest’s closing night feature spot, and its backed by lots of local enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll get a Q&A with the film’s producers and a Skyped-in Frizzell. You won’t want to miss this rowdy hometown celebration, so secure your ticket today. (The film’s backstory is worth knowing.)
For every room-filling centerpiece flick, there are a bunch of smaller treasures. And because Oak Cliff Film Festival is an embarrassment of riches, you’re bound to have multiple movies jockeying for your attention. Get ahead of it and check out each day’s toughest schedule decisions, so you aren’t blindsided when you inevitably find yourself hungover. Desperate for air conditioning. And shuffling down Jefferson Boulevard.
Friday: The Art Dilemma
Milford Graves: Full Mantis (8:30 p.m.)
Avant-garde percussionist Milford Graves is tapped into something magical. The jazz legend is best known for delivering spontaneous and complex rhythmic performances, most famously with the New York Art Quartet back in the ‘60s. But there’s much, much more to this man who’s spent a lifetime connecting sound with healing, anatomy and martial arts in the name of self-discovery. Directors Jake Meginsky and Neil Young, will attend this outdoor screening at Wild Detectives. Glasstire’s Greg Ruppe has a nice Q&A with Meginsky here.
Stick around for the free after party with DJ sets by Director Jake Meginsky and George Myers.
Meow Wolf: An Origin Story (9:15 p.m.)
It’s interesting that the Meow Wolf art collective met in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where opera patrons tailgate with fine china and Georgia O’Keeffe is considered a patron saint. But they did. And then they got weird and started making stuff, like the now-famous interactive wonderland House of Eternal Ruin. Funded largely by author George R. R. Martin, the space has become a sort of art pilgrimage for many. But that awareness spike brought expansion opportunities for the Meow Wolf collective, who may or may not want to charge forward, based on who you ask.
It’s a look at freaky-fun creativity, art as collaboration and at what happens when the end product gets ‘grammed-out, sought-after and commodified. Step into the fridge with directors Jilann Spitzmiller (Still Dreaming) and Morgan Capps, who will be at the Texas Theatre, giving A’s to your Q’s.
Stick around for an after party with Black Taffy, Def Rain and DJ Wanz Dover, plus visuals by Sean Miller.
Saturday: The Spiritual Battle
Tigers are not Afraid (7:15 p.m.)
Bishop Arts Theater
Issa López wrote, directed and executive produced this darkly magical horror film. And since beginning the festival circuit she’s almost certainly had to find extra storage space for this film’s many accolades. López snapped up the Best Horror Director Award at Fantastic Fest, 2017, took home three Diosas de Plata awards (Mexico’s equivalent of the Golden Globes) and made fellow Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s year-end, best-of list. He recently announced he’ll produce her next film.
In Tigers, a pack of orphaned children are hunted down by a menacing drug cartel. But they’re also being summoned by a ghost-filled spirit world that seeks to exact its own revenge on the cartel’s sins.
Opuntia (7:30 p.m.)
Maybe a journey is just a ribbon of experiences, unwound. And perhaps the universe’s wanderers can seek one another out, regardless of their physical state. In Opuntia, filmmaker David Fenster digs into the life of Spanish explorer-turned-shaman Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who travelled across Florida and Texas on foot. Using the explorer’s later writings as a touchstone, Fenster guides you through a larger story of transcendence, displacement and the comfort of connection between like-minded souls, unified across spiritual planes. He even brings in a psychic medium — wearing a very fantastic prickly pear cactus mask — to aid in their unlikely communication.
Sunday — Eternal Struggle of Light and Dark
Maison du Bonheur (1 p.m.)
Bishop Arts Theater
Nested up high in a charming French apartment, your new favorite soul awaits. Astrologist Juliane Sellam gleefully guides you through the everyday delights of her domestic life, thanks to footage captured over a month by filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz (Never Eat Alone). From Sellam, we feel a bubbly joy as she gets a manicure, tells stories about her shoes, takes us to the salon and eats — or talks about eating — lots of food.
Bohdanowicz is becoming known as the Agnès Varda of Toronto, and this Hot Docs selection shows why. For Maison du Bonheur, Bohdanowicz travelled to Paris to meet Sellam, a total stranger, armed with a Bolex camera and 30 rolls of film. That’s just enough to secure 90 minutes of potential footage. The final film lands at 62 minutes, post-edit. You feel the intention behind every lovely shot captured here, and are brought more intimately into Sellam’s life than you could ever have dreamed, and dream you will because she’s your new spirit animal.
If you need a fizz in your morning, cram some pastries in your purse — tasty ones only — and spend some time in Maison du Bonheur, the House of Happiness.
Pity (1:15 p.m.)
If torturously dark comedies like Dogtooth, Chevalier and Killing of a Sacred Dearare your idea of a delightful Sunday morning watch, well get excited, because I’ve got some news for you.
Co-written by Babis Makridis (L.), who also directs, and Efthymis Filippou (Dogtooth, The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Dear), Pity represents the latest of the Greek Weird Wave. The story follows an unnamed lead played by Yannis Drakopoulos (Chevalier) who’s only truly happy when he’s miserable. And with his wife in a coma, he has a reliable amount of daily condolences to collect from those around him. There’s only one problem: She’s waking up. Follow one man’s struggle to remain pitiful, in spite of pending joy, during this Sunday endurance challenge.
Don’t miss all of the other great picks at Oak Cliff Film Fest 2018, like Robert Greene’s latest twist on the documentary, Bisbee ’17. Or Skate Kitchen, the new feature flick by Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) about a group of lady skateboarders who grind their own path. There’s also Hal, Amy Scott’s deep dive into the creative work of acclaimed and downright ahead of his time filmmaker, Hal Ashby. On that last note, you can catch Ashby’s 1979 charmer, Being There, on Saturday night at Better Block.
See the entire schedule, buy tickets and make your plan at Oakclifffilmfestival.com. Screenings take place around Oak Cliff at the Texas Theatre, The Kessler, Bishop Arts Theater, El Sibil and Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Check the site for accompanying events and their locations. Individual tickets are $10.