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Deeply Personal Debut Miracle Fishing Leads an Impressive DocuFest Lineup

Dallas director Miles Hargrove powerfully revisits his father's 1994 kidnapping in Colombia, and the yearlong ordeal that followed for his family.
By Todd Jorgenson |

During a festival that celebrates fact being more riveting than fiction, Miles Hargrove can validate that better than anyone.

The Dallas filmmaker’s debut documentary, Miracle Fishing, will have its local premiere as the opening night film at DocuFest on Thursday at the Tin Star Theater, a new drive-in venue in Trinity Groves.

The film recalls a harrowing true-life incident from 1994, when Hargrove’s father — an agricultural researcher working in South America — was abducted at gunpoint and held for ransom by guerrillas affiliated with a Colombian drug cartel.

That led to a gut-wrenching yearlong negotiation between his family and the kidnappers that featured more dramatic twists and turns than most Hollywood features. In fact, it became the basis for the lackluster and highly embellished 2000 thriller Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan.

Hargrove, who was a TCU student at the time, shot a video diary throughout the ordeal, the remarkable footage of which comprises almost the entire documentary.

More than two decades later, Miracle Fishing was well-received by online audiences earlier this year as part of the Tribeca and AFI Docs film festivals.

The film is one of many documentaries with local ties set for the annual four-day showcase, which is part of Dallas Videofest. This year’s lineup is split between virtual screenings — free but playing on a set schedule — and nightly presentations at the Tin Star.

You can find a complete schedule and ticket information here. Other highlights include:

  • The closing-night film, Proof, comes from Dallas director Mark Birnbaum (Stop the Presses), who chronicles the efforts of Denton photographer Byrd Williams IV to preserve more than 400,000 photographs, letters, and journals from four generations in his family.
  • The latest project from veteran Dallas filmmaker Alan Govenar is Myth of a Colorblind France, which examines a legacy of racism facing prominent African Americans who have emigrated from the United States to Paris.
  • Billed as “a hip-hop musical,” It’s a Wonderful Plight ambitiously tackles four centuries of systematic racial oppression in the United States, with a critical eye and a lighthearted tone. It’s starring and directed by Dallas artist Justin Rhodes.

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