The Oak Cliff Film Festival will run June 22–25, bringing 26 feature films, 13 premieres, 35 new shorts, and a handful of concerts to Dallas’ most historic cinema and other venues throughout the neighborhood.
“Soup’s On!: Cinema Like You’ve Never Tasted” is this year’s theme, an expression of what the team behind the festival strives to provide filmgoers every year. That means highlighting challenging and exciting voices in film, both new and old.
While the 2023 festival will hew closely to OCFF’s typical format—with screenings and concerts held at venues throughout Oak Cliff, including the Texas Theatre, The Wild Detectives, the Kessler Theater, and others—the mix of films being shown always varies.
Each year, loose themes or focal points emerge as the schedule comes into view. “It just … happens organically,” says Ashton Campbell, OCFF’s festival producer. “We don’t really try to write it.”
For 2023, the programmers ended up with a lineup emphasizing music. “Every year is different,” Campbell says. “We have a really large music component to this year’s festival … which we love, because it’s not something we were heavy on last year.”
Campbell spotlights the festival’s opening night feature, Going Varsity in Mariachi, about a South Texas high school mariachi team. “That’s a documentary … that has a music background,” Campbell says. “The background is about mariachi, but [the movie is] obviously about way more than that. It [focuses on] high school mariachi bands [and] all the things that come and go with that at competitions.”
Going Varsity in Mariachi is also representative of how the OCFF team tries to book films that have Texas ties. While the festival features movies and talent from all over, Campbell says, “We always try to … bring in Texas films and things that are filmed in Texas because we are a Texas film festival. We’re trying to champion independents from Texas.”
Live performances will also be a key component of this year’s OCFF. Mission of Burma’s Roger Clark Miller, Alloy Orchestra’s Terry Donahue, The Locust’s Justin Pearson, and Negativland are all expected to perform during the festival.
A heavier musical influence is not the only change for OCFF 2023. The festival always features a selection of student short films, but they’re typically created by college students. This year will also include shorts created by local high school students as part of the 2023 OCFF student workshop. The program is a partnership with the nonprofit For Oak Cliff, which pairs students with dedicated mentors who advise them while they write, film, and edit their own shorts. They will each screen during OCFF 2023.
Audiences will also have the chance to see classic films on the big screen. Tampopo, the renowned 1985 Japanese film about ramen, will be shown, as will the cult classic gonzo western Walker, with director Alex Cox in attendance.
Campbell says they always try to tie repertory screenings to the festival in some way. Tampopo was added to complement the Soup’s On! theme. Cox was already planning to attend to help promote Quantum Cowboys, a “hallucinatory, quantum theorizing, philosophical, animated western” from director Geoff Marslett in which he co-stars.
Cox has been a guest of the Texas Theatre previously—he welcomes the audience in one of the videos the theater plays before screenings—and told Marslett he’d enjoy being part of OCFF 2023. That is a sentiment he shares with other directors who have attended the festival. Wendy McColm, whose feature Fuzzy Head will have its North Texas premiere at OCFF, is another returning attendee, and there are others.
“The whole alumni thing with the … Oak Cliff Film Festival is important to us,” Campbell says. Having directors excited to come back to Dallas and participate is an indication that the festival is as positive an experience for artists as it is for audiences. It’s a trend Campbell and the OCFF team are proud of and happy to see continuing this year.
“I guess we’re doing something right,” he says.
The full program for OCFF 2023, as well as information on volunteering with the festival, purchasing badges for the full event, or buying tickets for individual screenings or performances can be found on the OCFF website.