Earlier this week, we learned of the latest COVID-related blow to the local arts world when the Dallas Opera canceled its spring programming. We now may have to wait two years to see Joby Talbot’s latest musical creation. Well, here’s a little good arts news to counterbalance all that. Tonight, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off in Dallas.
Yep, you read that right. Sundance. In Dallas.
Because the pandemic has made travel practically impossible, the Sundance Film Festival decided to switch things up this year. There’s still going to be a Sundance in Park City, Utah, and the festival is also hosting the online and Zoom-bound programming we’ve all gotten so used to over the past year. But Sundance also decided to bring the festival, which has helped define American cinema over the past 40 years, beyond Utah by partnering with theaters around the country to host festival screenings and events. Naturally, Sundance picked the Texas Theatre as a festival partner, one of only a handful of theaters in Texas.
What will this look like?
Some of the same films that are making their debut in Park City are also screening over the next two weekends in Oak Cliff. The Texas Theatre is showing 13 Sundance films in all, some on their outdoor pop-up drive in screen, and others in very limited attendance indoor showings (only 100 seats per screening, or 16 percent of the theater’s total capacity).
Tonight’s opening night film, Coda, will be shown at the Texas Theatre Sunset Drive-in, located in the parking lot behind the cinema. The film (by Tallulah director Sian Heder) is about the teenage daughter of deaf parents who is torn between moving away from home to pursue her musical dreams and staying to help her family and their struggling fishing business.
Of the slate of 13 films, three have strong Texas ties. Cusp (Jan 31, 3:15 p.m.) is an entry in Sundance’s documentary competition, and it follows three teenage girls through a feverous and life-altering summer in Texas.
Jockey (Jan 31, 6 p.m.), by Dallas filmmaker Clint Bentley, screens in the dramatic competition, and it tells the story of an aging jockey in the twilight of his career who is confronted by a young upstart who also claims to be his son. The February 2 screening of Jockey will feature a Zoom-based filmmaker discussion presented by the Austin Film Society.
Blazing World (Jan 31, 8:30 p.m.), directed by Fort Worth-native Carlson Young, is a fantasy thriller about a young woman who slips into an alternate dimension when visiting an old family home.
Barak Epstein, the Texas Theatre’s co-founder, also recommends In The Earth (January 29, 9:30 p.m.), all-too-real pandemic-themed thriller by beloved English cult filmmaker Ben Wheatley. But Epstein also warns to act fast on tickets, which are both very limited because of the pandemic and selling out. To find out how to get in, head here.
The Texas Theatre was an early adaptor to the world of the pandemic. Days after the COVID-19 virus hit Dallas, the theater had pivoted to an online ticketing model. Next up after Sundance, a new screening space in its re-done balcony, which we will all be able to enjoy soon enough once we get those vaccines in our arms.