When COVID-19 began shutting down the world last March, the Texas Theatre was one of the first arts organizations to innovate. Within days of the lockdowns, the theater had found a way to offer some of the films it had planned to screen in the historic Oak Cliff movie house on an improvised online streaming platform. When I reached out to the founders of Aviation Cinemas, which runs the theater and the Oak Cliff Film Festival, they invited me to join my very first Zoom call of the pandemic.
These tropes – Zoom calls, online events – quickly became daily realities. The theater continued to improvise during the past year, launching a pop-up drive-in theater, hosting the first-ever remote Sundance Film Festival screenings, and slowly reopening the theater to limited audiences once CDC guidelines allowed. The theater also used the slow months to renovate their upstairs balcony into a new screening space in full confidence that there would be an end to the pandemic and people would once again want to return to the movies.
That background makes it all the more satisfying to share the news that Aviation Cinemas will bring back the Oak Cliff Film Festival in all its multi-venue glory this June after skipping a year of normal programing because of the pandemic. From June 24-27, the festival will screen 23 feature films and 34 shorts at the Texas Theatre, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, the Kessler Theater, and other locations. Indoor screenings will be at 50 percent capacity following CDC and Dallas County guidelines, some of the filmmaking workshops will be streamed online, and the pop-up drive-in will feature a silent film with a live performance of a score. In other words, it’s a return to the old, while retraining some online and outdoor events that the pandemic taught us to embrace and enjoy – an early glimpse of what the possible hybrid future of art and performance.
After the jump, you’ll find a few Texas-centric highlights that will feature at this year’s fest, including a documentary tribute to one of this city’s musical legends and “the definitive North Texas movie.”
My Name is Lopez (Screens June 27)
COVID-19 claimed the great Trini Lopez last August. The Oak Cliff Film Festival will screen a documentary about the Little Mexico native, who battled through racism and classism to become one of the first Latino rock stars an honorary member of the Rat Pack, at the Kessler Theater.
True Stories (June 25)
David Byrne’s North Texas-shot cult gem from 1985 will screen outside at the Turner House on the second night of the fest. Back in 2018, Mark Rosen dubbed this satirical, surrealistic swipe at 1980s Texan bravado the “definitive North Texas movie.”
Kid Candidate (Screens June 25)
Considering the amount of time I spend nerding out on local politics, I’m surprised I missed the story of Hayden Pedigo when it broke back in 2018. The 24-year-old musician and filmmaker released a spoof video that declared his candidacy of the Amarillo City Council, but when the video went viral, he decided to run for real. This documentary follows Pedigo’s atypical campaign, which wound up shaking up the race and shining a light on issues like race, income inequality, and gentrification that are often overlooked in Panhandle politics.
The Return of Draw Egan (June 26)
Comedians Mac Blake and Carlos LaRotta have recut this silent western to turn it into a absurdist pastiche of western tropes. The drive-in screening will be accompanied by a live Ennio Morricone score performed by Austin’s Montopolis.
Check out the full program here. It also includes an opening screening of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer of Soul; a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival; a 4K restoration of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider follow-up Out of the Blue; and much more. But the real highlight is simply being able to type out the words “full program.”