A Taste of CineMarfa 2013

Archival programs and current works blend in West Texas fest

Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers

Are there now far too many film festivals? It's a legitimate question.

Austin events are excluded because each is so clearly defined as to audience and content. Along these lines, it does seem both a bit unusual and perfectly logical that a splendidly programmed film festival that focused on experimental entomological cinema, art, culture, Marfa, and ambitious filmmaking should have taken place in Marfa last weekend.

CineMarfa is damn well programmed, but what makes it so unique and outstanding is the same thing that so defines Marfa: the people. The discussions after the screening combined with the often impressive projects locals are working on keep the air electric.

David Hollander, one of America's great curators, runs the event with his wife, Jennifer Lane (both also filmmakers). They feature a wide and unusual range of films, with current works mixed with archival programs. Among the most notable screenings of the fest this year was the long-talked-about yet rarely seen classic Seventeen. Two years ago, Hollander got Larry Clark to unearth the film footage he shot preparing Tulsa, his classic photo essay book.

There were two outstanding films on religion: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done (1988), directed by Anthony Thomas, and Werner Herzog's God's Angry Man (1980). The former is about the modern religious right, and despite being focused on the mid-Eighties, it's not dated; it's more terrifying than ever. The latter is about televangelist Gene Scott, a charismatic, seemingly off-centered individual more interested in money than God … though he was mighty interested in God.

Once Elvis Costello told a friend of mine that the only real horror film he could think of was Wim Wenders' The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – not really a horror film at all, but arguably horrifying and a tense watching experience. Along these lines, Seventeen is as much horror film as documentary. Made by Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines, it is a cinema verité, in-depth look at the lives of some teenagers that influenced both Harmony Korine and Rick Linklater (Dazed and Confused). The film was commissioned for public television but never shown because of not just the sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but the interracial community shown onscreen.

Appropriately, it was followed by Korine's 2013 release, Spring Breakers. Later that night, Korine told hysterical stories about the twin brothers featured in the film, then called them up. It seemed that although Spring Breakers is deliberately confrontational, many filmgoers found Seventeen the more disturbing film – which takes nothing away from the former, a film I'm still deeply affected by but uncertain of how I feel about.

There were many more films, performance pieces, and parties than we can cover here; read more about the festival programming and CineMarfa archives at www.cinemarfa.org.

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CineMarfa, film festivals, Harmony Korine, Richard Linklater, Seventeen, Spring Breakers, David Hollander, Jennifer Lane

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