Letter From Waco

Race, religion, death, and football: Put 'em all together and they spell the word Waco. At least that's what Don Howard convincingly demonstrates in his fascinating and very personal documentary about his hometown, Letter From Waco. Howard's hour-long film is an impressionistic portrait that blends "found" footage and new material shot over the course of the last six years in collaboration with his gifted cinematographer Lee Daniel (Slacker, Before Sunrise). Throughout the film, Howard crystallizes his lifetime of hometown perceptions into mini-truths he calls "Wacons" as he shows us the Waco of Elvis Presley's Fort Hood R&R getaway days to David Koresh's back highway Corvette cruising alleys. It's all there: the homecoming parades, the racial integration of football, the Big Red commercials, the old home movies, King Cotton and the debutante Cotton Queens, the old Indian myths and the new Southern illusions. The title, Letter From Waco, pays homage to Chris Marker's 1958 film Letter From Siberia, one of the great send-ups of documentary conventions and techniques, and provides a glimpse of Howard's overall aspirations and role models. Letters From Waco was produced for the Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and will be broadcast on PBS sometime in 1997. (ITVS was created by Congress with a mandate to "expand the boundaries of public television" and to provide less commercialized counter-programming and to address traditionally underserved markets. Some of ITVS' recent successes include Todd Haynes' Dotty Gets Spanked, the Emmy-nominated When Billy Broke His Head, and Beth Harrington's SXSW Festival fave The Blinking Madonna and Other Mysteries. For more info, ITVS' World Wide Web address is http://www.actwin.com/ITVS) The weekend's theatrical screening has the additional bonus of presenting a richer sound experience than the conventional TV mix will allow. Using the movie's own terminology, Letters From Waco is quite the "Wacon" itself. -- Marjorie Baumgarten Letter From Waco screens twice -- 7pm & 8:10pm -- on Sunday, October 6 at the Dobie Theatre. Admission is $5.

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