CinemaTexas International Short Film And Video Festival

The CinemaTexas International Short Film + Video + New Media Festival is one of the rare places where short-format cinema is truly celebrated. The festival, in its second year of exhibition, focuses on works of personal and artistic expression, works that aspire to poetic rather than novelistic structures and lengths.

So often, especially in the university setting, short films are perceived as calling cards -- portfolio projects that are gateways to "more meaningful" work on feature-length, commercial packages. The CinemaTexas Festival seeks to counteract that tendency by encouraging work that's driven less by market values than personal values.

Festival director Athina Rachel Tsangari also teaches filmmaking at the University. Here, too, she also regards it as part of her mission to "liberate students from feeling the pressure of making something that's too perfect." Thus, the span of material included in the festival is extensive and diverse -- internationally, thematically, technically, and structurally.

"In the last year alone," comments Tsangari, "two or three new short film festivals have started in America. I think we want to be different in trying to encourage more art film and personal films. We had a lot of films that had, like, $50,000 production values; they were very slick and were obviously calling card films. The jury didn't accept them. But they decided in favor of films that might not be technically perfect, that might have lots of problems in terms of their production values but they have attitudes and conceptual approaches that are intriguing... either political films or interesting identity films or just really daring in terms of their formalistic experimentations."

The CinemaTexas Festival is an international competition, with six juried programs of international shorts and two programs of University of Texas competition shorts. From these finalists, winners in approximately 15 categories will be chosen. One additional award bonus is that CinemaTexas has already received touring commitments from venues throughout the nation for a traveling showcase of festival winners.

In addition to the competition shorts there are several complementary screening programs and panel discussions scattered throughout the festival. The festival program kicked off with a special outdoor screening of Super-8 films curated by ongoing programs in four different cities. Thursday, Sept. 25, the festival hosts Michael Moore's appearance in town with a screening of his new documentary feature The Big One. A special program of shorts made by Iranian expatriates is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 26, and a screening of films by the Austrian Sixpack Collective is set for Saturday, Sept. 27. CinemaTexas is proud to present the U.S. premiere of this legendary alternative collective's new program "Alien/Nation" (a few days before it screens as part of the New York Film Festival in what is also being advertised as its U.S. premiere).

Tsangari takes special delight in presenting two special programs of little-seen Robert Altman works. Why Altman? Well, Tsangari admits that both she and festival programmer Kyle Henry are both "Altman fanatics. Last year, we thought the best thing for this festival would be to have a sidebar called Big Directors/Small Films, and the first director we both thought of was Altman, of course. We had seen in the back of one of his bibliographies that he had done these home movies in the Sixties that were not really made for exhibition and we thought they would be amazing to see how the `big master' began. So I started calling and calling and calling." At first reluctant, Altman seems to have been swayed by Tsangari's persistence and gave the festival special permission to screen these 16mm home movies from his attic. Next year, Tsangari hopes to expand the festival by issuing a call for short films made by established filmmakers. Board member Todd Haynes, Jim McKay, and Greg Mottola have already expressed interest.

Persistence is certainly one of the keys to making the CinemaTexas Festival come to life. Although supported by the University's Radio-TV-Film Department and a number of other sponsors, the event is primarily a voluntary labor of love by Tsangari, Henry, festival organizer Bryan Poyser, and countless others. Their passion for making films has spilled over into the desire to exhibit them as well.

All screenings will take place at the Texas Union Theater and the Flawn Academic Center Auditorium on campus; the midnight movies screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Festival passes ($10 UT students, $15 general public) are on sale at the Union Theater box office and at the CAGE office (CMB Bldg - 4th Floor). Single admission tickets are $2 for UT students; $3 for non-UT. For more info call the festival hotline at 471-6657 or consult the website at http://www.utexas/edu/coc/rtf/CINEMATEXAS for a detailed schedule.

-- Marjorie Baumgarten

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