When There's Nothing Left to Burn ...
Cinematexas throws itself a Viking Funeral
This week marks the end of the road for the Cinematexas International Short Film Festival. After spending the last 10 years promoting experimental, avant-garde, and just-plain-strange film, the University of Texas-sponsored showcase has lost its funding and its offices and is shutting down operations for good. All that's left now is the burying.
But like any group of artists worth the name, the minds behind Cinematexas know there's something vital that exists between death and burial. A quality funeral can go a long way toward securing the deceased's legacy, burning its memory onto mourners' minds, and – in the case of a rebellious, gritty, student-run movie showcase like Cinematexas – giving its proud parents one last shot at blowing audiences' heads.
So in that spirit of defiant resignation, two of the group's board members – festival co-founder Bryan Poyser and former curator-at-large (and current Chronicle contributor) Spencer Parsons – have come up with one last weekend of screenings, the Cinematexas Viking Funeral, which will take filmgoers out into the farthest reaches of the cinema universe one final time before turning around and burning itself, with great enthusiasm, to the ground. "We were upset the festival went out with a whimper," Poyser told me last week. "We wanted a bang."
That bang begins Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm at the 501 Theatre (aka Valhalla, aka Hall of the Slain) with Ragna-Rock, a compilation of work by several Cinematexas alumni filmmakers, followed at 7pm by the Hollywood Showcase, a collection of films by current UT students that screened this past September at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in Los Angeles.
At 9:15pm the curators will bring back "Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud" by underground favorite Todd Haynes, which first showed at the festival back in 2003. With Haynes' skewed new Bob Dylan biopic, I'm Not There, in theatres now, interest in this rarely screened short film about another moody rebel poet with unruly hair has been revived.
The service continues at 501 Theatre on Sunday at 2pm with Ragna-Roll, the second half of the Cinematexas alumni compilation (see Ragna-Rock, above), and then at 4:30pm with a screening of the feature-length Interkosmos, a musical about a failed Eastern European space-colonization mission written and directed by former Cinematexan Jim Finn.
And finally, that night at 7pm, Poyser and Parsons will move the show Downtown to the brand-new Alamo Ritz on Sixth Street for an already sold-out screening of Don Hertzfeldt's animated short "Everything Will Be OK" and Ronald Bronstein's Frownland, a feature film Poyser says they chose for the finale because of its stylistic kinship to what he calls "your typical Cinematexas short film." "It's grubby," he explains. "It's made on an obsolete medium – 16mm – with the sensibilities of one single delusional person. It's provocative, annoying, grating, energizing, funny, exciting, and different."
And then, with all due ceremony, the SS Cinematexas will be set aflame and pushed out to sea, never to be heard from again. Poyser tells me that many of the student films screened at the festival over the years have been donated to the UT film archives, perhaps to be pulled out of storage once in a while to satisfy curious minds. As for the rest, they'll turn to smoke and ash along with Cinematexas itself, that "avant-garde rebel event" that was, in the end, more interested in pushing boundaries than saving itself.
For more information, visit www.austinfilm.org/film/cinematexas-viking-funeral-frownland.