Immerse yourself in the world of film at the 11th Annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival
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Hop from reel to reel for a celebration of local, regional, and international film at venues across town during the 11th Annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, from Thursday, November 14 through Monday, November 18, 2019.

Now in its eleventh year, Houston Cinema Arts Festival presents films focused on the arts for five days of viewing pleasure in a unique-to-Houston experience. Unlike other film festivals, HCAF19 is a curation of films about the arts and their creators. It pulls from local, regional, and international talent to tell a global story about the arts and create fascinating, pop-up experiences.

HCAF19 features impressive events that promise to be intriguing and sensational. Highlights include an exploration of diversity in westerns, a series of films that touch on space and the moon landing alongside the return of CineSpace, a Texas Filmmaker’s Showcase, a Black Media Story Summit, and films from filmmakers that represent a diverse range of backgrounds. 

Events & Film Screenings at HCAF19 

Films and pop-up events are held at screenings and partner venues throughout the city, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Rice Cinema, and more.

This year’s compelling lineup of films is quite extensive. Click here to view a full, day-by-day line-up of movies and events, and continue reading for this year’s main HCAF highlights.

Waves by Trey Edward Shults | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Opening Night: Waves with director Trey Edward Shults

Houston Cinema Arts Festival 2019 kicks off with the Houston premiere of Waves, the newest film from Trey Edward Shults on Thursday, November 14, 2019. 

The director will be on hand for the screening, and will be joined in conversation after the film by legendary hip-hop artist and “Unofficial Mayor of Houston”, Bun B. Following the discussion, MFAH will play host to an afterparty with Houston ethnomusicologist DJ Flash Gordon Parks.

Garnering critical acclaim after its World Premiere at Telluride Film Festival in August and a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Waves features an astonishing ensemble of award-winning actors and breakouts that traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.

The film premieres in New York and Los Angeles on the following day, Friday, November 15, 2019.

Yellow Rose by Diane Paragas | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

The Yeehaw Agenda

A major theme of HCAF19, “The Yeehaw Agenda” refers to the celebration of rodeo riders, cowboys, and westerns—already firmly baked into the global popular consciousness—with a focus on diverse representations.

Among several HCAF19 events that touch on this theme, MFAH hosts a rare screening of the cult 1972 documentary Black Rodeo on Sunday, November 17, 2019.

The film, which depicts events surrounding a first-time performance of a Black rodeo in Harlem, will include a panel discussion with the film’s director Jeff Kanew (Revenge of the Nerds) alongside Bri Malandro, who coined the term “Yeehaw Agenda”. Hall of Fame Black rodeo riders will also be on-hand for this uniquely immersive festival event.

On Saturday, November 16, Rice Cinema will screen Brokeback: A Shorts Film Program curated by Michael D. Robinson, which explores the Yeehaw Agenda’s queer origins that inform this collection of short films from the contemporary experimental canon.

Click here for more information on film screenings and events.

Space Dogs by Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Moon Landing 50

In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 touching the surface of the moon, HCAF19 features film screenings and events that touch on the theme of space exploration and the transcendent mission to the lunar surface.

On Friday, November 15, Rice Cinema hosts the North American premiere of the documentary Space Dogs, which traces the story of Laika, a stray dog and the first living being to be sent into space and thus to a certain death, as well as her descendants. The film’s directors Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter will be on hand for a post-film Q&A.

For All Mankind, screened at Rice Cinema on Saturday, November 16, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with a post-film discussion and tribute to the documentary’s late director. The film is compiled using archival NASA footage, astronaut interviews, and a score courtesy of Brian Eno.

At Diverseworks on Sunday, November 17, internationally renowned digital artist, Kelly Richardson, will participate in a discussion of her past and recent work, including future planetary landscape works, Orion Tide and Mariner 9.

Click here for more information on film screenings and events.

7 Planets by Milda Baginskaite | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

CineSpace Returns for Fifth Year

Taking place at Rice Media Center on Saturday, November 16, 2019, the fifth annual CineSpace international competition presents the fifteen finalists vying for a total of $26,000 in prizes.

The chosen films, all under ten minutes in length, range from narrative to documentary and experimental film genres and employ NASA-captured imagery collected throughout the agency’s 60-year history.

Created by filmmakers, both professional and aspiring, the three top winners of the competition will be selected by director Richard Linklater, with NASA also awarding three special prizes.

When I Get Home by Solange | Photo courtesy of Solange Knowles, When I Get Home 2019

When I Get Home by Solange at The DeLuxe Theater

The historic fifth ward theater plays host to two screenings of the extended director’s cut of Solange’s interdisciplinary performance art film, featuring new scenes and musical arrangements.

The free screenings at 7:30pm and 9:30pm are an exploration of origin and spiritual expedition. When I Get Home confronts how much of us have we taken or left behind in our evolution, and how much fear determines this.

Click here for more information on film screenings and events.

A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Noteworthy Houston Film Premieres 

HCAF19 will also be the first opportunity for Houstonians to see films that have already become festival favorites, but have yet to be released. Last year’s festival goers were among the first to see Academy Award-nominated films Roma, At Eternity’s Gate, and Green Book.

  • A Hidden Life at MFAH | Friday, November 15 – From legendary writer-director Terrence Malick, the Houston premiere of this film tells the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
  • Sugar Cane Alley at MFAH | Saturday, November 16 – Director, writer, and producer Euzhan Palcy presents her 1983 critically acclaimed film Sugar Cane Alley, in a Texas premiere of a new restored version. Supported by the US French Consulate, this film won more than 17 international awards upon release, including the Silver Lion and Best Actress awards at the Venice Film Festival. Palcy, who was the first black woman to direct a major studio film, will be in attendance for the screening of her masterwork.
  • Marriage Story at MFAH | Saturday, November 16 – Directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, this compassionate narrative follows the dissolution of a marriage, a family trying to stay together, and two individuals pushed to personal and creative extremes.
  • Varda by Agnès at MFAH | Sunday, November 17 – The groundbreaking pioneer of the French New Wave cinema movement takes audiences on a chronological journey of her years as a young female director through her utilization of digital technology in the latter half of her career. Her final film, the Texas premiere of Varda by Agnès is an unparalleled look into a deeply influential creator and artist.

Click here for more information on film screenings and events.

Sugar Cane Alley by Euzhan Palcy | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Closing Films

Three films wrap up HCAF19 on Monday, November 18, offering powerful and significant experiences to festival attendees. All films begin are Houston premieres and begin at 7pm. 

  • Always in Season at The DeLuxe Theater | FREE – Director Jackie Olive, who will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A, explore the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans and connects this form of historic racial terrorism to racial violence today. Centered around the death of an African American teen found hanging from a swing set in 2014, Always in Season explores therapeutic reenactments employed by one community taking art therapy to another level.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire at MFAH – Commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of a reluctant bride-to-be, Marianne observes the unknowing bride by day and secretly paints her at night. Intimacy and attraction grows between the two women as they share the bride’s first and last moments of freedom. Selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire became the first female-directed film to win the Queer Palm award at the festival.
  • The Science of Fictions at Rice Cinema – A mute Indonesian man who witnesses a fake moon landing in 1965, the year of the communist purge in Indonesia, tries to convince people in his village of what he saw by dancing and wearing space outfits. Directed by Yosep Anggi Noen.

Click here for more information on film screenings and events.

The Science of Fictions by Yosep Anggi Noen | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

About Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Presented by the Houston Cinema Arts Society (HCAS), the Houston Cinema Arts Festival showcases films by and about artists in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Welcoming a bevy of Texas-born filmmakers, actors and other celebrity artists, showings are held at both traditional theatrical venues and through interactive video installations, live multimedia performances and outdoor projections.

Houston Cinema Arts Festival 11th Anniversary

Varda by Agnes by Agnes Varda | Photo courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Festival

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