Film Reviews: Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Dark Screens

Fort Worth’s film festival organizers say this is only an intermission, not the end.


The annual Fort Worth Film Festival was officially renamed the Lone Star Film Festival in July. Last weekend was supposed to be its sixth running. However, on Oct. 10, a terse notice appeared on the festival’s web site, stating that the event had been canceled.

Michael Price, the Lone Star Film Festival’s artistic director and the driving force behind Fort Worth’s film extravaganza since its inception in 1998, insisted that this is only a temporary measure. “We are not canceling the festival,” he stated. “We are restructuring the board of directors. We’re expanding it fairly rapidly; it’s going from five members to about 50. We decided to put it [the festival] on hold while we do that.” In this case, however, “on hold” means there will be no festival this year.

Price said the festival’s governing board has been expanded into the Lone Star Film Society, which will sponsor cinematic events year-round. The first, in December 2003, will be a screening of some of the films that were to have been shown at this year’s festival. In January, a fundraiser is planned that will feature a re-mastered print of Singin’ in the Rain. The first Lone Star Film Festival is now scheduled for October 2004.

As for a postmortem on the old film festival, Price speculated that it suffered not from lack of publicity but from lack of word-of-mouth promotion. Lone Star Film Society president Dave Stovall had a handier explanation. “September 11 just killed us,” he says. “I know everyone blames their economic troubles on that, but our festival that year was just a month after that, and we had to change everything. Since then, we’ve basically been on life support, but we’re hoping the new organization will change that.” He predicted that the upcoming festival will be bigger than previous ones but will still offer a mixture of retrospectives of classic Hollywood films, plus independent features and shorts, with a particular emphasis on films made locally.

The Fort Worth Film Festival’s greatest moments gave local audiences advance screenings of high-profile indie movies such as Wes Anderson’s Rushmore in 1998 and Richard Linklater’s Waking Life in 2001. Stovall said that will continue. “You need a major studio release to bring in publicity.” The old festivals also provided esoteric slices of film history, such as the collection of movies by World War II-era African-American director Spencer Williams Jr. shown there in 2001.

Organizers hope the revamping will generate more enthusiasm for the festival among film buffs, and that the new name will make the event seem less provincial and more attractive to filmmakers shopping their works on the festival circuit.

In addition, Stovall announced that the 2004 festival will be held in the Cultural District rather than in the traditional downtown location. Citing new management at AMC Theatres, which had previously hosted the festival, Stovall said, “We’re looking to restore the Scott Theatre and bring its projection facilities up to standard.” He said he’s excited about the new location. “We feel like the Cultural District should have film as well as art, music, and theater. Between us and the programs at the museums, we feel like we make that area complete.”

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