NXNE 2015: Jonathan Demme Presents Made in Texas
When one thinks of Austin, Texas images of barbecue, music and a thriving film community dance gleefully in the mind. Made in Texas is concerned with the latter. Curated by Jonathan Demme, and featuring contributions from the likes of SXSW co-founder Louis Black and more, the film is a collection of six short films that celebrates the rich history of new wave filmmaking that came out of the region.
Made in the early eighties, Demme originally screened the film as part of a program at the Collective of Living Cinema in New York City. Decades later Demme and Black have teamed up once again to restore and preserve the 8mm and 16mm pieces of Austin cinema. Covering a diverse cross section of themes and tones, each short’s effectiveness will come down to a matter of the viewer’s personal taste. One of the highlights of the group is the deceptive heist film Fair Sisters. Directed by Louis Black, Missy Bordwell and Ed Lowry the film brings a sense of style to a tale of unlikely robbers.
Another strong entry is Tom Huckabee and Will Van Overbeek’s captivating, and at times disturbing, Death of a Rock Star. Inspired by the death of Jim Morrison, the film takes a fever dream approach to the notion of a man seeing his life flash before his eyes prior to his death. Utilizing music and images over dialogue to tell its narrative, the film captures the sex, violence, and general debauchery of the era. Featuring recurring serpent imagery – including a shot of a snake crawling across a picture of Marilyn Munroe with caption “she fucked JFK” – the symbolism is far from subtle, but there is enough here to keep our interest.
Offering a moment of levity, Lorrie Oshatz’s Leonardo, Jr. is a Buster Keaton style romp about an artist who finds herself on the wrong end of the gun she is carrying. Mask of Sarnath finds director Neil Ruttenberg exploring the horror genre through his well-crafted homage about a possessed mask. The two films that will most likely divide audiences are Brian Hansen’s Speed of Light and David Boone’s Invasion of the Aluminum People. The former is a surreal tale of a mother and daughter whose road trip turns harrowing when they wind up in Taylor, Texas. Taking a different approach, Boone’s film is an ode to 1950s science fiction and American paranoia.
The diverse selection will ensure that audiences find at least a few short films they will enjoy. While not every film is a knockout, Made in Texas provides insight into the raw and creative works that marked an important chapter in Austin’s cinematic history.
Today, 2 PM, NXNE Hub