Sunday, November 23, 2008

Closing thoughts

Looking back on the Lone Star International Film Festival, I think the movies on offer were at about the same level as last year's fare, which was pretty good. The Russian movies got a bit heavy, even the supposedly lighter entries like '12' and 'Nirvana,' but it's always good to see the state of filmmaking in an active country like Russia. That's one thing festivals can accomplish; it's much easier to see a bunch of foreign films from the same country at a festival than it is to track down all those specialty DVDs.

That said, I think 'Let the Right One In' is the one thing most likely to make people come away saying, "Wow, I saw something cool at the Lone Star Film Festival!" It's all very well to use a festival to conduct an academic exploration of foreign cinema, but I don't think LSIFF can afford to overlook the "cool" factor when it comes to programming. Yes, it's easier for me to sit here and say "we should have cool movies" than it is for other people to find them and book them, but that's what will create buzz around this event more than anything else.

Organizationally, this festival was more efficient than last year's, probably because they had the advantage of running their operation out of the nearby Norris Conference Center downtown instead of the West Side office they were in last year. It made a noticeable difference.

The change in management meant that the Lone Star Film Festival didn't get a chance to firmly establish an aesthetic identity in its second year, but the same people figure to be in charge next year, and they'll have more time to organize. We'll need to monitor the event to see what sort of movies festivalgoers can expect, and how LSIFF will set itself apart from AFI Dallas or South by Southwest.

The big-ticket items like 'Sunshine Cleaning' and 'Last Chance Harvey' -- the films that are assured of a wider release in the future -- were the biggest draws, so they probably won't be going away in the festival's future editions. I'm not arguing that they should, either. In fact, since Christopher Kelly's stimulating annual series at the Modern (Great Films You Haven't Heard of Yet) went dead this year, LSIFF can fill the niche and give us a sneak peek at the movies that the smaller studios are touting as Oscar contenders.

What about the rest of the festival? Will it concentrate on locally made films, American indie features, documentaries, or looks at other countries' cinema like the Russian series? Where is this all headed? That'll be something for us to keep tabs on.

One thing's for sure: Fort Worth needs a film festival in some shape or form. Our city's too big and too cultural to be without one. If you liked the work the festival did this year, they need your time and your money, and you can find out how to help by clicking on their website. If you didn't like this year's fest, then they'll probably still welcome your input as to how to improve next year's event. If that fails, you can always set up your own. It'll be a lot of hard work, but Fort Worth can definitely use it. Thanks for reading, everyone. See you back here next November. -- Kristian Lin

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