The fifth Lone Star International Film Festival opens Wednesday night and plays through Sunday in Fort Worth. Festival Director Alec Jhangiani has been with the festival since its inception, and he spoke with Art&Seek recently about this year’s festival and his plans for its future.
Art&Seek: You were able to secure some very high profile films to play at this year’s festival: The Descendants, The Artist, We Need to Talk About Kevin and others. How were you able to get them?
Alec Jhangiani: Part of our objective is to communicate to distributors that there is a very interested audience in Fort Worth and that it is also a somewhat isolated audience. So there’s been a lot of communication since we started trying to increase awareness of the difference between Dallas and Fort Worth and that it’s worth it to generate some word of mouth in Fort Worth and not just in North Texas, as a lot of distributors see it.
A&S: Is holding the festival in November advantageous?
A.J.: Yeah, I think it is. Obviously this is awards season. … A lot of the films that are going to be up for the big awards are coming out right now. It’s advantageous in that they’re all out right now. But it can also be challenging because distributors are being very careful with their Oscar campaigns and their publicity campaigns and also there are a lot of festivals that are fighting for those screenings.
A&S: What kind of emphasis do you put on programming locally made films?
A.J.: We always jump a the chance to do it when the film measures up to the rest of our program. We decided early on that we didn’t want to make any concessions for locally made films, because we felt if the objective is to help those films, then putting in a less-than-adequate film wasn’t helpful to the filmmaker or anybody really. … We’re lucky enough this year to have a really good group of those.
A&S: Which ones come to mind?
A.J.: I think the most high-profile one is Searching for Sonny, which was shot in Fort Worth and had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival a few weeks ago. Andrew Disney is the director there and Red Productions produced the film. It’s got Minka Kelly and Jason Dohring and some other people. … There’s also a documentary called The Mayor, which was shot at a retirement home here in Dallas.
A&S: For the past three years, the festival has given out the Stephen Bruton Award to a musician who has had a major impact on film. Kris Kristofferson and T. Bone Burnett were awarded the first two, and Willie Nelson is this year’s honoree. What makes Willie a deserving recipient?
A.J.: Just the music that he’s written has had an astronomical presence in film. I think “Crazy” is in something like 60 films or something like that. His music has been in 140 films and television shows. And on top of that, he’s had great acting roles like in Thief, which we’re showing at the festival.
A&S: Does the festival have plans to expand its musical side?
A.J.: It’s certainly been discussed. … What we’re hoping is that If that’s something that there’s a demand for in Fort Worth that it grows organically out of what we’ve done so far. So far that’s what we’ve seen. This year we’ve got a big concert on Saturday night with Seryn and the Orbans and Telegraph Canyon. So far, this has been one of our more currated musical things, where we’ve gone out and hand-selected bands that weren’t already in some way related to the festival. So it’s definitely kinda moving in that direction, but I think we want to make sure that it’s something that there’s room for.
A&S: Now that you have put on five festivals, what do you think you’ve learned in the process?
A.J.: I think the most important thing is patience. There are just some things that we’re just not going to achieve until it’s time to achieve them. … Just to do what we can while we can and wait for our momentum to grow on itself.