Guest blogger Alec Jhangiani is director of programming for Lone Star International Film Festival.
Thank you Anne and KERA for allowing us this opportunity to share our passion for film and festivals. Thank you Bart for your poignant and gracious introduction, I must agree. No matter how pure we may like to believe our love for cinema is, it’s sometimes difficult not to get caught up in the mystique that the world of film and festivals is often identified with. Not to say that the perception is entirely uncalled for. I have yet to attend a festival, or work on a film, that didn’t come with a very solid party or seven.
But it’s for exactly the reasons that Bart mentioned that such celebration is warranted. Productions on the scale of films and festivals require meticulous planning, tireless effort, and selfless cooperation. And because the people behind the scenes live and die with their programs, and there never seems to be quite enough appreciation to go around, it’s only natural that we engange in the occasional Bacchanalian reverie once everything is in the can. We’re not so different from any other professional, proud of a job well done.
Which brings us to Bart’s next observation that once you work in film, you never again see it the same way. It is, like any other job, a job. Planning and execution. This was a very hard thing for me, just starting in the industry, to wrap my head around. It also happened to come at a time when many aspects of my life were being stripped of their innocence and I found my experience on a set to be very surreal and disorienting. But there is certainly a different beauty in this deeper understanding, and it has since come to my attention that a film set, in it’s hierarchies, diversity, spontaneity, and sometimes chaos, is very much a microcosm of our world.
It’s natural, I suppose, that out of an environment such as this grows an art form that so accurately reflects our world, with the poignancy and potency to so effectively make “the other less other”. I love film for many reasons, not least of which because I believe it has the power to change the world. Lest you think me too much a romantic, I will cite a timely example. The Dark Knight is a two-and-a-half hour exploration of a deeply troubled metropolis, a hero who persistently questions whether he is stifling or facilitating evil, and a criminal with no objective other than to disrupt any sense of order that humanity may be clinging to. The trajectory is not uplifting, to say the least.
I will refrain from spoilers, but for those who have seen the film, I think we can agree that the end isn’t exactly neat and tidy either. Still, despite the moral ambiguity, despite the lack of any clearly drawn line between good and evil, right and wrong, there is the glaring glimmer of hope in this film and this film has shattered box office records in a country that, in the past few years, has been divided down the middle with each side claiming infallibility beyond the shadow of doubt. I’d say that it goes to show we’re making a little progress.
I don’t mean to digress, and I don’t claim to speak on behalf of everyone, but I thought it might help to share one reason why I do what I do. Films, like the other arts, can help us seek out the beauty in chaos and confusion by taking a closer look instead of looking away. Since Hollywood has for so long specialized in escapism, festivals are often the best place to find the films that do this most effectively. So we put on festivals, we show films that may otherwise not be shown, we celebrate them, and we celebrate us.
Lone Star had a wonderful first year. I cannot imagine that there are many cities better suited for a film festival than Fort Worth. Our city has, for a long time, celebrated the other arts on a level that can only be described as world class and it is only natural that we afford film, a medium that incorporates so many others, the same treatment. This year we have gone to great lengths to ensure that the festival melds, as seamlessly as possible, into the existing cultural landscape of the city.
I hope I haven’t overstayed my welcome in this first entry and I assure everyone that there are more important, and less metaphysical, things to come. Next, I will be writing about local filmmaker (and vegan chef) James Johnston. James was responsible for programming the “Some Call it Mumblecore: A New American Independence” section of LSIFF07 and I hope to find out more from James about this somewhat new movement in film, as well as his experiences and perspectives as a local filmmaker…and maybe even the secret behind a killer vegan Tiramisu.