After more than three decades of operation, Dallas VideoFest will come to an end this year.
The festival began in 1986 as a way to highlight independent, alternative and obscure works in video. In the last few years, it has become a series of mini-festivals, each focusing on different genres of video. The Medianale (which focuses on video art), Alternative Fiction (which showcases narratives) and the DocuFest (which highlights documentaries) are all scheduled to continue this year from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3.
Bart Weiss, the founder of the Dallas VideoFest, said that when the festival began, video was more accessible than film but much more difficult to project and share.
“Video allowed a different group of people to make work, so from its very earliest days of half-inch reel-to-reel and then VHS and then SVHS, mini DV and then digital SLR’s,” Weiss said. “All of these ways were taking a situation where it would normally cost thousands and thousands of dollars to make a film, and somebody could just get a camera and go and make something. What that meant was that different kind of stories could be told.”
VideoFest made an effort to share those new voices, but as technology evolved, more festivals were created dedicated to highlighting specific perspectives.
“The sort of soul of what we did was allowing these people who were mostly making things on the outskirts of culture commenting on what was going on, allowing that stuff to happen,” Weiss said. “But I think there will always be a place for that, and a way in which we champion that, but on the other hand, you know you can see some of these things on TikTok now.”
Since the news broke, Weiss said he has received countless messages from people relating what the festival means to them.
“Once I made this decision, I was not very emotional about it. It was more of like I have things to figure out and things to do,” Weiss said. “And reading these really touched me very deeply.”
Dallas Video Association, the organization behind VideoFest, will continue to create Frame of Mind, Weiss’s monthly show on KERA, give out its Ernie Kovaks award and host events. As for the upcoming VideoFest, Weiss has the same goals that he has had for the last 33 years.
“I hope that each year we inspire people to go out and make their own media and do things that will help us change the way we see the world,” Weiss said, “Cinema has the ability to give us empathy for people we don’t know, causes we don’t know much about, to feel peoples’ joy and pain. Painting and sculpture and music can touch us emotionally, but what cinema can do hits a deeper chord.”