The Oak Cliff Film Festival, a recap

Jason Reimer, Eric Steele, City Council member Delia Jasso, Adam Donoghey and Barak Epstein Photo by Tim Valis

“I’m gonna come back here every year they’ll have me because this has been a rebirth for me.” —director C.M. Talkington, on the Oak Cliff Film Festival.

The Oak Cliff Film Festival this past weekend was not just a good time, not just entertaining, but downright inspirational. Actor Rory Cochrane, who attended the festival for a screening of “Love and a .45,” said he stayed an extra day because the Oak Cliff Film Festival is his favorite film festival that he’s ever attended. This from an indie movie superstar. Mike S. Ryan, producer of “The Comedy” and executive producer of “The Turin Horse,” remarked that it was very well organized and curated, especially for a first-year festival. “This is the future of indie film,” he said of the festival.

Check out the list of films that won prizes at the fest. Jay Gormley, a reporter with CBS DFW and Oak Cliff resident, won best community short for his film, “Odds or Evens.”

Here are a couple reviews from Oak Cliff neighbors who attended.

Stylist Malina Pearson, on “The Comedy”:

“When the producer prefaces the film with ‘Um, you’re going to hate these people,’ you might start to worry. When you discover that ‘these people’ are actually characters loosely based on you and your friends, you might, as predicted, really start to hate them … or love them … or spend the entire movie flipping between the two. Brilliant portrayal of the shortcomings of my generation. Definitely checking out more from director Rick Alverson and actor Tim Heidecker.”

Art dealer Cynthia Mulcahy of Mulcahy Modern:

“The Oak Cliff Film Festival is one of the best things to happen culturally in Oak Cliff in a long time, and the organizers did a brilliant job programming unexpected local venues such as the Dallas Zoo, Oil & Cotton and the Bishop Arts Theater and then interspersing bands, Q&As, DJs and parties during the run of the festival. It was gobs of fun.

“Indeed, I have several films on my list that I heard about from other attendees like ‘Your Brother. Remember?’ which I missed while jurying the Cinema 16 Shorts. And I am very interested in following the Texas film directors included in the programming such as C.M. Talkington of ‘Love and a .45’ and Ben Steinbauer of ‘Brute Force’ and the cult favorite ‘Winnebago Man.’ Loved the inclusion of music videos in programming as well.”

A screening of “Sunrise,” a silent film from 1927, with Austin-based My Education playing the live score, was one of the best movie-going experiences of my life. It knocked me out, even though I thought The Wife was totally dumb. (Girl! You don’t need that man.)

A review of my other festival favorite, “Jeff,” is after the jump.

One of the best things I saw at the Oak Cliff Film Festival was the documentary about Jeffrey Dahmer. “Jeff” was directed by this young guy from Milwaukee, Chris James Thompson.

Thompson won the Milwaukee Film Festival with his short, “Kyoko Naturally,” and his prize was film stock and a camera to make another film. So he says a friend tried to sell him on the idea of making a slasher flick based on the Jeffrey Dahmer murders. Thompson told him, “If I ever make a film about Jeffrey Dahmer, it’s going to be about the emotions.” And that’s exactly what this film is. It’s a portrait of how this gruesome killer affected Thompson’s hometown.

He interviews the lead detective on the case, the medical examiner and a neighbor of Jeffrey Dahmer. In the style of “The Thin Blue Line,” those interviews are threaded together with reenactments of Dahmer’s actions in the weeks before his arrest.

Thompson asked a director friend, Andrew Swant, to play Dahmer, and other filmmaker friends played supporting roles, although many roles in the film are not played by actors. A cab driver who picks up Dahmer in one scene, for example, is played by a real cab driver. Thompson directed bus passengers, waiters and shop clerks to “do what they normally do,” and Swant riffed off of them, in character as Dahmer.

There are no murder scenes in the film, no slasher stuff, but just hearing the accounts of what happened does make the viewer uncomfortable at times. The interviews are the most impressive part of this film. Thompson coaxes his three sources to give candid, emotional accounts of their experiences with Jeffrey Dahmer and his aftermath, and it is riveting stuff. After watching “Kyoko Naturally,” I realized, Thompson has a way with people, and I think anything he does will be compelling because of that touch. I’ll be watching his career, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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  • Opus60

    Definitely agree that “Jeff” was a great doc. I actually went to that show just to scope out the venue itself (Bishop Arts Theater), and laughed when I noticed they were showing a doc on Jeffery Dahmer cause I am totally not into morbid/bloody movies… went in and was immediately transfixed by the human aspect of the film and the emotionally intimate dialogue of the real-life persons peripherally involved with Dahmer. The film was completely NON-lurid, in fact it made a very clear point of steering clear of any grisly or macabre images. When the end credits rolled I was still in my seat, eyes glued to the screen, and realized I had tears running down my face, something I sure didn’t expect when I walked into the theater. Has to have been the candid, emotional interviews with those who came in such close contact to Dahmer, and the realization that their lives, along with so many others’, were changed in monumental ways  because of the hideous things this man did.

  • Schase

    The interior shots of this music video from the Festival were filmed at Turner House.

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