Who Made the Best of Fests Possible

Festival de Cine Latino Americano Film Festival is based in Fort Worth and is made up of a group of producers, film scholars, and local actors honoring Latin America’s contributions to the film industry. Their 2020 entry, the 2018 film This too shall pass is directed by Rodrigo Moreno. Running for 19:22 minutes, this short drama film tells the story of a girl who endures an abusive life at the hands of a man she was traded to and forced to care for.

On the same time slot, Fort Worth Independent Film Showcase and Topaz Film Festival were showing 2019 short movies, Breaking Brokenness, a 21-minute film that revolves around the main character Frankie, and her struggle to repair her relationship with her daughter. LaToya, her daughter is unforgiving following Frankie’s release from prison. As soon as the movie ended, Topaz Film and Women Texas Film Festival’s entry, Driving Lessons was shown. the movie shows Bahareh, the female protagonist living in Iran, being accompanied by her chauvinistic and very traditional husband to her driving lessons so she and her instructor will not be alone.

Topaz Film Festival has screened two films, 2019 short films Ribbons by Marcela Cantú Serrano and Topanga by Aycil Yeltan. Both under 15 minutes long, the films were screened at Alamo Drafthouse CEDARS on the festival’s third day.

Ribbons were shot at Saint Joseph’s Academy in Brownsville, Texas over two days. Dreaming to be a student of Sadie Hawkins dance, Lucy has a huge crush with her classmate Thomas. Yet, when she thinks she is clear to finally take the leap, her worst fear comes true.

In the movie Topanga, Gala is a homeless artist who escapes from an abusive man. Aycil Yeltan received three awards for the film: the Merit Award at the Accolade Global Film Competition in La Jolla, California, the Audience Award for Shorts at Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in Vermont, and the Audience Award at Women in Film-Dallas, Topaz Film Festival.

Aside from aforementioned film festivals, other participating festivals include North Texas Film Festival, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema, Fort Worth Independent Film Showcase, Asian Film Festival of Dallas, Dallas VideoFest, Dallas Jewish Film Festival, Deep in the Heart Film Festival, Denton Black Film Festival, Deep Ellum Film Festival, EarthxFilm, Frame4Frame, Q Cinema, Sons of the Flag Stars and Stripes Film Festival, and Thin Line Film Festival.

The fiscal sponsor of Best of Fests is EarthxFilm, an organization that showcases media and films that explore climate change, conservation, and the environment. Partners and sponsors include EarthX and EarthxFilm, Prekindle, Kinetigraf Entertainment, nonprofit CreditCop, Selig Polyscope, Texas Theatre, Alamo Drafthouse, Dallas Film Commission/Dallas Creative Industries, Visit Dallas, supernatural, Dallas Producers Association, Kelly Kitchens PR and Wildworks PR.

The 2020 Best of Fests Recap

One of the participants in Best of Fests is the Dallas International Film Festival. DIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in Texas that amassed an impressive list of films that have garnered international attention. Its 2019 run screened 129 movies from 24 countries and has been attended by over 15,000 film enthusiasts. DIFF Honorees included over the years include Charlize Theron, Luke Wilson, Fane Dunaway, and Adrien Brody to name a few. In 2019, DIFF presented Tejano. Directed by David Blue Garcia, it tells the story of a South Texas farm helper and his extreme measure to help his sick grandfather. The film earned a nomination at the 2018 Houston Film Critics Society awards for Best Texas Indie Film. For the Best of Fests 2020 run, DIFF will present Brotherhood, it is the movies’ 10th-anniversary screening written and directed by Will Canon. The film originally premiered in the 2010 SWSX Film Festival where it won the festival’s Audience Award.

Also participating in the Best of Fest 2020 in Oak Cliff Film Festival who was heralded by The New York Times as a new kid in the block, established in 2012, that will singlehandedly give the state “a burst of indie street credibility” with its goal of showcasing indie films. OCFF’s entry this year was a thriller 2019 movie titled Swallow directed by Carla Mirabella-Davis. It follows the story of Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife, and her compulsive desire to consume dangerous objects. This squirm-inducing psychological thriller has received positive reviews from film critics and holds a 90% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Other highlights include the movie International Falls, an Amber McGinnis’s award-winning dark comedy presented by the Women Texas Film Festival. Starred by Rachel Harris, it tells a story of a woman stuck in a small, snowbound border town with dreams of being a stand-up comic. She then met a washed-up, burned-out comedian (played by Rob Huebel) who dreams of doing anything else but a comedian.

Best of Fests also accommodates different international festivals in the United States showcasing their countries’ film with English subtitles.

This year, DFW South Asian Film Festival presents Namdev Bhau In Search Of Silence, a 2019 Indian adventure/comedy film. A 65-year-old chauffeur, Namdev Bhau, is tired of the noises and chatter in the vibrant yet boisterous Mumbai City life. He decides to leave everything behind and start his journeys to the Himalayas for some peace and quiet in search of the “Silent Valley”. On his journey to the valley which is said to have almost a zero decibel sound level, he meets a 12-year-old boy at a bus stop who happens to be traveling alone to the mystical “Red Castle.” Namdev’s steadfast refusal to speak has a funny Chaplin approach but the final scene brings an unforeseeable twist.

Also highlighted was Czech movie Winter Flies, directed by Olmo Omerzu presented by the Czech That Film Festival. A 2018 drama movie, this is a journey of imaginative misadventure and coming-of-age self-discovery of two adolescent boys. Winter Flies was the selected Czech entry at the 91st Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Film category. The annual Czech film festival titled “Czech That Film” is a four-month-long festival and now is in its 9th edition. It is dedicated to raising the profile of current Czech films at an international level.

With 26 different film festivals screening 11 feature films and 25 short films in four days, many festivals joined forces and individually represented their programming aesthetic in one slot. Best of Fests calls this Combo 2 in which documentary and short films are blocked together.

Welcome to Best of Fests

Organizing a film festival is no easy feat. From finding a venue, to raising the money, to promoting it, an organizer can easily get too caught up in the overwhelming tasks ahead. And problems can happen anytime while the festival is still going on.

Dallas has proven itself as a real hotspot for filmmakers with the number of film festivals that popped up in the city over the last few decades. The idea to orchestrate a great film festival came to fruition when promoters experienced clashes when film festivals falls on the same date and the logistical issues split audiences, aside from the fact that media can only cover one festival at a time.

Emily Hargrove spearheaded the massive effort of bringing all the festival directors on the same page, together with another Best of Fests co-founder, Michael Cain. During the meeting, they first decided to create an annual calendar to avoid overlapping programming schedules of all the film fests’ dates, to ensure that everyone has their time to shine. A more radical idea was then submitted to the table: bring together all film festivals in Dallas, Fort Worth, and North Texas and into one great film festival. It is set to be a celebration of Texas’ diverse film programming with 20+ film festivals submitting entries that showcases their unique programming’s personality.

Aside from giving festivals the opportunity to share a single feature-length or short film from their most recent gathering that sums up their distinct voice, Best of Fests also wants to grow the audience by offering moviegoers the opportunity to see films they might not have time to watch or have known about. The goal is to unify all of Dallas’ film festivals and grow its communities in a non-competing fashion.

For example, Lone Star Film and Pegasus Film Festival shared a screening date to present each other’s’ programs. Lone Star screened Red Dog, a film by Luke Dick and Casey Pinkston which tells the story of award-winning singer-songwriter Luke Dick growing up at Oklahoma City’s rowdiest strip club, Red Dog. After the movie screening, Luke Dick together with his band STEVE performed to the enjoyment of the moviegoers. Presented in conjunction with the feature film Red Dog, Pegasus Film Festival presents the short film Meet Metal: Bangover. A four-minute documentary that explores one of the most well-known aspects of the metal scene: headbanging. Artists of the international metal scene discuss how they headbang, the reason why they headbang, and how to avoid that dreaded bangover and take care of their necks after a crazy show.

This kind of collaboration was made easy because of Best of Fests vision to encourage festival communities to showcase their offerings without being competitive.