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When beauty and politics collide

May 4th, 2017 under Arts
Film festival goers queue outside the Crowley Theartre during last year’s CineMarfa

Film festival goers queue outside the Crowley Theartre during last year’s CineMarfa


MARFA — Why should our encounter and experience of beauty be mutually exclusive to how we take stock of our political situation? When CineMarfa returns for its seventh annual festival this weekend, bringing to town an eclectic range of films and art by filmmakers both local and visiting, it will answer this very question.

With differing themes annually, this year’s festival considers the very strange current political climate, as founder David Holland puts it in a recent conversation with the Big Bend Sentinel. Art and film, or more specifically film art, allows the two, beauty and politics, to converge.

Asked what his picks for the festival were, Hollander is unable to pinpoint just one or two artists and instead describes with great passion each of this year’s main contributors. The program, which will see around 20 films screened in the Crowley Theater and other spaces around town, includes films about and made by interesting people, all of whom are singular and unique, Hollander tells me. Although Hollander no longer lives in Marfa, he returns throughout the year for the festival and special screenings.

The festival will open with a screening of “Maïdan” by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, which looks at the 2013-2014 Euromaidan movement that initiated on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, described by reviewers as gorgeous and stark.

Super-8 works by the Cuban-born multidisciplinary artist Ana Mendieta, known best for her Silueta Series and controversial death, will be shown alongside a documentary about her life by Raquel Cecilia.

Taking a much more contemporary and immediate look at politics is work by Vic Berger, whose satirical re-edits posted to YouTube include a dark mangling of 2016 election news footage. Of equal value to his films are the Twitter posts Berger aims at President Trump, which Hollander describes as “genius.” And, Hollander says, Berger’s films remind him of the French New Wave movement filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.

Like the French New Wave, CineMarfa was borne out of a rejection of mainstream cinema’s traditions. It was started by local filmmakers and artists who were interested in artist-made films, work that wasn’t usually screened outside of the gallery context, work that went beyond the usual purview of mainstream cinema.

Additionally, the nature of the festival grew out of a desire from Hollander and collaborators for a film festival that actually supported filmmakers, allowing them not to be subject to market forces, or “disposable,” things Hollander sees as the antithesis to creativity. Thus a sort of anti-film festival, with films made by activists or people who see the potential of film to create change, arose.

In response to a local politically-charged occurrence, the construction of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, Hollander is bringing to the festival Josh Fox’s film “Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock,” a look at the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has parallels that run deep to the what has occurred in our own Far West Texas backyards.

Alongside the festival, which is volunteer run, free and open to the public, CineMarfa provides educational support to the local filmmaking community, giving local youth and adults a chance to make films and later with a context to present them. The festival brings filmmakers to Marfa, providing them with a stipend and housing for the duration of their stay here. Panel discussions with the filmmakers discussing their work will follow screenings throughout the festival.

Other not-to-miss artists at this year’s festival are Chicago-based artist Cauleen Smith who brings a selection of her films, Artist duo Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, whose screening will include a live musical accompaniment by Matt Sweeney and Jesper Eklow of Endless Boogie, and the closing screening of Art Fair Fever, artist Mark Flood’s humorous critique of the contemporary art world.

More information about this year’s screenings and schedule, and where to donate or become a member, is available online at

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