Four must-see screenings at Cinema Arts Festival Houston 2012

As one of Houston’s biggest cinema events of the year, Cinema Arts Festival Houston offers plenty of movies for festival-goers to pick from its diverse programming. From the free screening of  An American in Paris at Miller Outdoor Theatre to the preview of the Oscar-buzzed Silver Linings Playbook at the MFAH, there is something for everyone. Here are a few of my recommendations for viewers who are interested in looking for the gems of the lineup:

Revival pick: The Connection (Thursday, November 8th, 9:15 pm. Sundance Cinemas)

Milestone Films has done wonders with its effort in unearthing some of American cinema’s greatest hidden treasure—including Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery and Come Back, Africa. Now they are on a mission to restore the works of pioneering filmmaker Shirley Clarke, who is not only a trailblazer in breaking the gender barrier but also a conscientious critic of the cinéma vérité movement that she’s connected to. The Connection, which centers around a group of jazz musicians waiting for their heroin connection in a New York apartment, had garnered praises at Cannes while attracted censorship in the United States back in 1961. Clarke’s final film, Ornette: Made in America, will be screened on Saturday, November 6th at 6:30 pm. The documentary is a rare look into the life and work of jazz legend and Texas’s own Ornette Coleman.

Docudrama pick: Caesar Must Die (Friday, November 9th, 7:30 pm. Museum of Fine Arts Houston)

The Golden Bear winner of this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, siblings and filmmaking partners Paolo and Vittorio Taviani filmed the stage production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar performed entirely by the inmates of an Italian prison. Somehow, this reminds me of an episode of This American Life.

Art school pick: Rare Warhol (Thursday, November 8th, 5:00 pm. Cinema 16 aka 4411 Montrose Blvd)

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how influential Warhol is to cinema as his legacy has been seemingly (and ironically) debased to the remnants of pop culture references. For many first-year college students, Andy Warhol is likely to be known as the dude who drew the big can of Campbell Soup. His long and minimalist features like Sleep and Empire were legendary events of its day. Though we will not be treated with 8 hours full of the inanimate Empire State Building, this year’s festival presents two of his rare 16mm shorts— Bufferin (1966) and The Velvet Underground in Boston (1967).

Avant-garde pick: Phil Solomon: Collaborations with Stan Brakhage (Friday, November 9th, 5:00 pm. Cinema 16 aka 4411 Montrose Blvd)

First, check out Phil Solomon’s three-screen installation, American Falls, at the festival’s headquarters (4411 Montrose Blvd.). Then join Solomon as he thoroughly discussed Seasons …, Elementary Phrases and Concrescence, his collaboration with the late avant-garde master Stan Brakhage. Solomon will return to the same site at 4:00 pm on Saturday to present his films with critic Michael Sicinski.

For more information about the festival, check out http://cinemartsociety.org/

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