FORT WORTH Although there was plenty of drama behind the scenes at Fort Worths Lone Star Film Festival this year with key staff members abruptly leaving in June and a new director taking over in July dont expect many radical changes at the next edition of the festival, which kicks off Nov. 5.
The ninth edition still runs four days, remains based in Sundance Square, and showcases a mix of big-star attractions and shoestring indies as well as shorts and documentaries.
I dont know that I really wanted to make it different, said Chad Mathews, director of the Lone Star Film Festival and the Lone Star Film Society, the umbrella organization that puts on the event, who came to Fort Worth from the Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg.
I wanted to include the things that I thought really worked last year and previous years, he continued. For me, this festival was always programmed really well. My objective wasnt to come in and say, Im going to change everything, but theres going to be change naturally because Im a different person.
But I still think what were doing is along the foundations of what the former guys had built.
As usual, films run the gamut from the thrillers Mojave featuring Oscar Isaac and Mark Wahlberg and The Adderall Diaries with James Franco to such Oscar bait as the drama Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and the low-budget, North Texas-set Windsor, directed by Fort Worths Porter Farrell.
Like last year, when actress Candy Clark appeared for a screening of American Graffiti, there will be a showing of a classic along with one of its stars. This time its Malcolm McDowell and A Clockwork Orange.
Still, there are some differences from earlier incarnations.
This year, opening night on Nov. 5 will include a free outdoor screening of family-friendly shorts in Sundance Square Plaza, the first time the festival has used this space. Last year, Lone Star which had merged with a separate festival held at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth featured such big Hollywood titles as The Imitation Game and Wild as well as other movies that werent submitted by filmmakers but acquired.
I wanted to include more of the films that were submitted films, said Mathews, and bring more of those indie filmmakers into the mix. Now, whether that pays off with the audience in Fort Worth, I dont know. Maybe it will be a complete disaster, but Im willing to try because I believe in those artists and I wanted to showcase them.
Certainly, there are many notable, under-the-radar choices in the lineup. They include Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufmans stop-motion animated Anomalisa, Matt Herrons trippy, is-it-a-doc-or-not Audition, and the inspirational documentary Imba Means Sing, about impoverished Ugandan children who sing in the African Childrens Choir.
Speakers and panels
Another way in which Lone Star 2015 differs from its predecessors is that there will be a keynote speech from David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine, NPRs Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning.
Initially, Mathews hadnt planned on having a keynote speaker. The idea was offered to me from a professor I had at TCU who happened to know him, he said. I said, Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. I didnt think we would get him but I sent him a letter, persisted and he said yes, finally.
Edelsteins speech is just one of the nonfilm events taking place in the Pavilion building on Sundance Square Plaza. Other activities there include a Career Conversation with actors Malcolm McDowell, Bill Paxton and Joanna Kerns as well as panels on women in film, entertainment and social change, screenwriting, and the state of film.
Having all these activities take place in Sundance Square emphasizes the community feel.
I really wanted to connect with the community, Mathews said. People in the community, even if theyre not going to the festival, will see [whats happening] and have an opportunity to know that were here and were present.
Saved from disaster
Mathews grew up in South Texas, went to TCU and worked in Los Angeles before joining the Hill Country Film Festival. But he made the move to Lone Star with just four months to get ready for this years event. That could have been a disaster, but he says he was saved by a couple of things.
Lone Star has a really great reputation, he says. If youre able to get someone on the phone and you use that name, that is an awesome and fantastic thing to walk into. [And] luckily, I was able to hire a really good programmer [Charles Rice] whos based out of L.A. and he was able to work those relationships.
Its never easy but hes good at what he does. His history is that hes a filmmaker, but hes worked on the business side and hes originally from Texas, from Houston, and graduated from TCU. That kind of helped because he has a passion for Fort Worth like I do. I was introduced to him by a friend from L.A. and it just seemed like a good fit.
I lucked into a [good] situation. The house is already built. Im just cleaning up a little bit.