By Jessie Leo
ABOVE ALL ELSE
Friday, April 4 @ Angelika
Saturday, April 5 @ Angelika
QUEENS & COWBOYS
Saturday, April 5 @ Angelika
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
In recent weeks, signs have been popping up all around the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, advertising Conan O’Brien’s week of live shows in Dallas. One of those signs reads, “God Bless the Country of Texas.” Obviously meant as an affectionate joke, this statement does have a kernel of truth to it. In the words of veteran DIFF director, Rachel Shepard, “Texas might as well be on another planet.”
It’s not just Texas’ vastness that sets it apart, but also its values. Values like family and a love for the land – values certainly shared by other states, but, it seems, not with the fierceness of good ol’ Texas pride.Shepard’s current DIFF film, ABOUT MOM AND DAD…, tells the story of a small-town family, each member dealing with trust and relationship issues, all in the week leading up to the youngest daughter’s wedding. And while every character is a flawed individual, each of them, over the course of the film, proves that nothing can break the bonds of family. Equally important as all the characters in this film is the physical setting – a small, rural Texas town. According to Shepard, “it was important for me to place the Harper family in this setting because it very much defines the family dynamic. When you are a part of a pocket community like that, everyone knows your business.” But just because people know your business, it doesn’t mean they know you best or even what’s best for you. ABOUT MOM AND DAD… shows that, at the end of the day, families can overcome any obstacle, and that sometimes the best thing you can do is just return back home. What if that same home, though, the one that provides so much comfort, was under threat of destruction by a force much larger than any one person? This is the nightmarish situation that native Texan David Daniel faces in John Fiege’s compelling documentary, ABOVE ALL ELSE. The film follows David, a humble family man whose East Texas property is under threat of being taken over by the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline. In a press release from this year’s SXSW Festival, Director John Fiege stated, “East Texans have a long history of self-sufficiency, independence and close ties to the land. When a foreign multinational corporation showed up and was perceived to be trammeling Texans’ freedoms and property rights, it didn’t know what it was in for. East Texans aren’t afraid to fight back.” To these people, it’s not just land that they’re fighting for, it’s their home. Another Texan featured in the film is Susan Scott, a great-grandmother who has lived on her land since she was twenty-seven years old. She plans to stay on her property forever, even after death, which is when, as she says in the film, she will be buried next to her horse. Courageous individuals like Susan and David, along with the other valiant activists featured in ABOVE ALL ELSE, prove that the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” was coined for a reason.
When most people think of fearless Texans, images of cowboys and rodeo riders come to mind. After all, what’s more terrifying than being bucked off an angry bull as it thrashes its horns inches from your face? Add to that danger the fear of emotional and physical persecution in a traditionally conservative culture, and you may just have the bravest group of all: gay cowboys.QUEENS AND COWBOYS: A STRAIGHT YEAR ON THE GAY RODEO explores the little known world of the gay rodeo circuit and the determined, spirited individuals who participate year after year. One such individual is Wade Earp (descendent of Wyatt) from Dallas, Texas who proudly proclaims “I live, eat, breath cowboy. I just happen to be gay.” At no point in the film, not even during their harrowing tales of discrimination, do the gay men and women featured in this documentary appear as victims. They are simply passionate individuals doing what they love, competing at the rodeo. The film’s audacious director, Matt Livadary, says, “I do have hope acceptance will reach even the small pockets of this country…But until we get there, there are places for every one of us to find ourselves and find where we belong. I think the IGRA [International Gay Rodeo Association] offers that for many people, especially those who grew up with country western backgrounds.”
From a small town family with big problems, a man defending his livelihood, and unbreakable cowboys toughing it out in a straight man’s world, these three DIFF films showcase the passion, spirit and pride of Texas, proving the biggest thing about The Lone Star State are the stories of its people.
DALLAS STAR AWARDS
Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African-American President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and only the third woman to hold the office.
John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy, is the recipient of the 2014 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX.
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