CineMarfa Takes Off

by Matt Jacobs May 30, 2011


Larry Clark speaks to audience members about his book and film "Tulsa." Image by Alberto Halpern

As the setting for a number of films including Giant, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men it only makes sense that Marfa would have a film festival all it’s own, right? Cinemarfa is the name of the festival, and it’s a unique one at that. Unlike traditional film festivals Cinemarfa focuses on “the intersection between film and fine art.” This means most of the films screened were “made by visual artists, as well as rarely screened archival, experimental, documentary, and narrative films” as well as “new (and historic) films from across the spectrum of world cinema.” For its inaugural year, David Hollander put together a line up of mostly No Wave cinema. I was able to chat with Hollander and ask some questions about this young and promising film festival.

From L to R: Christopher Wool, Glen O’Brien, and Amos Poe in a panel discussion.Image by Alberto Halpern


Matt Jacobs: This year’s festival focuses on No Wave cinema. Can you explain a bit about what No Wave cinema means and why you chose to focus on this particular genre?

David Hollander: One of our board members, Christopher Wool, was influenced by screenings he saw years ago at the New Cinema.  Wool curated a screening of some of that material, which has come to be known as “No Wave” cinema, back in 1993 in New York.  He wanted to do something here in Marfa since moving here a few years ago and so those films seemed like a natural choice when we began putting the program together.  I’m attracted to “No Wave” cinema because of the DIY approach and the subversive nature of the material…it is completely outside of the conventions of Hollywood or even auteur cinema, and is therefore very free.  It seems like a good moment to look at such films, for inspiration.

Debbie Harry in a still from Glen O'Brien's "TV Party"

MJ: It seemed like much of the early No Wave films were made by non-filmmakers, that is to say, people who hadn’t been trained in cinematography or gone to film school. Before a screening of TV Party, Glenn O’Brien (the shows host) said that most of the crew had “never even held a camera before.” Due to this gritty style of film making, do you think that these films serve as historical documents as well as being independent films?

DH: In the case of TV Party especially, yes.  Here you have Jean Michel Basquiat in the control room, doing SAMO word/graphics totally spontaneously – you can really see how people were as artists in that moment, in their milieu.  Debbie Harry, Klaus Nomi – they were famous at that point in their scene but not the icons we know them to be now.  And in all the films, you get a sense of the scene at that time and the personalities…just like in Warhol’s films.  As far as them being independent films…I think the films of that scene are just very pure as artworks…there was no sense of trying to fit in to some kind of template or format in order to fill a market niche…

MJ: Showing a New York City based film genre here in Marfa I can’t help but think of other NYC artists who have migrated out here. Obviously Judd comes to mind, but there are many other artists and businesses that have made the trek out and have settled down (or at least part time) in West Texas. Was this NYC-Marfa connection something you considered when putting the  festival’s lineup together?

DH: Not specifically…it helps that Marfa is known coast to coast and that Marfa is a place that many people who are artists and who are aware of it have always wanted to visit but because it’s so out of the way have not had the opportunity or reason to do so…the film festival provides a good reason for filmmakers and artists to come here.  Our board is made up of people from New York, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Austin…so that gives us a good reach in terms of drawing on our contacts to bring people out here.  This year it happened that a lot of New York people came out – next year there will probably be some both East and West Coast people presenting films at the festival as well.

Louis Black introduces "The Whole Shooting Match." Image by Alberto Halpern

MJ: Marfa being the artistic community that it is, I was glad to hear that some local artists work as well children’s films were being screened. Is this something you plan on including in future festivals and will you offer similar workshops for people interested in making films?

DH: Definitely!  The direct animation films made by local artists in the first CineMarfa workshop were a huge hit when we screened them at the festival this year.  The work that came out of that workshop was incredible.  Next year we are planning on doing a workshop on the found footage film.  My partner Jennifer Lane and I both teach film to youth and adults here and so we’ll continue to do that and spotlight that work in future festivals.

A drive-in-style screening of Walter Hill's cult classic "The Warriors" was among the highlights of the festival.

MJ: Are you planning on using a thematic format for future Cinemarfa festivals, and if so what other genres can people expect to see?

DH: The “theme” of this year’s festival came together very loosely and organically, and we want to keep it that way in future years.  The idea is to program films that all talk to each other in an interesting way rather than deciding upon a Theme and finding work that fits in with that.  We’ll continue to focus on the artist-made film, and that can encompass any genre.

SOLID WASTE played a quick set before the outdoor screening of Jonathan Kaplan's "Over The Edge." Image by Alberto Halpern

MJ: Such a variety of content was shown over the weekend. Did you have a favorite screening or moment during the festival?

DH: The last night of the festival featured local punk bank SOLID WASTE, playing outside at El Cosmico before a screening of Jonathan Kaplan’s OVER THE EDGE.  That was great – a fantastic band and a film that is really special to me but that a lot of people had never seen before.  Minds were blown! Another high point for me was Larry Clark’s statements after screening TULSA…I think the audience got some pretty amazing insight into his work and his process from his statements on stage – Larry is a great speaker and hearing him in person was awesome.


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