The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in just about every film festival either being canceled (Telluride) or moving online (Cannes). This year’s edition of the Lone Star Film Festival is taking the latter course — beginning this Wednesday, you will be able to see their feature films, short films, and even the customary lectures and Q&A sessions by logging on and paying a fee comparable to what you would have paid for the theatrical experience. The program will be short on the star power that the festival boasted in previous years, but not having to budge from your house to see the movies will be a plus.
The actors you might recognize are largely in Fully Realized Humans, the second film directed by Joshua Leonard, who’s still best known for acting in The Blair Witch Project. He stars in the drama alongside his previous collaborator Jess Weixler (who was in It Chapter 2) as an expectant couple trying to face their own family dysfunction as they prepare to become parents. You might also know Johanna Braddy, who stars in Will Bakke’s The Get Together, about a post-graduation misfit who encounters a reckoning during her gig as an Uber driver.
Receiving its North American premiere is Ferdia MacAnna’s DannyBoy, an Irish drama set against the country’s punk rock scene in the early 1980s. Justin Rhodes and Kory Williams’ North Texas-made satire It’s a Wonderful Plight takes on race relations by using hip-hop musical numbers. David and Francisco Salazar’s drama Nowhere tackles the particular challenges of a gay Colombian couple trying to achieve American citizenship. Erik Bloomquist (whose thriller Long Lost played at Lone Star two years ago) returns with Ten Minutes to Midnight, which stars Caroline Williams as a radio DJ trapped inside her station with a rabid bat. Alexandra Szczepanowska stars in her own thriller Touch as a white expat in China having an extramarital affair.
Something cowboy-related is going to pop up at Lone Star, and this year, it’s Gaston Davis’ documentary Cowboys Without Borders, which features the filmmaker applying his own experience as a Texas rancher when he sees ranching practices all over the Western hemisphere. Similarly, John Carter’s The Cowboy Hat Movie examines the history and craftsmanship involved with the iconic article of Western wear. Kristin Atwell Ford collaborated with Arizona Grand Opera to make an opera version of Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, and now her documentary Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera is about her experience.
If your interests lie elsewhere, the German documentary Planet Without Apes details threats to the large primates’ population. David Neptune’s Words Can’t Go There profiles his father, John Kaizan Neptune, a California surfer who became one of the few white musicians to master the Japanese shakuhachi flute. LSFF veteran J. Mitchell Johnson returns from his latest travels in Russia with Saving North: Rescuing the Wooden Churches of Northern Russia. Andrés Sanz Vicente’s documentary El Cuadro (translation: The Painting) takes a deep dive into Velázquez’ masterpiece “Las Meninas” and the various interpretations that have cropped up around it.
Among the documentary shorts, Ben Masters’ American Ocelot tracks this vanishingly rare wildcat species, and Brian Nashel’s Snake Man: The Charmed Life & Hard Times of Jackie Bibby the Texas Snake Man looks at the well-known snake handler in our area. Meanwhile, even the short fiction films have some name actors: Alia Shawkat stars in Alina, set during the Holocaust, and British comedian Miriam Margolyes stars in Wings, about a lesbian romance that spans six decades. Spencer Garrett and Kimiko Glenn headline the musical short Thank You Kindly, which also boasts George Wendt.
Ethan Hawke hosts a film talk as the festival honors his First Reformed director Paul Schrader, and recent Weekly profile subject Chyna Robinson takes part in a panel discussion about marketing a film during the pandemic. While the event may not have the awards-season cachet that previous versions of the festival have had, it will still have things worth seeing from the comfort of your home.