My Dallas VideoFest33’s DocuFest Pics by Cynthia Flores
I love the way Dallas VideoFest33’s DocuFest is dealing with the Covid-19 constraints. Merging art and technology since 1987, Dallas VideoFest specializes in the independent, alternative, non-commercial media, presenting hard-to-find works rarely seen on television, in movie theaters, or elsewhere. This year, they’re using a mix of going to a drive-in and online viewing. So you can choose to dress up and go with friends in your car or watch in your PJs with a martini in one hand and a bowl of popcorn in the other at home. Either way, you choose to attend, there are lots of films to enjoy this weekend. These are the three films that I want to give a shout out about this year.
The first one is It’s a Wonderful Plight, co-directed by Justin Rhodes and Kory Williams. It’s a hip-hop musical, attacking serious topics like 401 years of the African American Struggle in a light-hearted manner. It’s an inventive way to illustrate racial politics and the woke philosophy with a running time of 75min.
Using great hip-hop songs and creative imagery, the filmmakers tell Scott’s (Brian Shorkey) story. He is your average white boy that loves everything hip-hop. But he doesn’t understand the real politics behind the culture that created it. In a play on taking the right pill a la The Matrix, he starts his voyage down the rabbit hole led by rapper Josef “Da Hotep” (Justin L. Rhodes). Da Hotep educates Scott and inspires him to be an agent of change working undercover for people of color.
It’s a Wonderful Plight has a surprise ending and great music that you’ll remember long after the credits roll. I’ll bet Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, would enjoy this musical history lesson.
The next film I liked was the documentary Proof: Four Generations of Texas Photographers. Directed by Mark Birnbaum, it too is a relatively short film, coming in at just 72min. However, big things come in small packages. Mark Birnbaum takes a fascinating look into photographer Byrd Williams IV’s journey to preserve 400,000 photographs, cameras, letters, and journals from his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. It’s the 120-year output of a photographic dynasty. Four generations of photographers are all named Byrd Williams. Besides his work creating this incredible archive (which anyone can access and enjoy the Byrd Williams Family Archive at https://texashistory.unt.edu), we get an inside look at Byrd Williams IV as the artist he is right now. He has made his career in photography. He started in the family business and has done everything from hanging in large gallery exhibitions and shooting photos for glossy magazines, to teaching. He taught at SMU and in Germany, but his favorite place was his 20 years in charge of the photography department at Collin College.
Proof: Four Generations of Texas Photographers is an engaging documentary about a Texas artist in the last phase of his career and life. A good life well lived and chronicled by the photos he is still creating. This is a must-see for anyone into photography.
My last shout out goes to the slick-looking documentary We Love Lucy directed by Andy Streitfeld with a running time of 90min. The film is a beloved blast from the past with masterfully edited clips from all the projects Lucille Ball was ever in. All this is intercut with interviews with her friends and comedic actresses like Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Debra Messing, and Carole Cook.
The film makes its case that Lucille Ball was the most iconic female comedian that ever lived. Not only did she make millions of people laugh uproariously with her comic genius, but she also broke the glass ceiling in Hollywood. She blazed a whole new path for women in the entertainment industry that still resonates today. The shrewd, enterprising redhead struggled against a system created by men, all the while cementing her legacy by building an entertainment empire that would transform Hollywood as we know it.
This documentary does a great job of giving us the behind the scenes part of Lucille Balls’ life. From the impoverished upbringing, which made her leave her small town at the age of fifteen to make it big in New York City to her drama-filled personal life with Desi Arnaz. Any fan of Lucile Ball will find out more about what made her tick.
At the heart of the film is the comedic art that she created. Lucille Balls’ bravery and willingness to try absolutely anything to elicit a chuckle changed television rules forever. Her work still inspires comediennes today. Some of the film’s best parts are the “Favorite I Love Lucy Moment” segments where stars share which bit they loved the most and why. It gives the audience a chance to see them again and remember how good they still are.
We Love Lucy is a treat for all Lucille Ball fans to remember all the fantastic entertainment she left for us.
So, whether you choose to see one or all of these great films, please check out the first-rate offerings this weekend at the Dallas VideoFest33’s DocuFest.