Four Amazing DFW Short Films You Need to See Whether you Get Out this Weekend or Not.

This weekend is a packed festival weekend when it comes to “the Dallas scene” and its ever growing film community, and its gifted writers, directors and cinematographers are all getting their fair share of attention at local events. Here’s a short list of films that are “must watch.”

Nicholas Muthersbaugh has really brought an auteur sensibility to his work outside of news production. The emotional quality and visual storytelling of this short have already attracted a lot of attention (and two awards). Michael Gibson Jr. production work on this film is equally mentionable.

Service Animal
This amazing Wendy Pennington short features WIFD president Alicia Pascual’s expert direction in photography and very punchy writing transcending disability and the nature of human and animal attachment. It’s screening in Topaz Film Fest’s comedy block.

Daniel Montoya’s film chronicling ovbious reasons for ftm transition, Ethan’s journey as an activist, and the problematic nature of SB6 is screening at Frame4Frame in Arlington this weekend. It should screen far more often.

Yake Smith’s dramatic short Heavenly has some exceptional acting, his unique take on the lens, and drama that drives a narrative to the edge of audience engagement. I expect it to attract a lot of attention at Frame4Frame.

Video Association of Dallas’ 18th Annual 24-Hour Video Race Winners Announced

Sept 9, 2019 – The 18th annual 24-Hour Video Race concluded August 23rd, 2019, with teams congregating at the Angelika Film Center—Dallas for their final verdict. To memorialize Joel Rosenzweig, a filmmaker, and educator, Video Association of Dallas added a new award for the student divisions; Joel’s widow, Joan Rosenzweig, determined the Storytelling Award.   

This year, participants were required to include these elements into their short: 

Theme: Empathy
Prop: Any writing instrument
Location: Coffee Shop (interior or exterior)
Line of Dialogue: A line from Shakespeare  
ADDITIONAL ELEMENT: Something Biodegradable 

The elements video was presented on Friday night, August 23rd at 11:50 pm:
And, with a drumroll, here are the teams who crossed the finish line and placed in their categories.  

Joel Rosenzweig’s Storytelling Award Sponsored by the DPA LIV- Lake Highlands Wildcat Studio
Super 8 
(10th grade and under) 1st Place: The Escape -Richardson High School 

2nd Place –The Boys from Parish Episcopal School

Honorable mentions: 

“A Stalker’s Quarrel” by Reel Good Films

 The Dead Ghosts Society

16mm (11th and 12th grades) 1st Place:A Soul in Agony – Booker T Washington HSPVA

2nd Place:

Liv – Lake Highlands Wildcat Studios

 3rd Place: 

House Of Air –  Richardson High School

honorable mention 

“How it Feels”

Animal House Division (College) 1st Place: 

Empathy with an E -Mediatech 

Family 1st Place:
Assume Motion Arts – HUMANS

2nd Place: 
Vic’s First Day @RawLemonChannel 3rd Place: 
Minor Motion Pictures 

Congratulations to all of our winners and a big thank you to our judges:
June Owens
Tonya McMillion
Josh Butler
Suzanne Dooley
Rusty Williams
Laura Neitzel 
Brandon Oldenburg
Presley Oldham
Ginny Martin
Wes Sutton
Susan Kandell 

Video Association of Dallas expresses extreme gratitude for the support of our sponsors and their generous contributions. 

Food Sponsor:

Jersey Mikes on Greenville

Major Sponsors:

Texas Commission on the Arts

Dallas Film Commission

Joel Rosenzweig Storytelling Award Sponsor:

Dallas Producers Association

16 MM Division Sponsor:

KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts

Family Divison Sponsor:

TM Television

Media Sponsors: 

Speak Pixels


Selig Polyscope Company

Kelly J Kitchens Media Relations/Entertainment Publicity

Angelika Film Center Dallas 

Graphic Designers:

Pegasus Film Festival


Race Angels:

Ditore Mayo Entertainment

AMS Pictures

Abernethy Media Professionals

Charlie Uniform Tango

Jim Nugent

Patricia Davis

And big thanks to our Projectionist (and former Video Race Winner) Christian Vasques and Adam Conway and the rest of the Angelika Film Center Dallas staff, and John “Doc” Strange of Selig Film News.

Jules in Light and Dark: An Interview with Director Daniel Laabs

Jules in Light and Dark is described by Daniel Laabs, its director, as ” “This was the small film that could, we came from nothing,” as he considers the way his original concept for a film became an idea that Kickstarter Contributors, Investors, and grant-giving organizations all supported at various percentages.

Daniel currently lives in Dallas, TX where he works as an editor and a festival programmer for the Dallas International Film Festival and previously the Oak Cliff Film Festival. In 2014 he co-founded Dallas’s first monthly LGBT film series at the historic Texas Theatre. He currently serves on the Austin Film Society Filmmaker Advisory Council.

We had an opportunity to speak with him before the fest about his passions, his takes on filmmaking, and more importantly, his views on storytelling and audience.

Jules in Light and Dark screens Sunday, June 9 at 6 pm, at Oak Cliff Film Festival

You say this is the little film that could: can you tell me more about your growth process? How did your vision expand from: “I have no idea how x will happen?” to “We did it and the unexpected happened?” 

The tallest hurdle for us was trying to shoot on-location in Pennsylvania. I spend years planning that version of the film and actually relocated out there twice only for production to fall apart at the last minute. One of the creative producers on the team suggested a plan to rebuild production in our backyards and film in Oak Cliff and the surrounding areas. It was an impossible creative transition from my point of view until we really dug in and found that the roots of the characters and stories were inspired by my experiences here in Texas. Once that clicked, the film became a lot more personal, and it was like a wave had washed over what had been built and we went about rebuilding. The story fundamentally changed because of location, but also because of us, we’d grown and the film is a reflection of that.
Oak Cliff and Texas are home to a lot of amazing people. The Texas Theatre is always very supportive of local art. Can you elaborate more on the local end of your journey? 
Every arts community has a hub, be it a bar or park or gallery, where on any given night you’ll meet a new a visual artist, a dancer/choreographer, a actor… and the Texas Theatre has been that and still is that for the Dallas area. There are so many friendships I have built just hanging out there. I spent a brief but lively summer working at Spiral Diner in my first month living in Oak Cliff and made a ton of friends. There are people who worked on the crew that are from that time, but a lot of those friends are in the film as extras.

What would you say your main impetus in filmmaking for this project was?

I wanted to try and continue to make personal films as my shorts had been. I didn’t want to take my coming out story and fictionalize it, that wasn’t inspiring to me, I knew I wanted to express some of those feelings of first loves, regret, and show characters reconciling deep private pain in healthy and not so heathy ways. I have always found that I grow more as a filmmaker when my subject feels or is very personal. I put more care into the film, and I fight harder for what matters to me.

Did you have any moments where the project seemed stalled and you had to fight for inspiration, or did it come naturally? 

The hardest part of any independent film is getting over what can’t be done and just doing it. Logistically most of our money came from grants and kickstarter and the rest came from investors who wanted to work with us. That took a lot of time. 

What are you most pleased about with this film and its developments? 

I am most happy with the acting, the cinematography and the way the score works within the narrative. I believe the characters are real people. The cinematography is very pleasing and very close to my paper vision. The score was written and performed by Brent Sluder who is a childhood friend who is just a total natural at crafting moments that weren’t previously there with a single unexpected note. I am also pleased with how it has prepared me to make future films. I tripled my post student onset experience as a director on this film. I have close to two hundred set hours now, before shooting Jules I had maybe fifty accumulated over seven years. How I move through set now is very different than before. I generally know how to trust my gut in ways I couldn’t recognize previously. The difference is knowing how to align variables better in favor of the vision.

What does your end of the LGBTQ community look like? It’s more diverse than people let on.

It feels very much like we are in a renaissance for LGBTQ film at the moment. At the same time I believe it is also a critical time to be making queer film especially set where I live in the South. Jules of Light and Dark is in many ways a film about loneliness and more specifically queer loneliness. It can be extremely isolating to know yourself and feel unwelcome in your surroundings. Growing up in small town texas there wasn’t a clear pathway towards coming out or living openly gay or even having progressive political beliefs for that matter. Things have gotten so much better, but there is still lots of work to do. There are corners of the queer experience that are still unreached by cinema. When you think about the thousands of films made for the straight white perspective in film, it is staggering. We are only just beginning to turn this tide. I long for a day when I go to pitch my queer thriller and it isn’t considered edge-y solely because the main character is gay. I still have a lot of fun with it, but it still happens. When I talk about Jules, I have to mention that it is a LGBTQ film, but I wouldn’t say that it is solely for the audience. It isn’t. I find going to festivals that the audience is very diverse, I almost never feel like I am screening the film to exclusively queer audiences. I am grateful for that because that’s the whole reason I made the film, to open a window on LGBTQ people and communities in small town Texas. It is a modest goal, but it is one that means something to me.

On the Burning of the Cathedral Notre Dame, Catholicism, and Colonization

When the Roman Catholic Church suffers any misfortune, and people have the nerve or freedom to say “it is God’s will,” I can only, in mind, be reminded of the films of the 1980’s and 1990’s that greatly question what the Papal powers and their relationship to the crown meant to the indigenous peoples they colonized in terms of a force of enslavement that profited Europe while equally failing to build a stable society in South America. I’m reminded as much of this as I am Sinead O’Connor tearing up pictures of the pope. The people of France may be troubled by damage to their landmark and less-than-troubled about the continued legacy of neoconglomerate ignored child slavery in its former colonist strongholds in Africa — but I am indigenous and someone whose family line’s rebellion against patriarchy made her a reluctant crypto-Jew in a combinant Catholic-Lutheran pattern that dominates South Chicago and its suburbs–and can’t remain silent.

This is why, today, instead of viewing something more contemporary, I was compelled to watch the 1986 Palme D’or Winner that inspired a good measure of my tastes and desires in storytelling: THE MISSION.

Roland Joffe and Robert Bolt take on a hefty historical narrative in this film which transcends our current senses of post-colonialism. It’s arguable that this film (though it is situated among other narratives that manage to break the mold of hegemonic storytelling of its period) is one of the first that supports the popular exposure of an industrial complex built by entities willing to exploit those most vulnerable to provide the labor that supplies a world of commanding countries with commodities that will not grow in their soils with little benefit to countries of origin.

Examining the politics of a pro-slavery Portugal attempting to take on free-born Spanish colonized indigenous tribes taught to do skilled labor as field slaves are laid bare in a breathtakingly composed epic shot on location in Colombia starring  Robert De NiroJeremy Irons, and Ray McAnally are more complicated in 2019 than one might suppose. Considering the U.S.’s own political implications with undocumented workers since the Eisenhower administration and the problematic landscape this has caused vis a vis American Military Action and Food and Factory Production, its message is enduring.

The notion that Pontiffs, Heads of State, and Tribal/Labor Leaders must always be at odds is deeply ingrained in our culture down to the systems that seed our identities — in Law, Religion, and Culture. The misfortune that is a society that develops on the exploitation of the indigenous rather than cooperation with them is palpable in the sweeping scenes that cinematographer Chris Menges composes and Jim Clarkintersperses to music written by
Ennio Morricone.

If only the hope of Reagan’s aspiration to the field of Humanities and President George W. Bush’s desire for programs to create amnesty and documentation were fully realized — we might know a situation better than the current one we can only properly call “The Great American Auschwitz.” Hundreds of thousands of people with indigenous ancestry are displaced from their countries of origin to feed the monster called “La Bestia,” while the Trump Administration posits they should be placed in the very Blue Dot cities that could not possibly abuse workers that are not marginalized to the same degree — and absolutely no one thinks of their integration seriously enough — as two administrations have built detainment camps and internment tent cities to contain the displaced.

It is refreshing to view anything at all dealing with this sense of politic — in the classic humanist storytelling arc the “profitable” World Epic has replaced in recent times. I will return to reviewing films from Dallas International Film Fest tomorrow after a sanity break.

I have found the substance I seek by traveling back in time to a more humanist period. I feel revived. Perhaps the systems of art and film production might additionally be so upon inspection.

My language may seem strong, in retrospect to some, I suppose, but I don’t mince words when it comes to what Eisenhower warned us about vis-a-vis the military industrial complex and the complex relationship Neo-Liberal policies have with world governments in terms of “worker supply.” It’s not far from AUSCHWITZ if you’re getting raped with no paycheck and living in a dirt dugout while state police look to detain and deport you if you don’t end up shot by Border Patrol. It’s no different in Africa, or any place this terrifying institution that molded any truth about what Early Christianity might have been as a Jewish Reform Movement to its image has touched.

Update: Walt Disney Corporation has offered to donate a large portion of funds necessary to repair damage at Notre Dame, which is its prerogative–but few are willing to actually untangle Cote D’Ivorie.

Always in Season: A Mother’s Quest for Justice in a Broken Country

17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina. The community is unsure how he got there, but it’s reminiscent of the KKK hangings they’ve witnessed in the past despite assurance from local law enforcement that the condition was self-inflicted.

Jaqueline Olive takes the viewer on a journey through fear in the American South in this riveting documentary.

Jaqueline’s tenure of more than a decade of experience in journalism and film are a clear tribute to her storytelling ability. This film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Moral Urgency.

Lacy’s mother and her quest for truth leads a town and a nation to think about its trajectory toward determining justice without regard to race, color or creed in this film that explores the impact of more than a century of lynching in the American South as it still inspires racial violence in the present day.

Moving scenes of women standing on bridges that the Klu Klux Klan tag with graffiti give way to moving confessions of people who admit their society has not given them justice.

As Lennon’s girlfriend, who had a drug addiction and several paramours with a criminal history pontificates on how he seemed much “older than a teenager,” it’s almost startling. It’s certainly revealing. How often do we think innocent men are older than their years because of social perception and a failing in a culture ignorant enough to potentially hang them?

See this mastery of narrative documentary storytelling co-presented by Denton Black Film Festival for its second screening on Wednesday, April 17th at 1:00pm at the Landmark Magnolia

Dualities and Empathy: A Fortunate Man in Review

Life is full of dualities, many of which push and pull A Fortunate Man’s Peter Andreas in
opposite directions. The clashes between science and faith, love and lust, the poor and the
rich, and autonomy versus authority are largely present throughout the film, leading
Andreas to dark places despite the opportunity to make his wildest dreams come true. His
ambition to become an engineer with revolutionary projects under his belt forces him to
experience life in tunnel vision, causing damage to almost everyone he encounters.
It’s reasonable—easy, even—for one to feel empathetic for Andreas because of how
blatantly his family dismisses him from the film’s beginning. It’s understandable why he
wants to escape his religious upbringing and low social class, all made unbearable by his
father, a clergyman who enforces a patriarchal household ruled by God. Most of all, it’s
clear how his childhood and the people around him influence him to act the way he does
and why he deceives people to promote his own agenda.
It does not, however, justify any of his actions.
“There are people who are drawn to disaster,” Andreas states near the end of the film. A
nod to the religious, he scorns those who view God as their source of liberation because, to
him, it’s a site of wishful thinking and hopelessness. In likening religion to disaster, he fails
to realize that disasters can appear unexpectedly and completely upend people’s lives,
much like he does. In trying to make his wind turbines and canal systems a reality, he
destroys marriages, tarnishes reputations, and perpetuates the same abandonment and
alienation that his family forced him to experience.

Throughout the film, Andreas views God as his worst enemy when, in reality, the true
culprit is his own pride. It’s the common factor of all his dualities and what unknowingly
causes him grief for much of the film. A Fortunate Man is a tragic portrait of Andreas’
unraveling. To follow him on his journey of trials and tribulations is to be in a constant
state of frustration because he does the exact opposite of what’s best for him, causing him
to spiral further and further.
Consequently, the film forces you to reflect on your own dualities with the hopes that your
life is more balanced than Andreas’ so as to avoid his unfortunate fate because—as it
goes—fortune favors fools.

Le Tang is a Filmmaker, Photographer, and Designer based in Dallas, TX. Having graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a Film and Media Studies B.A. she enjoys analyzing films and studying stills.

Le has a penchant for capturing the mundane with her camera and and bombarding people with questions about their life and craft.

Kokosmos is a Stylistic Russian Romp Through Space with a Unique Sense of Thematic Transformativity

Moody. Aspirant. Reflective on an Space-Age Era. Hopeful for what’s to come.

Filmed in Moscow by the award-winning director and photographer Anna Radchenko, Kokosmos is a forward-thinking tribute to Russia’s infatuation with space that reshapes the Soviet paradigm for a less dictatorial one.

A fusion of fashion, music, and experimental video, Kokosmos blends magical realism and reality by speculating what space travel might be in a new era.

The video is Radchenko’s first piece combining CGI with real footage, a taste of forthcoming work.

Kokosmos is a collaboration with model Yana Dobroliubova, recognised for her striking and ethereal looks which break away from traditional beauty standards. Inspired by Dobroliubova’s unearthly aesthetic, as well as Japanese manga artist Shintaro Kago, Radchenko focuses on the concept of the all-seeing-eye, established in gnostic and circles of democratic governance to be representative of a “divine logos” that governs humanity’s forward progress.

Music and sound design duo Playhead worked with the London-based singer songwriter Alyusha Chagrin to create an otherworldly-sounding language to fit the short’s scenario.

Similarly, the choices of clothing and make-up are crafted to a post-soviet space theme; Radchenko brings in elements of folklore by specifically selecting Russian fashion designers leveraging neon color palette featuring greens and purples.

“Growing up in post soviet Russia I’d be constantly dreaming about space, the unknown and what was out there, almost like an unknown entity we were trying to reach out to. With Kokosmos I wanted to express exactly that: my vision of what space and this god-like presence would look and feel like” – Anna Radchenko

13th Annual Dallas International Film Festival LineUp Announced

Spanning April 11 to April 18 and presenting over 130 films from over 35 countries, DIFF is never likely to disappoint. 

Johnathan Brownlee is excited this year. Perhaps he should be. Considering the success of last year’s mini concerts in relation to musically themed films including Bone Thugs and Harmony, he’s expanded the idea to include seven music stages covering seven days of this flagship Dallas festival.

This year’s film lineup, powered by Capital One, includes five World Premieres, one U.S. Premiere, 37 Texas Premieres, and 15 Dallas Premieres.

The largest film festival in North Texas, will screen at Magnolia Theater, West Village in Uptown Dallas; Studio Movie Grill, Royal Lane; and Dallas Museum of Art.

For the first time at DIFF, all seats are reserved and tickets are available only through the Atom Tickets app or Tickets will be available to pass holders beginning March 25 and to the public on March 27. For more information or to purchase passes, please visit go to,

But that’s not the only buzzworthy information about DIFF recently released from directors.

“At DIFF, we understand that film is the most relatable art form and connects individuals through shared experiences,” said James Faust, artistic director of Dallas Film. “Hundreds of hours went into hand selecting the films that will be screened at DIFF, and our goal is to offer a variety of fascinating, heartwarming, educational and insightful films that will be thought-provoking and relatable to DIFF festivalgoers. We have many engaging and entertaining events planned throughout the festival and are eager to provide a memorable festival experience for all who attend.”

This year’s lineup is extraordinary and is poised to bring Dallas screenings of performances by Elisabeth Moss, Lily Collins, and Zac Efron.

Time for Ilhan: A Well-Made Biopic that Chronicles the rise to fame of a Boundary Breaking Somali Congresswoman.

I as a voter, as an “American,” as someone who favors Western Values, am utterly and totally confused by Ilhan Omar as a politician.

I’m not confused by how she wins a constituency. She resonates with her district’s values, a Somali refugee diaspora, women of color, and those tired of politics with a male-preferent rationale. I get this, and I understand why this group is strongly-interested in changing the scale and conversation in American politics.

I’m not confused as to how she wins the hearts of people. As her adorable daughter pontificates that she is “President” of the house, because she takes care of her children, it’s not hard to agree. Good mothers make good community leaders. It’s a good value to instill in a politician–or a human being, taking care of others.

Ilhan is very human, which is something her detractors don’t generally grant her enough credit for and it’s absolutely time they stopped.

She’s quite the opposite of some kind of hijabed monster, out to kill family values, and there’s really not much reason to think she is one, despite her detractors.

She’s got a wonderful family and she takes good care of it despite having lived through a lot of turmoil.

She’s got a strong community, even though it comes together after being fractured. She’s the picture of inspiration. That’s why — in some respects the rest of her platform is so confusing.

The thing I don’t understand about Ilhan, is that she is vehement support of anything meant to bring down Israel’s economy without explicitly fighting for an economy in Gaza that isn’t run by the more militant members of Hamas, because of Israel’s actions to defend itself.

If Hamas would run Gaza and all it could claim as Al Shabaab would run Somalia, wouldn’t you at least be fighting for a more liberal PNA and a less militarized Israel — and perhaps a Gaza that gets stronger and more liberated on accepting pacifist, feminist values and free trade on a world scale?

Palestinians, and Muslims in general have got an international and national stage like they’ve never had before, and I’m glad of it. I often wish it wasn’t as easily dismissible by the Right as, “All they want is Israel’s death, instead of its cooperation in increasing autonomy and peaceable action.”

Everyone’s eerily silent about the recent ruling in Detroit to make FGM possible in U.S. jurisdictions. Not just the Muslim politicians you’d expect to take offense, because they’ve experienced the brunt of the problem.

Why be a U.S. refugee if it’s not going to be markedly different for the little girl’s hair you’re braiding at all?

I want you here. I like that you have organized power. I just wish it spoke more to the issues you don’t want your daughter to face in raising her here than enabling cultures of militancy that even Egypt wants to subdue.

The doc is emotional and riveting, and it’s obvious to see why it’s an award winner. I just can’t get over the politics, the politics that want to destroy a singular country instead of terror factions — instead of governments destroying democracy all over the Middle East and world.

Video Association of Dallas to Receive $10,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

[Dallas]—National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $27 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s first major funding announcement for the fiscal year 2019.  Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $10,000 to Video Association of Dallas for Dallas VideoFest’s 32nd season. Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 972 grants in this category.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“The opportunities, which the receipt of the NEA grant will provide in expanding the outreach of VideoFest 32 to the community and serve our mission, are much valued and appreciated,” said Jeff Leuschel, board president of the Video Association of Dallas and Dallas VideoFest.

VideoFest ( is now the oldest and largest video festival in the United States and continues to garner critical and popular acclaim. VideoFest prides itself on bringing films to the theater that are rarely available to be seen anywhere else. VideoFest has included screenings varying from cat videos to Expanded Cinema on the walls of the Downtown Dallas Omni Hotel. Films like Experimental/Art Films through its Dallas Medianale, Animation, Narrative and Documentary Shorts, as well as Documentary and Narrative Features and some hard-to-find Classic TV episodes and Classic Film including Silent Films are often in the mix.

The mission of the Dallas VideoFest is to promote an understanding of video as a creative medium and cultural force in our society and to support and advance the work of Texas artists working in video and the electronic arts.  Dallas VideoFest is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated on April 25, 1989, under Video Association of Dallas.  It began in 1986 as a weekend event, “Video As A Creative Medium,” presented at the Dallas Museum of Art by independent curators, Barton Weiss and John Held.

That first event, which included two nights of video by selected local and national video artists, was a great popular success, which led to the founding of the Dallas Video Festival in 1987. Dallas VideoFest also presents the 24-Hour Video Race, North Texas Universities Film Festival, Dallas Medianale, Three Star Cinema, and other programs throughout the year.