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HCAF 2012 to Celebrate

Internationally Renowned Documentarian Lourdes Portillo To Highlight 40TH Anniversary Tribute To Women Make Movies

HOUSTON – While women directors are still under-represented in the multiplexes, they will be very well-represented at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival (HCAF) this November. The festival, along with Women In Film & Television, will honor two leading independent film distributors promoting films by women, including Women Making Movies celebrating its fortieth anniversary, and Milestone Films. Representing Women Make Movies will be one of the most prominent filmmakers in the WMM catalogue, director Lourdes Portillo, who will present two programs of recent films. Coming from Milestone Films are founders Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, who will discuss and present “Project Shirley,” their rediscovery and restoration of films by pioneering independent film director Shirley Clarke.

“This celebration of film by women at the 2012 Houston Cinema Arts Festival will provide an opportunity to examine quality works by talented women whose inspiring films, if left to the studio system, might never have been made,” said Jolene McMaster, president of Women in Film & Television Houston.

Founded 40 years ago as a non-profit collective, Women Make Movies (WMM) has grown into an industry-leading media arts organization and distributor, helping women directors and producers realize their dreams. The Houston Cinema Arts Festival’s screening of four Women Make Movies programs is one of forty international events scheduled this year to celebrate the anniversary.

Mexico-born and Chicana identified, Lourdes Portillo is an award-winning writer, director and producer of films focused on the search for Latino identity. She has worked in a rich range of cinematic forms, from television documentary to satirical video-film collage. Portillo’s, LAS Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a 1986 co-production with the Argentine director Susana Blaustein Muñoz, documented the actions of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women who gather weekly at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to remember their children who were murdered or “disappeared” by the military regime. This film earned a nomination for the Academy’s Best Documentary in 1985, and received 20 other awards internationally. Portillo’s films have also been awarded the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize; International Documentary Associations Distinguished Documentary Award; The Nestor Almendros Human Rights Prize; and the San Francisco Film Festival Golden Spire Award.

The 2012 Houston Cinema Arts Festival will feature Portillo and three of her films, one a tribute to slain Tejana superstar, Selena, titled CORPUS: A HOME MOVIE FOR SELENA. Made in 1998, this documentary features authentic home videos, news stories, concert footage and music videos, which are interspersed with commentary from Selena’s family, Latina intellectuals and ordinary people from her hometown of Corpus Christi, all exploring and affirming the singer’s lasting influence. Sharing he program with CORPUS will be CONVERSATIONS WITH INTELLECTUALS ABOUT SELENA, an outrageous and lively exchange among leading Chicana intellectuals who debate the value of Tejana icon Selena’s status as a role model.

Two other Portillo films being featured at HCAF 2012 are Al Más AlláandMy McQueen. In Al Más Allá, Portillo made a hybrid documentary that uses fictional elements in its allegory of three Mexican fishermen who abscond with illegal drugs and then sell the drugs to the corrupt local police. Al Más Alláborrows from films that trace the corruptive influence of stolen wealth, including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and A Simple Plan. However, it takes the next step of placing the personal moral degeneration of the fishermen in the political context of a nation struggling on the edge of the global economy. My McQueen is an experimental documentary which playfully unravels the influence of Steve McQueen, and its relation to masculinity, ethnicity, and the city of San Francisco.

Three more Women Make Movies films will be included in the HCAF program. GOING UP THE STAIRS: PORTRAIT OF AN UNLIKELY IRANIAN ARTIST by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami focuses on Akram, an illiterate 50-year-old Iranian woman who became a painter unexpectedly when her grandson asked her to work on a drawing; that simple act tapped into an explosion of powerful, primitive and colorful paintings. THE POETRY DEAL: A FILM WITH DIANE DI PRIMA is an impressionistic documentary about legendary Beat poet Diane di Prima by filmmaker Melanie La Rosa. In POETRY OF RESILIENCE, Academy Award® nominated director Katia Esson highlights six different poets who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution.

In addition to Women Make Movies, another significant independent distribution company, Milestone Films, is sending its two founders Dennis Doros and Amy Heller to HCAF 2012 to discuss Project Shirley, their campaign to restore and re-release the films of late, great American film director Shirley Clarke. Milestone was started in 1990 by Amy Heller and Dannis Doros out of their New York City one-room apartment and has since gained an international reputation for releasing classic cinema masterpieces, groundbreaking documentaries and American independent features such as Charles Burnett’s KILLER OF SHEEP, Kent Mackenzie’s THE EXILES, Lionel Rogosin’s ON THE BOWERY, and Mikhail Kalatozov’s I AM CUBA. Doros and Heller will present Clarke’s THE CONNECTION and ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA, which highlights the life of Texas-born jazz great Ornette Coleman.

Born October 2, 1919 in New York, Shirley Clarke danced into the world of art in her teens, studying with such innovative choreographers as Martha Graham, Hanya Holm and Doris Humphrey. After marrying and having a daughter, Clarke turned her talents to cinema, becoming an esteemed filmmaker at a time when few women worked in the field. Her early shorts reflected her lifelong love of dance along with a growing mastery of the new medium. For her first feature, Clarke took on an acclaimed and controversial stage play by Jack Gelber and the Living Theater. Her adaptation of The Connection (1961) won praise for its graphic, unglamorous depiction of drug use and remarkable jazz score (performed by, among others, Freddie Redd and Jackie McLean). However, it embroiled Clarke in a two-year censorship battle, which she ultimately won.

After THE CONNECTION, Clarke made The Cool World (1964) and ROBERT FROST: A LOVER’S QUARREL WITH THE WORLD (1963), which won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Clarke’s fourth feature, Portrait of Jason (1967), was created from a single, 12-hour-long interview with Jason Holliday, a gay African American hustler and aspiring nightclub performer. The film was a revelation and remains one of the most respected LGBT films. Doros and Heller will give special emphasis to their current work restoring PORTRAIT OF JASON in a presentation they will give on Sunday, November 9, titled WHERE’S SHIRLEY?

Clarke’s fifth and final feature, which will be shown at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, Ornette: Made in America (1985) is a portrait of the eccentric musical genius from Fort Worth, Texas, Ornette Coleman. In ORNETTE, Clarke found herself on the cutting edge of filmmaking again as she weaved documentary footage, video art, music videos and architecture into a vibrant collage that mirrored Coleman’s groundbreaking jazz. Witnessing Milestone’s restored print of ORNETTE, film critic J. Hoberman called the film “something of revelation, a summarizing work that draws on virtually everything the pioneering independent made before.” It was her swan song, as Clarke then retired, dying of a stroke in Boston in 1997.

The fourth annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival is scheduled to take place from Nov. 7 – 11, 2012. Houston Cinema Arts Festival, a major program of Houston Cinema Arts Society (HCAS), capitalizes on the city’s status as an international art city, collaborating with many of Houston’s museums, art centers, theaters, and cultural institutions. Works are shown not only in traditional theatrical venues but also via interactive video installations, live music and film performances, and outdoor projections. Past festivals have featured guests such as Isabella Rossellini, Tilda Swinton, John Turturro, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Alex Gibney, and Shirley MacLaine. The 2011 festival drew tens of thousands of film enthusiasts and art lovers spread among over 40 screenings and events.

In addition to the films and announced here, HCAF 2012 will announce its exciting roster of premieres, guest artists, and multimedia installations in the coming weeks, culminating with an unveiling of the complete program, including major new releases and special guests, on Oct. 23, 2012 at Hotel ICON, located in Downtown Houston. Passes for single and multiple days are available on the Houston Cinema Arts Society website at The full program schedule and individual tickets to the 2012 Houston Cinema Arts Festival will be available on the HCAS website on Oct. 24.



Houston Cinema Arts Society is a non-profit organization created in 2008 with the support of former Houston Mayor Bill White and the leadership of Franci Crane. HCAS organizes and hosts the annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, a groundbreaking and innovative arts festival featuring films and new media by and about artists in the visual, performing and literary arts.  The festival celebrates the vitality and diversity of the arts in Houston and enriches the city’s film and arts community. HCAS sponsors include the Crane Foundation, a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Levantine Entertainment, Houston First Corporation, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Champion Energy Services, Amegy Bank of Texas, The Brown Foundation, Inc. and others. The project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission on the Arts. The 2013 Houston Cinema Arts Festival was held Nov. 6-10. For more information, please visit HCAS at