USA FF to bring Ray Liotta, Brian Cox, M. Emmet Walsh, and more to Dallas!

Chase Whale

April 27th, 2009

39th Annual USA Film Festival
April 29 - May 3, 2009

DALLAS – The USA Film Festival announces the full schedule of events for the 39th Annual USA Film Festival, April 29-May 3, 2009 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

The Festival continues its tradition of honoring master artists and showcasing new films and filmmakers in a setting designed to bring filmmakers together with audiences. This year’s honorees include some of the most venerable character actors in contemporary cinema (M. Emmet Walsh, Brian Cox, Ray Liotta), a commercials director who brought character to the small screen (Joe Sedelmaier), one of the most iconic and beloved songwriters and composers of our time (Paul Williams) and a Hollywood movie maid who made history (Juanita Moore). Other highlights include anniversary screenings of the cult classic Phantom of the Paradise (1974) featuring Paul Williams’ Oscar-nominated song score and the enduring classic Imitation of Life (1959) featuring Juanita Moore’s Oscar-nominated performance, the 31st Annual National Short Film & Video Competition (an Academy-qualified program), a new print/special screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in U.S.A. (1966) previously unreleased in the U.S., along with new films from Mexico, Turkey and the U.K.

See the rest of this story after the jump!


Tribute to Brian Cox
With screening of THE ESCAPIST
(The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute)
Friday, May 1, 7:00pm

While Brian Cox made an initial impression on American audiences as the first actor to brilliantly portray serial killer Hannibal Lecktor (as it was spelled in this version) in Michael Mann's 1986 thriller Manhunter, he had already established himself as one of the foremost stage and television actors in the UK. But if it took the Scottish-born Cox a while to garner attention in the U.S., he has more than made up for lost time over the last two decades, alternately cajoling and terrifying audiences with an audaciously eclectic collection of characters. Cox made audiences laugh with his sternly forgiving authority figures in Rushmore and Super Troopers while his compassionate performance in L.I.E. compelled viewers to feel some level of sympathy for a child molester. His moving performance as an old man whose canine best friend is murdered by callow youths in Red brought watchers to tears of indignation, and audience Scissors. Spectators worried for his safety in Red Eye as much as they hated him in X2 — and make no mistake, his Hannibal the Cannibal is just as fascinating and terrifying a version of the character as any. Cox's characters are as vital and present in the modern day as they are in the 70s (Zodiac), the old West (HBO's "Deadwood") or even ancient Greece (Troy). The USA Film Festival is honored to pay tribute to this talented and unpredictable actor with two projects that demonstrate his amazing range: In The Escapist, he portrays a longtime inmate who is moved by the possibility of a reconciliation with his daughter to attempt to break his way out of prison, while in Battle for Terra, he lends his gorgeous voice to a power-mad military man who is willing to commit genocide upon an entire planet in order to provide a new home for the humans under his watch. What kind of role will Cox take on next? We don’t care -- We just know that we can’t wait to see it.

Tribute to Ray Liotta
Saturday, May 2, 8:00pm

He’s the embodiment of the word "intense" — on-screen, anyway. Ray Liotta has made a name for himself playing edgy characters on both sides of the law, but is paradoxically himself a homebody; the actor also happens to be considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood by his co-stars. After struggling in daytime soap operas throughout his 20s, Liotta made his feature film debut doing unpleasant things to Pia Zadora in The Lonely Lady. Not surprisingly, he quickly found himself typecast as a lovable but psychotic and violent charmer, and just as quickly fought against said typecasting in order to assert himself and prove his mettle. His tenacity and desire to challenge himself as an actor eventually earned him the lead in Martin Scorsese's classic mob drama Goodfellas in 1990, putting him in the unenviable position of having to hold his own opposite Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Liotta delivered the goods, and made a name for himself in the process. He has continued to branch out over the course of his stunning career, so that even though it’s often his no-holds-barred, scary-as-hell performances -- in Something Wild, Unlawful Entry, Cop Land, Hannibal, and Narc, among others -- that sometimes get the most attention, it’s his quirky, comedic, romantic, and daunting roles in the likes of Field of Dreams, Heartbreakers, Wild Hogs, Bee Movie, and an Emmy Award-winning appearance on "ER" in 2004 that frequently overshadow those hard-bitten characters. It’s a testament to the man’s skill and accomplishments that his projects currently in the works include two comedies (Youth in Revolt and Crazy on the Outside), a thriller (13), a drama (Ticket Out), and a family flick (Snowmen). Liotta's so busy that he was able to turn down an offer to appear on "The Sopranos" for two years. Not bad for a crazy guy.

Tribute to Juanita Moore
With 50th Anniversary screening of IMITATION OF LIFE (1959)
Saturday, May 2, 7:00pm

Juanita Moore began her stage career dancing in the chorus of numerous shows ranging from the thriving nightclubs of Harlem in the 1930’s to the London Palladium and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Returning home to Los Angeles, she took a job working in a chicken restaurant frequented by Marlon Brando, who became her friend, and took acting classes with numerous soon-to-be-famous actors (including Norma Jean Baker). She joined the African American-founded Ebony Showcase Theatre and performed with them for decades. By the time she was up for a role in Imitation of Life, Moore had several smaller screen roles to her credit and the "kind face" director Douglas Sirk was looking for and he cast her over other more well-known and established actresses. Juanita Moore said at the time "I think my part in Imitation of Life is the greatest dramatic role ever given to an actress of my race and I was determined to do it justice." And justice she did - her performance as Annie Johnson is the very heart of the film and it garnered Moore an Academy Award nomination. In the 1980’s, Moore became a founding member of the Cambridge Players (named for actor-director Edmund J. Cambridge) which also included Esther Rolle, Helen Martin, Lynn Hamilton and Royce Wallace. The legacy continues today under the stewardship of the next generation, including Moore’s grandson (and SMU alum) Kirk Kelley-Kahn. The Festival is proud to pay tribute to the venerable Juanita Moore.

Tribute to Joe Sedelmaier
With screening of POINT OF VIEW
Thursday, April 30, 7:00pm

You know his work -- we all do. Wendy’s Clara Peller "Where’s the beef?", the fast talking FedEx guy, along with countless other unforgettable commercials and campaigns are part of the iconic and distinctive work of director Joe Sedelmaier. Breaking with advertising’s traditional pretty, perfect mannequin people and straightforward approach to product sales, director Joe Sedelmaier’s work is among some of television’s best-known and most honored commercials. An early auteur in a world of salesmen, Sedelmaier created a whole genre with his idiosyncratic work featuring non-actors just trying to get through life. Filmmaker Marsie Wallach’s thoroughly entertaining short documentary, Point of View, profiles the man and the work that landed Joe Sedelmaier on Ad Age’s list of "Top 100 People of the Century." The Festival is honored to salute short filmmaker and commercial genius Joe Sedelmaier.

Tribute to M. Emmet Walsh
With screening of DON MCKAY
(The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute)
Sunday, May 3, 7:00pm

Character actors rarely get top billing or magazine covers but the great ones become familiar and beloved faces in the lives of those who love movies. And for 40 years, film fans have grown to welcome the sight of M. Emmet Walsh, a screen artist who makes each role — heroic or villainous, cowardly or comic — unforgettable. Walsh modestly refers to himself as "a working actor," but that's an understatement on par with calling the Atlantic Ocean "wet." While he’s perhaps best known as the homicidally duplicitous private eye in the Coen Brothers’ Texas-set breakthrough Blood Simple — a role for which he won the very first Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor — Walsh has stolen scenes in practically every genre, from science fiction (Blade Runner) to comedy (Slap Shot, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Christmas with the Kranks) to drama (Straight Time, Silkwood). This year marks the 40th anniversary of Walsh’s extraordinary film and television career, beginning with his appearances in the 1969 classics Alice’s Restaurant and Midnight Cowboy. Over those four decades — in almost 150 feature films and countless more TV appearances — he has become such a beloved figure onscreen that Roger Ebert once coined the Stanton-Walsh Rule, which decreed that "no movie featuring Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." The USA Film Festival is honored to pay tribute to the extraordinary M. Emmet Walsh -- an artist who puts the "character" in actor like nobody else.

Tribute to Paul Williams
With screening of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
(The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute and special sneak preview of a documentary work-in-progress about Paul Williams)
Wednesday, April 29, 7:00pm

Actor-Singer-Composer-Songwriter. No American who has ever seen a movie or owned a TV or radio can be unfamiliar with the work of Paul Williams, one of his generation’s most prolific and successful songwriters and a popular star of the big and small screen. His achievements as a tunesmith are enough to ensure his immortality — he’s an Oscar-, Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning composer for creating such hits as "We’ve Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "An Old-Fashioned Love Song," as well as the song scores for Phantom of the Paradise, The Muppet Movie, Ishtar (whatever can be said of the film, the songs are hilarious) and Bugsy Malone. (He also gave the world — and the 1976 version of A Star is Born — the beloved standard "Evergreen.") Add to that Williams’ near-ubiquity during the golden age of TV variety shows and his performances in films like The Rules of Attraction, The Loved One, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the Smokey and the Bandit series, and you have one of pop culture’s great Renaissance men. (And did we mention he wrote the lyrics to the theme from "The Love Boat"?) The Festival is honored to pay tribute to the unpredictable and ongoing career of the inimitable Paul Williams with a 35th anniversary screening of Phantom of the Paradise, which features not only Williams’ great songs (which operate simultaneously as pop confections and genre parodies) but also his villainous turn as evil music mogul Swan.

Short Film Awards Program
Sunday, May 3, 7:00pm

National Jurors Angela Garbin, Laura Kightlinger, and Sandra Luckow will make the final announcements for this year's winning short films. Awards are given to the best in Animation, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Experimental, as well as awards for family fare, Texas ties, student achievements, and more. The Grand Prize winner (who is notified the day prior and flown to Dallas for the show) will present the winning entry and receive the cash award. The Competition has awarded over $200,000 in support to hundreds of filmmakers. USAFF prize winners who have gone on to big careers after winning the Competition include Billy Bob Thorton, Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, Jessica Yu, 2007's Academy Award winner Ari Sandel, and Aristomenis Tsirbas, whose 2004 award-winning Terra received feature film treatment and helps to open this year's Festival. (The USA Film Festival’s National Short Film Competition is an Academy-qualified program.)

THE NATIONAL JURY -- Since beginning her career in the film industry, Angela Garbin has become an accomplished creative editor and has worked on a wide variety of projects that include dramas, documentaries, and music videos. Laura Kightlinger is a comic and actress who has written, directed and performed in several comedy specials, television shows, documentaries, and short films. Award-winning filmmaker and documentarian Sandra Luckow is currently a professor at Yale University.


Arrancame la vida
Friday, May 1, 7:00pm

From gifted Mexican director Roberto Sneider (Two Crimes, USAFF 1995) comes another great film. A passionate love story set against Mexico’s post-revolution period of the 1930s and ’40s, this epic tale was Mexico’s foreign-language film submission for the 2008 Academy Awards. Catalina Guzman (Ana Claudia Talancón), a 15-year-old girl born into a rural family, is swept away as the child bride of the ruthless general Andres Ascensio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), whose political ambitions allow him to become governor of the province, but not before he’s spent time in jail for murder. He nevertheless has his eye on the presidency, and Catalina stands by him – even after she learns that he has a lover as well as children by other women. That changes when she meets and falls for orchestra conductor and left-wing activist Carlos Vives (José María de Tavira). The dangerous love triangle plays out to a dramatic conclusion against the backdrop of a turbulent period in Mexican history. Based on the 1985 novel by Mexican writer and journalist Ángeles Mastretta, Arráncame was a critical and popular success that earned her the Mazatlán Prize for Literature for Best Book of the Year. Stunning cinematography by Javier Aguírresarobe and rich period detail make for a sumptuous visual feast. 107 mins. Director Roberto Sneider and author Angeles Mastretta in attendance.

Sunday, May 3, 7:00pm

Who thinks about transforming their car into a mobile work of art? Documentary filmmaker Harrod Blank’s fascinating film examines the hearts and minds of the eccentric artists and visionaries who have turned a mode of transportation into mobile pop art. Blank interviews art-car enthusiasts and drives head-long into their unique world and their creative processes, exploring a subculture that strives to alter one’s view of an increasingly homogenous world. Featured subjects include world-renowned psychic Uri Geller and his bent fork-and-spoon-covered "Peace Car;" Howard Davis’ "Telephone Car," a manifestation of his obsession with telephone collecting; and religious folk artist Leonard Knight, who’s painted his vehicles as well as most of an entire mountain as a testament to his faith. Weaving his own tale amidst the others, Blank narrates this refreshing portrait of individuality and has turned his own vehicle into an art-car masterpiece. 77 mins. Director Harrod Blank in attendance, as well as local art car owners with their cars on display at the theatre (including Tim Klein’s "Yarn Car" featured in the film).

Baghdad Texas
Friday, May 1, 9:00pm

David Hickey’s completely original indie comedy/drama is a lot of fun, but also more than it seems on its quirky surface. (The first action-packed ten minutes have virtually no dialogue, but skillful shooting, editing and musical score give the viewer all the set-up needed.) A Middle Eastern dictator, fleeing his occupied country, finds himself near the Mexican border when his plane crashes. The only survivor of the crash, he stumbles into the highway and is hit by a truck driven by three red-neck cowboys (with stereotypical prejudices) who take the unconscious man to the exotic game ranch that is also home. The wounded man is cared for by the broken-down ranch’s Mexican housekeeper and cook (the film’s most compassionate and sensible character). Despite the language barriers (Spanish, English and Arabic -- which make every communication funnier and often more touching), in the ensuing days, every character discovers something about themselves, along with a growing suspicion that this mysterious man might be a very famous, hunted criminal with a large bounty on his head. The flat-out broad comedy is surprisingly sweetened with a larger message about disenfranchised souls and why the meek should indeed inherit the earth. 90 mins. Filmmakers in attendance.

Battle for Terra
Wednesday, April 29, 7:00pm

Mala (Evan Rachel Wood) is a precocious girl living on the beautiful planet Terra, a place where peace and tolerance are celebrated. The Terrans’ idyllic lives are about to be disturbed by the last inhabitants of a dead planet — who have exhausted the resources of their own world and three others — who arrive at Terra searching for a new home. Their planned use of a terraforming device will make Terra habitable for their kind but inhospitable for Terrans. The twist: These invaders from space are humans! When the Earthlings embark on a hostile invasion of Terra, Mala’s father (Dennis Quaid) is kidnapped. Hoping to save him, Mala forges a friendship with an injured human pilot named Jim (Luke Wilson), and the two concoct a plan they hope will save both species. But peace will not be secured unless they can defeat the darker desires of sentient beings. Director Aristomenis Tsirbas paints a landscape of pastoral innocence and idyllic vistas and then colors it darkly with themes that are adult in nature but made accessible to younger audiences as well. The thrilling animated feature boasts a dream cast of voices (Brian Cox, James Garner, Danny Glover), cutting-edge CGI animation, along with a unique twist on the science fiction genre and a powerful, heartfelt message for all ages. 85 mins. Director Aristomenis Tsirbas in attendance.

Don McKay and Tribute to M. Emmet Walsh
Sunday, May 3, 7:00pm
The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute honoring M. Emmet Walsh.

Haunted by a tragedy that forced him to flee his hometown 25 years earlier, mild-mannered and socially isolated school janitor Don McKay (a deadpan Thomas Haden Church) receives an unexpected letter from his old high school sweetheart Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), saying that she must see him. Don takes the first bus back home to her doorstep only to learn she is dying and wants to spend the rest of her limited time with him. But things just don’t seem right somehow... To say much more here would be unfair to Jake Goldberger’s demented, oh-so-black comedy which should be allowed to unwind in its own time. Suffice it to say that audiences will have a ball watching the unholy ensemble cast steal each other’s scenes (and more). Featuring Melissa Leo and M. Emmet Walsh in a role written for him. Writer-director Jake Goldberger, producer James Young, Thomas Haden Church (who also produced) and M. Emmet Walsh in attendance.

The Escapist and Tribute to Brian Cox
Friday, May 1, 7:00pm
The feature film will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute honoring Brian Cox.

This tautly suspenseful thriller may cause you to revise your preconceptions about prison-escape movies. Brian Cox turns in another outstanding performance as a lifer who becomes desperate to bust out when he finds out his long estranged daughter is near death from an overdose. He assembles a team of fellow convicts, including boxer Lenny (Joseph Fiennes), well-connected trustee Viv (Seu Jorge of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) and new fish James (Dominic Cooper, Mamma Mia!). Eluding the guards is one thing, but getting their plan past cellblock adversaries like alpha-dog Rizza (Damian Lewis, "Life") and brawler Two Ton (WWE star Sheamus O'Shaunessy) is another matter entirely. The Escapist provides lots of tight scrapes and surprises around every turn. 102 mins. Brian Cox in attendance.

Imitation of Life (1959) and Tribute to Juanita Moore
Saturday, May 2, 7:00pm
The program will be introduced by FOX 4 News Anchor Clarice Tinsley.

Director Douglas Sirk’s final Hollywood film wasn’t the first filmed version of the Fannie Hurst novel, but it is the one that endures -- and for many reasons. Filled with Sirk’s subversive irony, the slick Ross Hunter production featured Lana Turner in two dozen fabulous outfits, looking impeccably glamorous while being completely ridiculous and absolutely perfect in the part. Lana is aspiring actress Lora Meredith, who meets homeless black woman Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore) by chance at Coney Island. At Annie’s urging, Lana employs her as her live-in maid and the two women become friends (though never really on equal footing) and raise their daughters Susie (Sandra Dee) and Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) together. And both mothers come into conflict with their daughters -- Lora for neglecting Susie in favor of her career and Annie for refusing to let Sarah Jane deny her racial identity by "passing for white." Both shattering and unabashedly melodramatic, the landmark film also features one of the great funeral scenes of all time and retains its universal appeal for fans around the world. 124 mins. Juanita Moore in attendance.

Special Guest - Author Sam Staggs
Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life
Sam Staggs knows a good story, and he knows how to tell one even better. Whether a devout Imitation of Life fan or not, Born to Be Hurt is a page-turner for every reader. Filled with juicy details and exhaustive research, from the scandal surrounding Lana Turner at the time of the film (her daughter Cheryl had recently stabbed Lana’s lover Johnny Stompanato), to interviews with surviving cast members (including Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner, to whom he dedicates the work), Staggs’ has produced the definitive behind the scenes account of director Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece. Sam Staggs and Juanita Moore will sign copies of Mr. Staggs’ book following the program.

Is Anybody There?
Thursday, April 30, 7:00pm

In this new film from Irish filmmaker John Crowley (Boy A), the venerable Michael Caine gives one of his finest performances as a retired magician who reluctantly enters a family-run old age home. Set in a seaside English town circa 1987, Caine’s proud, ascerbic old performer and the death-obsessed young son (Bill Milner, Son of Rambow) of the home’s overwhelmed owners strike an unlikely alliance. Writer Peter Harness drew upon his own youthful experiences living in a retirement home for this beguiling story of growing up, growing old, and the unpredictable adventures that happen along the way. 92 mins. Filmmakers in attendance pending availability.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again
Friday, May 1, 7:00pm

Iconoclastic writer-director Larry Blamire (cult faves The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and Trail of the Screaming Forehead) is at it again, this time turning his brilliant knack for B-movie parody towards his own work. The original flick was a gleefully deadpan recreation of those ultra-cheap ’50s sci-fi horror movies, as a host of stereotypical characters searched for a meteorite containing a mysterious radioactive element. Now it’s two years later, and the action shifts to the Amazon Jungle, as old friends and new enemies trek into the dreaded Valley of the Monsters in search of yet another rare element. This bigger, better, loonier sequel features the usual camptastic performances and Blamire’s trademark loopy dialogue, as well as slightly flashier special effects and color photography! (Fear not, diehard fans, you can still see the wires.) Blamire’s knack for parody is back with a vengeance, as is his stable of stalwart actors, including Jennifer Blaire, Brian Howe, Faye Masterson, Alison Martin, Dan Conroy, Trish Geiger and Andrew Parks – some of them playing the (sometimes evil) twins of the characters they played in the original. This side-splitting comedy is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood genre flicks and of Blamire’s unique brand of comedy. Presented in SuperSkeletoRama. 92 mins. Writer-director Larry Blamire and actors Jennifer Blaire, Dan Conroy and Trish Geiger in attendance.

Made in U.S.A. (1966)
Friday, May 1, 9:15pm


Never formally released in the United States, this 1966 mod-noir by legendary director Jean-Luc Godard carries a hard-boiled pedigree like no other. Originally intended as an adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s "The Big Sleep," it is essentially based on "The Jugger" – one of the Parker novels written by Richard Stark, the best-known pseudonym of the late Donald E. Westlake (who was honored at the 2007 USA Film Festival), as refashioned by Godard. One of Godard’s pivotal features, an homage to the works of Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller, the film is filled with irony and cartoonishly tangled intrigue, and was also the last he made with his wife Anna Karina, who stars as a young woman trapped in a Cold War conspiracy. Due to legal difficulties, Made in U.S.A. never received an official release in the States, but can now be seen in a new widescreen print from the original negative, with new subtitles. The USA Film Festival is proud to present the regional debut of this "lost" classic, a rare treat for fans of the French New Wave cinema, hard-boiled fiction, and movies in general. In French with English subtitles. 90 mins.

The Maiden Heist
Thursday, April 30, 7:00pm

Peter Hewitt’s clever caper comedy presents three of the most endearing characters to ever commit grand larceny. Roger (Christopher Walken), Charles (Morgan Freeman) and George (William H. Macy) are museum security guards, each infatuated with a certain work of art at their place of employment – so much so that although they have been coworkers for decades, they only meet for the first time when crisis strikes. A new curator plans to change the museum’s collection entirely, threatening to rob each man of his great secret passion. They, however, decide to rob the museum first. The fact that they aren’t exactly criminal masterminds doesn’t dissuade them from embarking on a daring heist, with predictably hilarious results. Also starring the divine Marcia Gay Harden. 89 mins. Director Peter Hewitt and producer Rob Paris in attendance.

Sunday, May 3, 7:00pm

Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson star in this romantic comedy centering on the awkward romance between a mismatched couple. Mike (Zahn) is a directionless man trapped behind the front desk of his parents’ roadside Arizona motel. When buttoned-down corporate art broker Sue (Aniston) checks in, Mike turns on the charm, sending her a bottle of wine "compliments of management" which engenders the intended result. Writing off the encounter as a meaningless fling, Sue returns home and rekindles a romance with her punk rocker-turned-yogurt-mogul boyfriend Jango (Harrelson). But Mike shows up on her doorstep and begins a relentless pursuit of his dream girl. The directorial debut of screenwriter and Tectonic Theatre alum Stephen Belber (Tape), Management features a winning combination of eccentricity and charm, with exceptional performances by a talented cast. 93 mins. Writer-director Stephen Belber in attendance.

Must Read After My Death
Saturday, May 2, 9:00pm

Roger Ebert called this film "a cry from the grave," and is it ever. Imagine going through a recently deceased grandmother’s possessions and finding a trove of papers and audiotapes hand marked "Must read after my death." So begins Morgan Dews’ examination of the remarkably-documented portrait of his grandparents (Allis and Charlie) and their children (his mother and her three siblings), and the wreckage of what began as such a seemingly perfect 60s family. Allis and husband Charlie recorded dictaphone messages for each other and telephone calls while Charlie worked much of the year in Australia. The tapes reveal that the couple had an "open marriage" and that Charlie, an alcoholic, fought with Allis constantly. When the family comes under the "care" of a psychiatrist named Dr. Lenn (Allis records some of these sessions, too), the wheels really begin to come off. Lenn wrongly sends one son to a mental institution, and pretty much places blame for all their problems on Allis. Somehow, Allis retained her sense of self despite the socially-sanctioned male authorities' attempts to persuade her otherwise. And we learn what happens with each of the children, and how they bear their scars. Alternately elegant and chilling in its raw honesty, there has never been a "home movie" quite like Morgan Dews’ remarkable film. 74 mins. Director Morgan Dews in attendance.

The Nature of Existence
Saturday, May 2, 7:00pm

In documentarian Roger Nygard’s latest undertaking, he takes on the unanswerable -- Why are we here? Does God exist? Do we have souls? And the director of Trekkies certainly knows a thing or two about the zealous. Circling the globe for four years, Nygard interviews everyone from spiritual leaders, scholars, scientists, artists and pizza chefs, members of wrestling ministry, to others who have influenced, inspired or freaked out humanity. There is something about taking on the "big" questions that makes for one wildly entertaining portrait of humanity. And Texas is well represented -- from Huntsville’s New Zion Missionary Baptist Church (known for its great BBQ), to Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope. 94 mins. Director Roger Nygard in attendance.

On the Count of Zero
Saturday, May 2, 9:30pm

From writer-director Gokhan Yorgancigil comes a tale replete with thrills and chills in this imaginative Turkish film. Young art student Asli has lost a precious book that she recently borrowed from a teacher – but has no recollection of how it was lost. Having fallen into a depression due to her temporary amnesia, Asli, undergoes hypnosis to try and recover her memories. As Asli relives the day she lost the book, she comes across a mysterious stranger in the hypnosis world and the door to incomprehensible events is opened as the characters, led by an unseen hand, enter the realms of traditional Turkish fairytales. In Turkish with English subtitles. 90 mins. Writer-director Gokhan Yorgancigil and producer Sakir Sari in attendance.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974) and Tribute to Paul Williams
Wednesday, April 29, 7:00pm

The feature film screening will be preceded by a film clip compilation tribute and special sneak-preview of a work-in-progress portrait of Paul Williams by filmmaker Stephen Kessler.

Rock and roll goes hand-in-hand with death and betrayal in Brian De Palma’s visionary 1974 cult classic that pays tribute to everything from The Phantom of the Opera and Faust to The Twilight Zone (Rod Serling contributes the opening narration) and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Legendary actor and composer Paul Williams -- whose extraordinary songs spoof almost every genre of pop music -- stars as the villainous Swan, a super-successful music impresario looking for the perfect song to open his new nightclub, the Paradise. He steals a Faust cantata from hapless songwriter Winslow (William Finley) and gives it to awful hit-makers The Juicy Fruits. But when a scarred Winslow haunts the Paradise as the Phantom, he forces Swan to allow the beautiful Phoenix (cult icon Jessica Harper, star of Suspiria, Stardust Memories and Shock Treatment) to sing it. Can the Phantom wrest Phoenix’s soul from Swan’s clutches, or will their contract in blood last as long as all three stay alive? A one-of-a-kind mix of comedy, horror, satire and incredibly catchy pop songs, Phantom of the Paradise remains, on its 35th anniversary, one of the most outrageous and daring screen musicals ever made. Academy Award nominated for its song score and filmed partly in Dallas featuring familiar landmarks the Majestic Theatre (the Paradise club) and the Old Red Courthouse (Swan’s mansion). 92 mins. Paul Williams in attendance.

Tribute to Joe Sedelmaier and Shorts Showcase
Thursday, April 30, 7:00pm
A short compilation of new works by other filmmakers will precede the Tribute to Joe Sedelmaier program. Compilation run time: 56 mins.

Warriors of the Discotheque: The Starck Club Documentary
It has been 25 years this month since Dallas’ notorious Starck Club opened its distinctive doors as the first major North American project designed by Phillipe Starck, and a grand party began. Joseph Alexandre’s lively documentary work-in-progress (getting a special sneak preview at the Festival) thoughtfully explores the influences (architectural, musical and otherwise) from the standpoint of the people who were there. Joseph Alexandre in attendance.

Cat Demon: Re-Exhumed
Comic and actress Laura Kightlinger’s wicked little mockumentary is a nutty spoof of everything from crappy TV "news" shows, the Hollywood movie system, finicky actors (hilariously using cats to make that point – "two huge international cat talents"), star handlers, censorship and more. Laura Kightlinger, producer Kelley Cheek and co-editor Angela Garbin in attendance.

Our Neck of the Woods
Writer-director Rob Connolly’s wry, weird comedy features Bob Underwood, an assembly line supervisor frustrated with his life and dull routine at a plant manufacturing plastic lawn-ornament deer and other fabulous yard decor. Bob fantasizes about a better life and a better world. When beautiful Georgian refugee Elsa arrives, her seemingly sad isolation triggers Bob’s life-crisis and he makes a bold decision to save the world and help Elsa – whether she needs it or not.

Writer-director Bradford Schmidt’s indescribable, unsentimental dark comedy questions the possibility or impossibility of change in a person. Unhappy Donald plans to build a time machine to travel into the future to murder himself. In the future he meets a pair of future selves who coerce him to travel into his past to visit his estranged wife one last time.

Sita Sings the Blues
Friday, May 1, 9:00pm

Alt-cartoonist Nina Paley’s enchanting and mesmerizing animated tale is one of the must-see films of the year and an absolute raving joy on the big screen. Based on the "epic Indian tale of The Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw" this enchanting, witty film has a lot more going on -- including a lustful king, a monkey army, a chorus line of gurus and a tap-dancing moon, along with voice-over by modern Indians as they try to get the story straight. Oh, and a parallel story of a modern American couple. The Betty Boop-like Sita is brought to life in spoken voice by Reena Shah, who also provides her sexy dance moves. 82 mins. Reena Shah in attendance.

The Vicious Kind
Saturday, May 2, 9:00pm

"Sometimes people do things that they know are wrong but they just do them anyway because to do the right thing would be too painful…" The great character actor J.K. Simmons’ line from the film beautifully sums up writer-director Lee Toland Krieger’s outstanding character study that keeps audiences guessing. Embittered, self-hating Caleb Sinclaire (Adam Scott, August, Knocked Up) has no use for most people, spewing misogynistic tirades and nasty cracks to anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Caleb reluctantly agrees to drive his younger brother Peter home for the Thanksgiving holiday with the father (J.K. Simmons) to whom Caleb hasn’t spoken in years. When Peter shows up with new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow), the tension with Caleb (recently broken up from his two-timing girlfriend) is almost unbearable. Caleb’s encounters with Emma over the ensuing weekend range from hostile to sexually-charged, bringing all four people into conflict in this brutally painful and surprisingly redemptive tale. 93 mins. Writer-director Lee Toland Krieger in attendance.

The Yellow Handkerchief
Wednesday, April 29, 7:00pm

William Hurt delivers a captivating performance as ex-con Brett Hanson, just released from prison following a six-year stint for manslaughter and having difficulty reconciling his troubled past. Brett crosses paths with lonely and troubled 16 year-old Martine (Kristen Stewart, Twilight) and her new "ride," the awkward Gordy (Eddie Redmayne, Savage Grace). The unlikely trio share a car through the backwaters of post-Katrina Louisiana to New Orleans and along the way audiences learn Brett’s story -- of his prior life, the reason for his incarceration, and the wife he left behind (Maria Bello). Will she have received his postcard and will she have hung a yellow handkerchief outside the house to say whether she will have him back? Based on the short story by Pete Hamill, director Udayan Prassad’s poetic road trip of lonely souls who form a tenuous connection is small triumph in story-telling restraint. An Arthur Cohn production featuring gorgeous cinematography from Chris Menges. 102 mins.

Note: Schedule subject to change. Guests listed are confirmed at press time.


Tickets for all programs $10.

Advance tickets will be available through Ticketmaster beginning April 16 by calling 214-631-82787.

A complete schedule of all Festival events may be obtained by calling the Festival office at 214-821-FILM or may be viewed on line at


Official Sponsors of the 39th Annual USA Film Festival include American Airlines, Blockbuster Inc., Amegy Bank of Texas, Community Coffee, CareerLink Companies, The Independent Film Channel, Jones Day, QUICK, Texas Commission on the Arts, and Ticketmaster. The USA Film Festival is supported, in part, by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs.

A year-round film festival featuring 50 days of programs

The USA Film Festival is a 39-year-old Dallas-based 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and promotion of excellence in the film and video arts. Year-round events include KidFilm; Dallas only official Oscar Night America program; monthly screenings; special programs and premieres; and the USA Film Festival, held each spring. Throughout the year, the Festival presents a variety of membership, exhibition, educational, and cultural programs designed to bring together film enthusiasts and filmmakers for a "live cinema" experience.

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  • andrew johnson haynes | Flying Keywords

    [...] USA FF to bring Ray Liotta, Brian Cox, M. Emmet Walsh, and more to Dallas!SCHEDULE OF EVENTS 39th Annual USA Film Festival April 29 – May 3, 2009 DALLAS ? The USA Film Festival announces the full schedule of events for the 39th Annual USA Film Festival, April 29-May 3, 2009 at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas. The Festival continues its tradition of honoring master artists and showcasing new films and filmmakers in a setting designed to bring filmmakers together with audiences. This year’s honorees include some of the most venerable character actors in cont [...]

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