3rd Annual Architecture Center Houston Film Festival: Landscapes of Excess and Crisis

Don't expect to find any easy answers to today's housing problems at the 3rd Annual Architecture Center Houston Film Festival: Landscapes of Excess and Crisis. Ned Dodington, design director of the visual communications team at local architecture firm PDR and part of the festival's curatorial team, says it's questions and conversations the organizers are after, not pat answers. ''We want to start a discussion, to say, 'These things are happening, and this is how they're happening,' instead of trying to say, 'This is how we can fix it.' This year's theme is 'Boom and Bust,' and the films look at excess and catastrophe.''

Lauren Greenfield's 2012 documentary Queen of Versailles goes in the ''excess'' column. Greenfield won the U.S. Directing Award for Documentary Film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for Versailles, which follows a billionaire family as they cope with the economic downturn. ''Queen of Versailles is like a McMansion on steroids gone completely crazy,'' says Dodington. ''It's like reality-TV-meets-urban-planning.''

In the ''catastrophe'' column is Detropia, a 2012 film by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady that captures the effects of Detroit's financial troubles (rows of empty and abandoned buildings, devastated neighborhoods).

''We're also showing a film about the world’s largest mall. It's in China, and it's vacant. It's something like four times the size of the Mall of America, and it's completely empty.''

The festival kicks off with a 7 p.m. screening of Dark City at Market Square Park, 300 Travis, on August 9. Free. Screenings continue through August 17. For a full schedule, call 713-520-0155 or visit aiahouston.org. Free to $20.
Fri., Aug. 9, 7 p.m.; Aug. 15-17, 7 p.m., 2013

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Olivia Flores Alvarez