Cannes. Sundance. Toronto. New York. Please.
“[WorldFest] is the oldest indie film festival in the whole wide world,” says Hunter Todd, chairman and founding director of the WorldFest Houston International Film and Video Festival. “Yup, Cannes, Venice and Berlin are older, but they focus on major studio films. And a remarkable thing — I seem to have outlived all the other festival directors, and am now the longest-running film festival director in the world.
“We did literally discover Spielberg, Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, Randal Kleiser and John Lee Hancock – he was a Houston lawyer who told me that we saved him from a lifetime of suing people – all with their very first awards,” says the excitable Todd.
In 1961, Cinema Arts started the initial WorldFest that eventually became a competitive film festival in 1968. Since then, WorldFest has also screened films by and handed out honors to Spike Lee, Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone and David Lynch.
The beefy lineup at the 49th annual WorldFest backs up the big talk by Todd, who has won more than 100 awards for film excellence.
“We will premiere 78 new international feature films, including 20 premieres in our new Panorama China section. It is the largest survey of new Chinese cinema in North America. More than 100 filmmakers from Beijing and Shanghai are flying in,” says Todd.
Opening night will showcase Pasadena/Houston director Bo Brinkman and the premiere of his drama-comedy film The Last Man Club, which chronicles a World War II veteran’s do-anything tactics to ditch a nursing home. The closing-night film, Hope, directed by Houston-based African-American filmmaker LaKisha Lemons, tells the story of a dude who has hit rock bottom but slowly begins to turn his wrecked life around.
Another standout film, scheduled to screen at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11, is The Earthquake, a Honghai Li documentary that captures the chaos of an 8.0 magnitude quake that pummeled the town of Zundao and the Wenchian area of the People’s Republic of China in 2008. Additionally, 106 new international shorts from a total of 34 nations will debut at WorldFest. And more than 600 international filmmakers are scheduled to attend the ten-day event.
WorldFest takes place daily from Friday, April 8 to Sunday, April 17 at AMC Studio 30, 2949 Dunvale Road. Tickets/passes range from $7.50 to $600. For the complete film schedule and screening times, go to worldfest.org.