International film festival promotes cultural cooperation

Red carpets, spotlights, celebrities and cameras flashing.A scene straight from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood took place Tuesday outside the AMC Palace 9 theater in Fort Worth at the first Lone Star International Film Festival.

Celebrities such as Bill Paxton, Fred Durst, Martin Sheen, Jason Ritter and Steve-O will be walking the streets of Cowtown for more than 13 major independent films and nine international films that will be showing through Sunday.

The Lone Star International Film Festival, which is presented by the nonprofit organization Lone Star Film Society, is the first movie festival in Fort Worth since the cancellation of the Fort Worth Film Festival in 2002.

Critics are wondering whether this new festival will be able to last, Tom Huckabee, director of the festival, said.

“People have told me that Fort Worth cannot have festivals because it is not considered a film town,” he said. “People doubt the festival because they have not been correctly exposed to the art of film.”

Huckabee said Fort Worth is one of the only major cities in the U.S. without a major film festival, and by using the city as a hook, the festival can expose the environment to the rest of the world.

“Fort Worth is the key to the festival – not particularly our shows, but the environment,” he said. “Festivals like Sundance are horrible because it’s cold and snowing. However, here, you could not get better weather or more of an amazing downtown.”

Actor Bill Paxton, who starred in “Apollo 13”, “Titanic” and HBO’s “Big Love”, agreed.

“Every time I talk about Fort Worth in Hollywood, nobody knows how enriched with culture this town is,” said Paxton, a Fort Worth native. “Being from here, I am proud to promote this festival – it’s nice to touch home plate and give back to this community.”

The Western culture and variety of fine arts is what sold him on Fort Worth, Paxton said.

“I am hoping this festival grows and becomes an annual event, promoting the customs and arts embedded in this town,” he said.

Networks of venues are set up including the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, along with several other cultural attractions, among them the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and Casa Manana Theatre.

The point of the festival is to spotlight culture in new and emerging artists, said Darla Robinson, Lone Star Film Society executive director.

“Our mission is to preserve and present the art of the moving image and examine its influence on world culture,” she said. “In light of this we are in association with the Sister Cities to bring a great unusual portion of the festival with us.

Fort Worth Sister Cities International is hosting an international film series today through Sunday at the AMC Palace as an accompanying event.

The idea of having the film series to highlight the culture of Fort Worth’s seven other sister cities, said Gail Barnes, Fort Worth Sister Cities International communications director.

Sister Cities International is a nonprofit network between U.S. and international communities. It is in an effort to increase global cooperation, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate economic development, Barnes said. Some of the cities are Budapest, Hungary;; Nagaoka, Japan; and Bandung, Indonesia.

“Organizations come to Sister Cities to bring culture to events, and we are bringing the culture to the Lone Star International Film Festival,” she said. “Hopefully Fort Worth community members will come away from the weekend with a sense of richness and culture.”

Picking films for the festival has been an experience for Fort Worth Sister Cities International Film Committee Chairman, Steve Roth.

“It’s been pretty exciting researching and securing some of the top films from around the world and bringing them to Fort Worth; however, it’s a bit nerve racking too,” Roth said. “You know how tough it is to pick a movie that all of your friends will enjoy, so imagine going down to the video store to rent films you want the entire Metroplex to see and enjoy.”

Roth said Sister Cities has helped link Lone Star with some international contacts that, he hopes, will evolve into long-term cultural exchanges for the festival.

Joshua Cauthen, Fort Worth Sister Cities International program manager, said the film festivals will be a great experience for everyone.

“Having these film series’ available for the Fort Worth is a way for community members to experience parts of the world that they would never see,” the ’07 TCU almuni said. “There are several films and shows that will expose arts, music and culture to everyone.”

This festival will be what will launch the film career in Fort Worth, said Shauna Westfall, pr/marketing director for Lone Star Film Society.

“I believe this weekend will be an event of unique culture and environment that will attract a lot of spectators,” she said. “This festival is special and hopefully it will be the one that puts Fort Worth on the map.