Your Guide to the Sixth Annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival

The five-day, 50-film festival features celebrity appearances and screenings of major Oscar contenders.

By Joe Leydon November 12, 2014

James Franco in The Sound and the Fury

Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Nov 12–16
Individual tickets $10–25; passes $80–600
Multiple venues

The sixth annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival is ready to roll, with an eclectic array of programming that includes live performances, a street photography exhibition, and the Houston premieres of at least two major Academy Award contenders.

And while the star power this year may not be quite as incandescent as it was during the five previous fests, when luminaries such as Robert Redford, Ethan Hawke, and Shirley MacLaine were on the guest lists, HCAF 2014 can boast appearances by the likes of Julie Taymor, who will introduce her new film A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the festival’s opening night; Oscar-nominated director James Ivory, who’ll be honored with the festival’s Levantine Cinema Arts Award and a mini-retrospective of his films; experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, who will present a “film performance” titled Time Squared on Friday at the Aurora Picture Show; and Brazilian writer-director Marcelo Gomes, who will present regional premieres of his two most recent films – Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica (2012) and The Man of the Crowd (2013). You can find the complete schedule at the HCAF website

Here are some of the highlights:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Visionary stage director Julie Taymor (The Lion King and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) will be on hand to introduce the H-Town premiere of her latest effort as a filmmaker, which she shot last year during the run of her well-received production of Shakespeare’s magical comedy at Brooklyn’s Polonsky Center. After the screening, Taymor is scheduled to discuss the film with Alley Theatre artistic director Gregory Boyd.

Nov 12 at 7:30. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

One Armed Man

Film and television actor Tim Guinee, an HSPVA graduate, makes his filmmaking debut with this 27-minute dramatic short based on Horton Foote’s play about a wealthy industrialist’s complex relationship with a worker who lost an arm while working in the industrialist’s cotton gin.

Nov 14 at 11 a.m. Free. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Nov 16 at 12:30 p.m. Free. Sundance Cinemas

Regarding Susan Sontag

Documentarian Nancy Kates’s celebratory portrait of Susan Sontag (1933-2004) examines the life and influence of the multitasking writer, critic, filmmaker, philosopher, and feminist icon.

Nov 14 at 1:20. Sundance Cinemas


Director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) joins forces with Oscar winner (and, perhaps, future Oscar nominee) Reese Witherspoon to tell the extraordinary true-life story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who opted to exorcise her personal demons through a solo 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Nov 14 at 6:45. Sundance Cinemas

A Master Builder

Jonathan Demme, whose diverse credits run the gamut from Melvin and Howard to Silence of the Lambs, directs this tightly focused adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, with Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) cast in the title role as Halvard Solness, an arrogant and manipulative architect who is taken aback when a mysterious woman from his past pays a visit.

Nov 14 at 6:15. Sundance Cinemas

The Sound and The Fury

Prolific workaholic James Franco directs and co-stars in this indie drama, based on William Faulkner’s novel about a once-prosperous Mississippi clan that has fallen spectacularly out of grace.  

Nov 15 at 7:30. Saturday, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Imitation Game

Much Oscar heat already has been generated by this Weinstein Company release, a critically acclaimed fact-based drama starring the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the singularly brilliant (and secretly gay) Cambridge mathematician hired by the British military to lead the effort to crack Nazi codes during World War II. Keira Knightley, Charles Dance and Mark Strong are among the co-stars.

Nov 15 at 6:15. Sundance Cinemas


Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Clouds of Sils Maria

Esteemed French auteur Olivier Assayas (Late August, Early September) reportedly scripted his latest film at the bequest of Juliette Binoche, who challenged him to write a complex female role. Assayas responded with this drama about Maria, a middle-aged actress (Binoche) who rose to fame with her performance in a hit play as the young lover of an older woman. Time has passed, and now Maria is being courted to star in a revival of the play – but, of course, not as the young lover. That role has been pitched to a newcomer played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Kristen Stewart co-stars as Maria’s ultra-efficient personal assistant.

Nov 15 at 9:35. Sundance Cinemas

Born to Fly

Choreographer Elizabeth Streb extols the virtues and values of dance as contact sport, carnival sideshow, and high-risk daredevilry in this fascinating documentary portrait by filmmaker Catherine Gund. Both Streb and Gund are slated to attend the screening.

Nov 15 at 3:10. Saturday, Sundance Cinemas

A Thousand Times Goodnight

Juliette Binoche again, this time as a photojournalist torn between her obsession with covering war zones and her commitment to her anxious family.

Nov 15 at 7:15. Sundance Cinemas 


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