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David and Art - "Film as Art"

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Hollywood blockbuster may not be very artistic, but that doesn't mean some films are not.

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One of the many ways you can describe what art does is to say that it gives us new ways of seeing or hearing something familiar. The painters known as the “Fauvists,” for instance, gave us a new way of seeing color. Stravinsky gave us a new way of hearing rhythm. Without such a prod now and then, we all get into an artistic rut, thinking of things in always the same way, through the same set of assumptions, and we lose track of all the things that art can be. All of the things that can be artistic; all of the different ways art can speak to us.

One of the problems we have with seeing film as an art form is that we usually only think of the big Hollywood releases when we think of “movies:” something so clearly corporate in its construction, so driven by the bottom line, so subject to the aggression of marketing, that all elements of artistry get obscured in a cloud of commerce, special effects, and materialism.

One way to see through that cloud to the deep capacity for artistic expression within the medium of film is at a film festival.

Film festivals have been around for the better part of a century. The first was in Venice, Italy, in 1932 as part of that city’s famous biennial exhibition of contemporary art that began back in 1895. Its film component became so popular it became its own annual event in 1935. (That film festivals have their roots in art festivals is a window into their artistic nature.). The annual film festival in Cannes, France, began in 1946 and is now the most famous in the world. The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, is probably the most famous in the United States.

The fifth annual Deep in the Heart Film Festival kicks off in here in Waco at the Hippodrome this Thursday. Last year the pandemic forced it to go virtual, but now it’s back in person and, as the organizers put it, it’s “ready to help reconnect this community around shared stories and the arts.” That’s well said. This year they’re featuring over 150 projects.

What you’ll see at an event like this are clear artistic visions of how to tell a story. The stories here are the most important elements. You can also meet some of the filmmakers and listen to them talk about how they approach their work. You’ll hear careful thoughtful artists.

Local filmmaker Chris Hansen, whose entry, “Blur Circle,” won best feature film honors at the festival a couple of years ago, once told me that our difficulty in thinking of films as art comes from how we normally approach them just as entertainment. Experiencing them at a film festival is a perfect way to see them as artistic creations.