At their worst, film festivals are exercises in an echo chamber of self-congratulation and manufactured prestige. At their best, they’re immersive marathons of transformative observation and conversation. In the three-year tenure of Film Society of Little Rock’s Kaleidoscope Film Festival, organizers have kept their compasses pointed toward that latter North Star, acting as conduits for engaging pieces of art to be seen the way they were meant to be seen. They’ve programmed Annalise Ophelian’s “Major!”, Cheryl Dunye’s “Watermelon Woman,” João Pedro Rodrigues’ “The Ornithologist,” Jay Dockendorf’s “Naz & Maalik” and a host of other films that traversed the wide ground between social justice commentary, lowbrow camp, incisive documentary, interfamilial drama and soundtracked revolution. We talked with filmmaker Mark Thiedeman, who serves as Kaleidoscope’s artistic director/director of feature film programming, ahead of the festival’s fourth year. Kaleidoscope kicks off Friday, Aug. 10, and concludes Saturday, Aug. 18.
You, as Kaleidoscope Film Festival’s programmer, along with Tony Taylor and William Moon and others, have shown a dogged devotion not only to films that are visually
First, as a filmmaker, many of my heroes are women: Claire Denis, Catherine Breillat, Lucrecia Martel, Kelly Reichardt. They are the best of the best, period. They reshaped the way I think and work, and any system that might potentially stop audiences from seeing work like theirs is not acceptable.
I remember seeing “Moonlight” on the big screen back in 2016. That movie meant so much to African Americans in the LGBT community. Their story had so rarely been told (it still is [rare]), and usually only in films that played exclusively in big cities. The glory of “Moonlight” was that people everywhere could see
“Obscuro Barocco,” one of the films I understand you’re particularly excited about screening,
That’s a really lovely observation, and yes, “Obscuro Barroco” and also “Bixa Travesty” are films that describe the body as a beautiful work in progress, one that is constantly changing. And it’s also true that films and popular culture in general shape the way so many people present themselves — the way we cut our hair, the clothes we wear. Seeing proud characters who exist outside of the worlds we usually see in movies is a kind of affirmation. It suggests that we are all cinematic in some way, which is really beautiful.
It seems to me that the industry is moving in the right direction, at least on the independent level. The diversity of this year’s lineup really speaks to a sudden surge of amazing work being made by women and people of
Passes are a pittance and the nine-day lineup is stacked. Can you name a few other films you think people will be talking about this year? Or two or three things people should make a point to catch if they’re new to the festival?
I hope they talk about all of them, but I’m particularly excited to hear people’s response to Leilah Weinraub’s “Shakedown,” which is a mind-blowing work of art. I’m also thrilled that we are showing “Bixa Travesty,” a film about a Brazilian transwoman whose music is an assault on many social problems, not least of which is chauvinism within the gay male community. I love “Skate Kitchen,” a film in which young women talk at length about things that young women never talk about in movies. And “Good Manners” is sure to delight everyone — in fact, I can’t tell you anything about it, because I don’t want to spoil anything.
Outside of films, I can’t wait for this year’s Queer Arts Street Fair, which takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and will be a great place to meet people and celebrate.
Finally, every year we try to focus on an art form outside of filmmaking, and this year’s focus is fashion. At the Argenta Gallery, running through the festival, there will be two shows. One explores the interplay of fashion and the
See kaleidoscopefilmfestival.com for passes, $6-$100, and a festival schedule.