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The Dallas Video Festival kicks off today with an opening night film and fest at Gilley’s in South Dallas and continues through Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse. Here are five films you should check out this weekend at the fest.

5 Films to See at this Year’s Dallas Video Fest

The Dallas Video Festival kicks off today with an opening night film and fest at Gilley’s in South Dallas. After that, the rest of the festival will take place at the brand new Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. As we say in the latest Best of Big D Issue, the Video Festival is one of the most progressive and innovative film programs this city has to offer. So many of the films, which founder and director Bart Weiss plucks from such diverse sources as international conferences of public television producers and small experimental media festivals, will be impossible to find and see once the Video Fest shutters. (For more on the Video Fest’s programming and vision, check out this interview with Weiss from 2012).

Offering a broad range of documentaries, features, and experimental fair, Video Fest doesn’t offer the typical film festival distractions like stars (though George Schlatter will be there), red carpets, and buzzing Hollywood features. Rather, it’s just about what’s on screen. There’s a risk there. You may end up stumbling into a film like Leviathan, a 90 minute ride on a commercial fishing boat shot from a camera mounted on the head of one of the works, an experimental and often tedious feature that you are either in the mood for or not. But don’t let the risk of finding challenging work dissuade you. That’s what Video Fest is for: letting your guard down and watching something unfamiliar. More than a few times at Video Fest, it’s precisely the unexpected surprises that have led to some of the most memorable movie moments.

Here are five films that are worth checking out at this year’s festival:

TRUE TALES (Wed, Oct 9. 7:15 p.m.) Thanks to the 50th anniversary of the JFK Assassination, the city has been saturated with all things JFK. Here we get a slightly off-color take, focusing not on the assassination, but on Tammie True, a top-billed stripper at Jack Ruby’s infamous Carousel Club. If the JFK assassination revealed anything about Dallas, it was that this city was – continues to be – a place of contradictions. True Tales takes you into one of those city’s counter intuitive subcultures, shedding new light on Dallas, the assassination, and burlesque.

WHAT IS CINEMA? (Fri, Oct 11. 10 p.m.) The question that is the title of subject of Chuck Workman’s documentary is one also implicitly raised by the Video Fest each year. Here it gets a more traditional going over, culling together new and old interviews from filmmaking titans and culling plenty of classic images from the cinematic canon to give an overview of the moving image’s various forms and tangents. As an exploration of nature of cinema, it never quite penetrates to the depths promised by borrowing the docs title from André Bazin’s seminal study, and various thoughts and theories taken from Bazin and other sources aren’t given their proper context or attention. But as an indulgence and fertilization is also a familiar symptom of cinephilia, and What is Cinema? does manage to serve up plenty of thoughtful tidbits.

CHINESE DEMOCRACY AND THE LAST DAY ON EARTH (Sat, Oct 12 8 p.m.) Federico Solmi’s animated parable reads like a paranoid psychedelic dream about the end of the world, a film that blends influences as varied as video games and Don DeLillo in its bizarre and intoxicating conflation of corporate, consumerist, and tyrannical malice.

BROKEN NEWS (Sun, Oct 13. 1:45 p.m.) The relevance of Lori Felker’s personal and political meditation on the nature of the news cycle is heightened by the showing of this film while the lingering governmental mess persists in Washington. In her experimental short, Felker sets up a news desk at the foot of her bed, and for two weeks, reads read only the headlines of news stories, while also waking herself up in the middle of the night to report her dreams.

FAR FROM VIETNAM (Sun, Oct 13. 5 p.m.) In 1967, Chris Marker (La jetée) invited a group of some of France’s most important filmmakers (including Agnès Varda, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais) to cover the escalating American war in Vietnam. The result, a blending of filmmaking approaches and techniques, is as much an exploration of cinematic form as it is an unforgettable antiwar film that remains ever pertinent.

Image: Tammi True (via)