Monday, December 15, 2014

A Jaw-Dropping Archive of Austin's Moviegoing Heritage


All around the world Austin is known to be one of the filmgoing (and filmmaking) capitals. We have a long history of critical viewing and adventurous film programming. Now a resource has become available that sheds light on some of the formative years of Austin's film scene.

It's the CinemaTexas Notes Archive. CinemaTexas was a 16mm film exhibition program that ran throughout the '70s and into the '80s. The tireless faculty, grad students & volunteers of CinemaTexas presented world class film culture to not only University Of Texas but to the public at large, four times a week. In addition to the screenings, comprehensive program notes were offered in mimeographed "zines." 

This archive is nothing less than the DNA of Austin's film culture. It paints a fascinating picture of the attitudes and tastes that formed the beginning of Austin's very idiosyncratic film scene. For instance, Austin's film scene is known for taking the lowbrow with the highbrow and accepting the values of each on their own terms. Surely this is a recent development right? Nope, the CinemaTexas notes are full of monster movies and women-in-prison movies, considered alongside highly regarded foreign films and Hollywood auteur classics. There is 2000 MANIACS alongside IL BIDONE & GOING MY WAY, for instance - and that's a fairly typical juxtaposition.

There are many familiar Austin names here, Louis Black and Nick Barbaro (Austin Chronicle & SXSW founders) are all over this. Same with Ed Lowry, namesake of AFS' current program that offers free films for students. There are current UT professors and mysterious correspondents who are really very good. It's a very interesting walk through the Austin time tunnel and an important cultural and historical resource that is being continually updated.

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