"They do everything right."
--Roger Ebert speaking about the USAFF
"Whenever the USA Film Festival calls, I try to answer because it means so much to me personally."
--Stephen Tobolowsky, USAFF National Advisory Committee Member, quoted in Advocate magazine
The USA Film Festival is a Dallas-based, 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of excellence in the film and video arts.
YEAR-ROUND programs and events include an annual spring film festival, now in its 45th year; the annual KidFilm® festival, now in its 31st year, the oldest and largest-attended international children's film festival in the United States; special premieres; a 37-year-old National Short Film Competition; year-round "Meet the Filmmakers" screenings; film series and retrospectives organized around important themes and filmmakers; presentations of restored prints on the big screen, and educational activities including filmmaker discussions and extensive community outreach activities.
LIVE CINEMA -- Through its year-round multicultural programs and special events, the USA Film Festival provides an opportunity for the public to discover films not scheduled for commercial distribution and sheds new light on familiar films by facilitating discussion and encounters with filmmakers and lecturers.
With the exception of special member screenings, all events are open to the public.
MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN -- Programs take place at proper theater settings throughout the Dallas area, in fully accessible facilities, to ensure maximum accessibility for all publics.
A YEAR-ROUND EVENT -- The Festival presents programs every month -- We're a 50-Day Festival!
Annual attendance = 30,000+
Following its original incarnation in 1970 as the "Screen Generation Film Festival," and a (pre-Cannes) visit from filmmaker Robert Altman (pictured left below with Dr. Bill Jones) with an early cut of MASH and pre-release screening of The Sterile Cuckoo with Alan Pakula (complete with coast-to-coast hook-up so that students in San Francisco and Manhattan could participate in the post-screening discussion) and Michael Wadleigh with Woodstock, the USA Film Festival was officially created in 1971. Both Altman and Pakula, having provided the inspiration for the creation of the Festival, became our life-long friends, visiting the Festival and Dallas with their films many times throughout their prestigious careers.
In the early 1970s, the Festival concentrated solely on the then largely uncelebrated films made in the United States. Both amateur and professional filmmakers were invited to submit works to a panel of nationally-renowned critics who selected the best films for competition in the annual festival Director George Stevens was recognized with the Festival's first Great Director Tribute which took place at the Festival's first home on Southern Methodist University's campus. (Proceeds from that first festival were used to establish the SMU Film Archives.)
In 1973, the focus shifted. Rather than a competition, the annual festival became a showcase for American films. The critics, acting as scouts instead of judges, offered films they deemed worthy of recognition and invited filmmakers and creators for on-stage discussion with the audience. Early critics and jurors included Hollis Alpert, Charles Champlin, Roger Ebert, Paul Schrader, Judith Crist, Barbara Bryant, Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris, Dwight MacDonald and others.
The following year, the Festival expanded its activities, honoring Gregory Peck at the first Great Screen Actor Retrospective. Peck was present for the three-day event and appeared on stage each evening for discussion with the audience. Today the program exists as the Master Screen Artist Tribute.
In 1979, with the first National Short Film Competition, the Festival recognized excellence in this important cinematic form. Since then, the National Short Film & Video Competition has been broadened to include video arts and has screened thousands of films and videos, awarding over $350,000 in cash prizes, and presenting the top entries each year at a special ceremony on Closing Night of the spring festival. Numerous winners and finalists have gone on to receive Academy recognition (shortlisted, finalists and winners).
In 1981, recognizing the need for informational programs and resources among the rapidly growing metroplex film community, the Festival dramatically increased its scope by offering a slate of activities throughout the year with a special emphasis on educational programs. In addition, the Festival established on-going partnerships with over 200 local arts, cultural and social service organizations to present unique programs spotlighting the wide variety of experiences recorded on film.
In 1975, responding to the void of high quality children's film programming in the commercial market, international film library consultant Barbara Bryant curated the first annual Childen's Film Circus for the Festival. This program was officially christened KidFilm Festival in 1983, celebrating excellence in children's media arts. As the first festival of its kind in this country, KidFilm brought national recognition to Dallas and has become the inspiration for similar programs nationwide. Today, KidFilm is the largest-attended children's media festival in the United States bringing 10,000 children, educators and adults to this popular arts-in-education program every year. Since its inception, KidFilm arts-in-education programs have served over 150,000 DISD students and educators.
In 2015, the festival will present the 31st annual KidFilm festival; the 45th annual spring festival, the 37th annual National Short Film and Video Competition and the best new American and foreign works; TexFest, along with numerous on-going series and other year-round programs, retrospectives, tributes, premieres and events.
Since its existence, the USA Film Festival has presented the world, national or regional premieres of thousands of studio and independent feature films as well as short experimental, animated, documentary and dramatic films. Throughout the years, the Festival has brought to its audiences thousands of leading directors, producers, actors, screenwriters, editors, composers, production designers, cinematographers, historians and other experts, fulfilling its mission of creating a "LIVE CINEMA" experience, whereby filmmakers present their films in person and discuss their works with the audience.
NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Current Members, Former Members & KidFilm Advisory, Founders
Daphne Maxwell Reid
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Dale C. Olson
Alan J. Pakula
Dr. G. William Jones
L.M. Kit Carson