In Dallas, autumn’s arrival means there’s one cultural event not to be missed: Dallas VideoFest, a film festival committed to showcasing independent films and work that challenges the definition of cinema.

As a Dallasite, I have been an attendee of the festival for the past five years, and was thankful to have my own short, “Divided Together Again,” included in the 29th program.

F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece Sunrise, accompanied by an original score performed by the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, served as this edition’s opener. As the orchestra tuned, the full house buzzed—the tension in the audience was tangible as the music punctuated the drama on screen. A key memory from that night is the collective laughing and sighing from the crowd, which underscored the timeless importance of experiencing cinema as a collective, physical audience. Dallas VideoFest strives to enable these transcendent experiences, heralding the past while always looking forward to the new.

The Kessler Theater in Dallas, Texas. Photograph by Krystal Gorrell/Selig Polyscope Company

The following night, at the historic Texas Theatre in the neighborhood of Oak Cliff, DJ Spooky presented “Rebirth of a Nation,” a video remix of D.W Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Spooky’s performance was mesmerizing: He live-mixed the music and shared stories of his creative process with the audience. “Rebirth of a Nation” confronts the ugliness of much of American cinema, and it was refreshing to engage in those confrontations and contemplate the role that the media plays in propelling such toxic ideas. Afterwards much of the audience, including Spooky himself, gathered at the theater bar to unpack the ideas in the film. That kind of authentic person-to-person engagement creates lingering memories, as did the Filmmaker’s Brunch, which brought all the filmmakers in the program together.

Rebirth of a Nation performed at Dallas VideoFest. Photograph by John R. Strange/Selig Polyscope Company

The rest of the festival took place at the Angelika Film Center in Mockingbird Station, a center bustling with shops and dining establishments. Kartemquin Films screened several of their powerful documentaries—I was lucky to catch a screening of The Trials of Muhammad Ali with Gordon Quinn, cofounder of Kartemquin Films, on site to field questions and provide insight to the company’s documentary process. VideoFest cofounder Bart Weiss’ short programs are daring and bold, always transporting audiences to the fore of the avant garde.

What I’ll remember most from the 29th Dallas VideoFest is going home with the irrepressible feeling of wanting to make more films. MM

Christian Vasquez is a filmmaker and photographer from Dallas, Texas. His short-documentary “Divided Together Again” premiered at the 29th Dallas VideoFest.

For more information on Dallas VideoFest, visit the festival’s website. Top photograph by Stephen Duffy/Selig Polyscope Company.