This week’s Sundance Film Festival is something of a seminal moment for Dallas filmmaking. Three films playing at the festival have strong roots to Dallas, including Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Yan Tan’s Pit Stop. We’re celebrating on FrontRow with seven days of profiles looking at the people behind the strengthening Dallas film scene.
What’s remarkable about this year is not just that Dallas filmmakers have films at what is arguably still America’s most important film festival, but that they have some of the most talked-about films in competition. Carruth’s movie is his long-awaited follow-up to Primer, which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize back in 2004. Lowery is Dallas filmmaking’s rising star, whose short “Pioneer” (2012) raised lots of eyebrows on the festival circuit last year. His Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which stars Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) and Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), had its world premiere over the weekend, and Indiewire called it a “triumph of visual poetry.”
As things grow increasingly dire, Lowery gradually chisels away at the scenario and constructs an extraordinary paean to ghostly southern imagery imbued with a lyricism reflective of his grand literary ambitions. Lowery has mentioned Robert Altman’s revisionist western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” as a key inspiration, but “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” equally suggests a less spiritual take on Terrence Malick’s cosmic visions of men and women dwarfed by natural wonders much sturdier than any of their flawed pursuits.
In other words, get ready to be as sick of hearing about Lowery as you are beginning to get sick of hearing about Ben Fountain.