For a little bit of Cannes on the Neches, film lovers should look no further than downtown Beaumont, Sept. 9 through 11, as the Boomtown Film and Music Festival returns to spotlight local and independent filmmakers.
“It was our feeling (film) is an important art form,” said Christopher Dombrosky, Boomtown Film and Music Festival film programmer. “You can go somewhere in Southeast Texas to see just about any other form of art — you can see paintings and sculpture; you can see plays — but there wasn’t really anyone that was exhibiting independent film. So, that was the space that we were wanting to fill.”
The Boomtown Festival began in 2008 and was held annually until COVID shuttered the screens for a couple of years. This year’s festival will screen around 30 films from 200 entries from around the world.
“Most of them are domestic films, but we’re also going to be showing films from Brazil, Canada, Australia, Israel — we have one filmmaker from Nigeria,” Dombrosky said. “That’s typical for the kind of festival that we put on. And we do try to put a special spotlight on any films that were made here in southeast Texas.”
The festival opens Sept. 9, with screenings beginning at 6 p.m. at the Jefferson Theatre. Tickets are $6, which also includes admission to Pour Brothers Brewery to hear the music by Pet Raven, Nusoul the Poet and Sweet Fighter.
Screenings begin at 9 a.m., Sept. 10, and continue all day at the Jefferson Theatre. Tickets are $5 for the entire day. The Spindletop Student Film entries will be screened at 5 p.m., “409 Showcase” at 6 p.m., and the entries from the “48-Hour Film Race” at 7 p.m. The festival’s award ceremony will follow the local films before Olivia Won’t Sing and Psycho Jenni play at 8:15 p.m.
“While the film program includes amazing films from all over the country, and indeed the world, unfortunately, those filmmakers usually aren’t able to make the trip to Beaumont, Texas,” Dombrosky said. “So, we try to schedule films where the filmmakers are likely to be in attendance closer to the award ceremony. This year, the award ceremony is happening at eight o’clock in the Jefferson theatre, and the films that we’ve programmed close to that time are the locally made films, because we know that those people will be showing up.”
A new contest this year is the Spindletop Student Films category. O’Brien Stanley is the coordinator for the contest, which draws its name from the Spindletop Film Festival, a festival that was hosted by Lamar University that pre-dates the Boomtown Festival.
“Chris suggested, let’s use the Spindletop name to connect it back to the Spindletop Film Festival. And I thought that was a great idea,” Stanley said.
The contest was open to students from sixth to 12th grades, and a total of 15 entries were accepted for short documentary and short narrative feature. Five finalists were selected based on a points formula and two winners were chosen from that list.
Stanley said student films were themed around inclusion and diversity.
“That really seemed to open the doors to some creative expression that came from students about diversity, inclusion, acceptance,” Stanley said. “It really did seem to encourage some thinking about openness, and being included and acceptance.
“I was really impressed with the depth of their thought with the expressiveness of their ideas, and it felt really good to be using that Spindletop name again.”
Dombrosky said the student contest was a late addition but is an important part of the festival.
“Making room for those films in the program was something that I definitely wanted to do, because we’re always trying to get a connection to student filmmakers in Southeast Texas,” he said. “It’s been a challenge over the years because there’s no one place to go to, or one person to talk to, to reach all of the students. It’s always been a challenge to try to get the word to them, we’re hoping that this contest will achieve that this year, but also it will be something that we’ll build upon going forward.”
Some of the films have been made under the limitations of the pandemic. Dombrosky said one of the films in the 409 Showcase shows the creativity inherent among area filmmakers.
“One of them is actually a film called ‘Alone+Together,’ that was made by a local filmmaker (Jimmy Womack) during quarantine, because he wanted to continue creating film but couldn’t get anyone to join him,” Dombrosky said. “The entire film has one cast member, which is himself, and it was shot entirely in one location. It’s actually surprising how dynamic the film is considering that limitation.”
Another new component of the festival is a reading of the winner of the screenplay contest at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, 1-3 p.m., Sept. 11. Admission is free.
“We’re really pleased about being able to offer that,” Dombrosky said. “I don’t think that there’s enough events in Southeast Texas that put a spotlight on screenwriters. I’m really happy that we were able to incorporate a staged reading of the first place-winning screenplay at this year’s festival. I would love to do more that just focuses on screenwriters in Southeast Texas.”
Dombrosky said organizers are already working on next year’s festival. Past festivals have included panelists and guest speakers, vendors, and live demonstrations.
“All of that are things that we want to continue doing,” he said. “I say that we’ve been on hiatus for years, and this is the triumphant return of this thing that had been an annual event every year since 2008.”
For more information and a complete lineup of films, visit boomtownfestival.com/ boomfest2022.
This story first ran in the Aug. 26 Art of Living section of the Beaumont Enterprise.