An abridged version of this story appeared Sunday in The Oklahoman.
Film criticism, a local legend and Oklahoma moviemaking were on the agenda Saturday at the deadCenter Film Festival in downtown Oklahoma City. The last full day of the five-day fest played host to more than 40 short films and close to a dozen feature films across seven downtown locations.
Included among those films Saturday was “For the Love of Movies: A Story of American Film Criticism” which traces the profession from its origins to today’s climate, where dozens of film critics have been laid off from their full-time positions.
The director of the film, Gerald Peary, himself a film critic for the Boston Phoenix, was on hand to discuss the state of the industry, and the increasingly democratized state of it thanks to the Internet. While the legions of online critics — mostly young writers — represent a major shift in the way criticism is practiced and perceived, it’s not all bad, Peary said.
“This is not an anti-young person film,” he said. “This is not an anti-web film for sure. I really do feel two ways at once. I feel protective of older critics. At the same time, I agree with critics that say we should look to young people.”
Elvis Mitchell, former New York Times film critic and host of public radio program “The Treatment,” appears in the film and attended the festival to participate in a panel discussion with Peary.
Despite the fact that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a living as a film critic — a proposition that was always dicey, he said — the influx of different perspectives is certainly welcome.
“The great thing about now is that criticism isn’t monolithic anymore,” Mitchell said.
Saturday also saw the world premiere of “The Wayman Tisdale Story” a documentary about the NBA and OU basketball star and jazz musician who battled bone cancer and died suddenly last May.
Directed by Chicago-based filmmaker Brian Schodorf, the film features interviews with Tisdale conducted just months before his death. Tisdale was emphatic that quitting was not an option, Schodorf said.
“All the stories you hear about Wayman Tisdale are true,” he said. “[He] was very grounded and that’s why he could handle what he was going through so well.”
Anita Richardson, Tisdale’s sister-in-law, said the film was immensely rewarding.
“It really showed how much of an impact he made,” Richardson said.
Greg Price, Tisdale’s friend and a board member of the Wayman Tisdale Foundation, was emotionally impacted by what he saw, he said.
“Sitting that close to the screen and seeing him right there a year later — it just kind of got to me,” Price said.
Also showing at the festival Saturday were feature films by Oklahoma filmmakers, including “The Rock ’N’ Roll Dreams of Duncan Christopher” and “1 in 3.”
Tulsa native Jack Roberts wrote and starred in the karaoke superstardom comedy “Rock ’N’ Roll Dreams,” and said his state roots played a major role in the film’s conception.
“We really wanted to make a fun movie that had a broad audience and we wanted to make a movie that was Oklahoma-centric,” Roberts said.
Lagueria Davis, who lives in Norman, directed “1 in 3” which draws on her experiences working for the Women’s Resource Center in Norman for its story of the effects of domestic violence. Despite the touchy subject matter, Davis had plenty of people who wanted to help, she said.
“Kudos to Oklahoma for having people who wanted to get on board this project,” Davis said.