USA Film Festival Celebrates Its 52nd Year April 20-24

USA Film Festival returns
Calendar Girls at USA Film Festival

The USA Film Festival celebrates its 52nd year as it returns to the Angelika Film Center at Mockingbird Station in Dallas April 20-24.

“We are so pleased to be able to celebrate Dallas Arts Month and bring our program to the community with filmmaker guests in attendance again,” USAFF Managing Director Ann Alexander says. “And with support from our Sponsors, this year’s program will be presented as all free admission.

A highlight of the festival this year, Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums, screens April 23 at 5 p.m. Director Soren Sorensen, Omar Sosa and his manager, Scott Price, will all participate in the post-screening Q&A. This program is presented in partnership with Sammons Jazz and the Sammons Center for the Arts in celebration of D’JAM (Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month).

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums

The fascinating documentary looks at the life and music of the influential Cuban pianist and composer. A multiple Grammy-nominee, Sosa is one of the most versatile jazz artists today. He’s known for fusing a wide range of jazz, world music, and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original sound, with a Latin jazz heart.

USA Film Festival returns
Omar Sosa courtesy USA Film Festival

The film traces Sosa’s long and winding road to becoming an indelible and truly unique presence in the world of music. From his childhood in Cuba, conservatory education at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Música in Havana, military service in Angola during that country’s long civil war, and eventual relocation to Ecuador where he wrote, arranged, and performed commercial jingles, Sosa’s story is remarkable and unexpected. After a stint as a sought-after sideman in the Bay Area’s burgeoning Latin jazz scene, Sosa released over 30 albums. He received four Grammy nominations, three Latin Grammy nominations, and still performs around the world.

Juno Films

The Festival expands its partnership with Juno Films to present four critically-lauded new films including the Southwest premiere of A Song for Cesar, As In Heaven, Calendar Girls, and The Pact.

Program highlights and special guests for this year’s festival include a salute to actress Sally Struthers with a special 50th Anniversary screening of the Sam Peckinpah classic “The Getaway” (1972). Shot in Texas, the film features Struthers’ memorable performance, and stars Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. An on-stage conversation with Ms. Struthers and film historian Foster Hirsch will follow the screening.

Co-writers/directors Andres Alegria and Abel Sanchez will present “A Song for Cesar,” a rich documentary which portrays the previously untold story of the musicians and artists who dedicated themselves to peacefully advance Cesar Chavez’s movement. An onstage conversation with Andres Alegria, Abel Sanchez, Arturo Rodriguez President of United Farm Workers, and Texas son and legendary American Tejano performer Little Joe Hernandez follows the screening.

Salute to Bob Ray Sanders

A Salute to DFW journalist Bob Ray Sanders features a conversation and clip compilation program including clips from some of his early journalism work in the 1970s (from The KERA Collection). Fort Worth Star-Telegram Columnist Bud Kennedy hosts the conversation with Sanders. The program is curated by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, SMU Libraries.

Dale Dickey will present A Love Song, featuring her critically-acclaimed performance in a film that weaves a spare, lyrical and ultimately joyful refrain out of the wondrous and transformative act of being alone. A Love Song stars Dickey, Wes Studi, Michelle Wilson, Benja K. Thomas, John Way, and Marty Grace Dennis, and marks the feature debut for Max Walker-Silverman.

Actor Theo Rossi and writer/director John Patton Ford will present Ford’s gripping feature debut Emily the Criminal. The film follows Emily (Aubrey Plaza) — a woman saddled with student debt desperate for income who finds herself seduced by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black-market capitalism with an increasing interest in her mentor Youcef (Rossi).

Oscar Peterson: Black + White

Director Barry Avrich and producer Mark Selby will present Oscar Peterson: Black + White, a ground-breaking “docu-concert” exploring the life and legacy of jazz icon and composer, Oscar Peterson: his sound, his stardom, and staggering virtuosity. This program also in partnership with Sammons Jazz and the Sammons Center for the Arts.

USA Film Fest
Oscar Peterson photo courtesy AVROTROS

Writer/director Tea Lindeburg will present her accomplished feature debut As in Heaven, a hypnotic and visually arresting coming-of-age drama based on Marie Bregendahl’s 1912 novel “A Night of Death.”

“Calendar Girls,” Katherine Shortlidge and Donna Allio will present Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen’s life-affirming documentary that captures the challenges of being a woman over 60 and the delicate balance of family, home and dance.

Short Texas Documentaries

Short Texas documentary films are featured, including “The Portal and the Park,” which looks back at the history and evolution of an important piece of public artwork by Robert Irwin located in Downtown Dallas. Originally known as “Portal Park Piece (Slice)” the film explores the reimagining of public land and the Irwin sculpture to serve as a “portal” into Downtown for a new generation of Dallasites when Carpenter Park reopens to the public on May 3.

USA Film Festival returns
The Portal and the Park

Texas Wines is Robert Burk’s short documentary about the history of Texas-grown wines and the industry today encompassing over 600 wineries. Other highlights include the comedy “The Duke,” directed by Roger Michell, written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren; and the uplifting The Phantom of the Open directed by Craig Roberts, written by Simon Farnaby and based on the book by Farnaby and Scott Murray, starring Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, and Rhys Ifans.

Tickets for all programs are free but quantities are limited. To reserve tickets in advance, call 214-821-6300 starting April 18. For more details and to view the full schedule of programs, visit

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.