Arts & Culture

Houston Kicks Off Its First International Poetry Film Festival

A collaborative art form that is not often showcased by itself will now have its own festival in Houston.

Images from cinepoems of the 2019 REELpoetry Festival

Cinepoetry is a genre that blends poetry and film, with a myriad of approaches. It's often a film that features a poem, as well as collaborations with musicians and artists — but it doesn't have to.

"One of the cinepoems [in the festival] is actually silent. But you get to see the poetic expression, if you will. It has its own rhythm and meter even though it lacks words," said Fran Sanders, founder and director of REELpoetry, a poetry film festival sponsored by her organization, Public Poetry.

The three-day event will screen about 40 cinepoems from over a dozen countries, plus documentaries and videos. The festival opens with a showcase of local poets, at times reading live on-stage, alongside videos of their past performances in a "4-D" experience.

Sanders said that, as a genre, cinepoetry is not usually shown by itself, but with Houston's active poetry and film scene, she decided to focus on it and create the city's first international festival of this kind.

"I think it will introduce a whole new audience to some really exciting poetry that's going on at this time all over Houston, all over the country and all over the world,” she said.

The plan is to make REELpoetry an annual or biennial festival. "There is so much exciting material that's out there, this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Sanders.

Her inspiration for the festival came after watching BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, a documentary about the award-winning poet, playwright, teacher and activist, who emerged from the Black Arts Movement.

"I thought, people need to see this. People need to know who she is and what she's accomplished,” she said.

A screening of BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez will be the centerpiece of the festival. The film showcases Sanchez's life, beliefs, vision and ground-breaking poetry. But it's also Sanchez's approach to social justice through her life and art that Sanders hopes audiences will take with them beyond the festival.

"Poetry is a really unique and valuable way of transforming the world. Poetry is enormously powerful, and this film about Sonia Sanchez gives you a sense of what the real power of poetry can be,” Sanders said.

The festival takes place March 22 – 24, at various venues. A complete schedule and tickets are available here.

Listen to the complete interview with Fran Sanders below:

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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