The USA Film Festival is a Dallas-based, 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of excellence in the film and video arts.〔(Dallas News )〕〔(Pegasus News )〕 Founded in 1971, the USA Film Festival has presented the world, national and regional premieres of thousands of studio and independent feature films and short experimental, animated, documentary and dramatic films.
Year-round programs include a major annual film festival; the annual KidFilm®, the oldest and largest-attended international children's film festival in the United States; Oscar Night® America Dallas (Dallas’ only official Oscar event); special premieres, an Academy-qualified National Short Film Competition, film series, retrospectives organized around important themes and filmmakers, and educational activities including filmmaker discussions and extensive community outreach activities.
Through its year-round multicultural programs and special events, the USA Film Festival provides an opportunity for the public to discover films not scheduled for commercial distribution and sheds new light on familiar films by facilitating discussion and encounters with filmmakers and lecturers.
With the exception of special member screenings, all events are open to the public. Programs take place at theater (and other) locations throughout the Dallas area to ensure maximum accessibility for all area residents.
The USA Film Festival was created in 1971 by Dallas-born L.M. Kit Carson and SMU professor Bill Jones. At that time, the Festival concentrated solely on the then largely uncelebrated films made in the United States.〔 Both amateur and professional filmmakers were invited to submit works to a panel of nationally-renowned critics who selected the best films for competition in the annual festival. Director George Stevens was recognized with the Festival’s first Great Director Tribute.
In 1973, the focus shifted. Rather than a competition, the annual festival became a showcase for American films. The critics, acting as scouts instead of judges, offered films they deemed worthy of recognition and invited filmmakers and creators for on-stage discussion with the audience. Early critics and jurors included Hollis Alpert, Charles Champlin, Roger Ebert, Paul Schrader, Judith Crist, Barbara Bryant, Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and others.
The following year, the Festival expanded its activities, honoring Gregory Peck at the first Great Screen Actor Retrospective. Peck was present for the three-day event and appeared on stage each evening for discussion with the audience. Today the program exists as the Master Screen Artist Tribute.
In 1979, with the first National Short Film Competition, the Festival recognized excellence in this important cinematic form. Since then, the National Short Film and Video Competition has been broadened to include video arts and has screened thousands of films and videos, awarding over $250,000 in cash prizes, and presenting the top entries each year at a special ceremony during spring festival.
In 1981, recognizing the need for informational programs and resources among the rapidly growing Metroplex film community, the Festival dramatically increased its scope by offering a slate of activities throughout the year with a special emphasis on educational programs. In addition, the Festival established on-going partnerships with many local organizations to present some unique programs spotlighting the wide variety of cultural experiences recorded on film.
In 1983, responding to the void of high quality children's film programming in the commercial market, the Festival presented the first KidFilm Festival, celebrating excellence in children's media arts. As the first festival of its kind in this country, KidFilm brought national recognition to Dallas and has become the inspiration for similar programs nationwide. Today, KidFilm is the largest-attended children's media festival in the United States bringing 13,000 children, educators and adults to this popular arts-in-education program.
Since AFI Dallas, alter known as the Dallas International Film Festival, the USA Film Festival began to lose revenue. The festival’s revenue has from 18% between 2001 and 2009 and membership decreased 30%.
Currently, the year-round Festival presents:
* 28th annual KidFilm® Festival held in January
* 42nd annual USA Film Festival held in the Spring
* 34th annual National Short Film and Video Competition, an Academy qualified program
* Oscar Night® America Dallas, one of 49 official parties held on Oscar Night as is sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The event benefits the USA Film Festival’s KidFilm program
* Monthly programs including retrospectives, tributes, premieres and other events
* TexFest, periodic showcase for films made in Texas, a partnership between the USA Film Festival and the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professions is a periodic showcase of screenings of featured work shot in Texas by Texas filmmakers
* Texas Filmmakers Showcase, periodic showcase for filmmakers with ties to the Lone Star State. It is a joint venture between Houston Film Commission and Cinema Arts Festival and began as a student film competition
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