A scene from Best of Enemies, showing at the USA Film Festival.

A scene from Best of Enemies, showing at the USA Film Festival.

USA Film Festival

The USA Film Festival got started way back in 1971, but the spirit of this year's event, Wednesday through Sunday at the Angelika Dallas, resides even further back in time, in the Eisenhower '50s.

How retro is this 45th annual USA? Check out the guest list. 

There's Pat Boone, who fended off rock 'n' roll by making pop safe and shiny and trailed only Elvis Presley on the '50s charts. He'll be in town, along with Arlene Dahl and Diane Baker, for Saturday's screening of Journey to the Center of the Earth. (It's a new digital print, which brings a contemporary touch.) 

Tab Hunter in 1956.

Tab Hunter in 1956.

COURTESY OF TAB HUNTER/NYT

There's Tab Hunter, the '50s Hollywood heartthrob once linked with the likes of Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds. Ah, the Hollywood PR machine. It worked for Rock Hudson, and it worked for Hunter. The documentary Tab Hunter Confidential explores Hunter's life as a deeply closeted gay man. He, too, will be in the house Saturday. 

There's Iris Apfel, who started Old World Weavers with her husband, Carl Apfel, in 1950. She remains a fashion luminary at the age of 93. Apfel will be there for Friday's screening of Iris, a documentary portrait directed by the late, great cinéma vérité pioneer Albert Maysles, who died in March. 

Texans, as always, will be well-represented. Candy Clark, raised in Fort Worth, will be on hand for Friday's screening of the David Bowie space oddity The Man Who Fell to Earth. Jacksonville's Margo Martindale, a treasure for fans of The Americans, will receive a festival tribute at Saturday's short-film showcase, hosted by Dallas' Stephen Tobolowsky and Peri Gilpin. 

On Friday, Hockaday School alumna Lisa Loeb will help present the new comedy Helicopter Mom, to which she contributed several songs. You can get your high kick on Saturday with Sweethearts of the Gridiron, a documentary chronicling the blood, sweat and tears of recent high school graduates trying to crack the roster of the illustrious Kilgore College Rangerettes. 

And if you're looking for an ironclad critical recommendation, make sure you see Best of Enemies on Sunday. This crackling documentary puts us in the middle of the vitriolic televised debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential nominating conventions. Public intellectuals rarely mattered more.

Plan your life 

The USA Film Festival is Wednesday through Sunday at the Angelika Dallas, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane (in Mockingbird Station). For more information, visit usafilmfestival.com. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.com or call 214-631-2787.

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