The Oak Cliff Film Festival proudly carries the banner of cinema nerds, starting with the themes picked by the programmers every year.
Last year, OCFF devoted its lineup to Eadweard Muybridge, a crazed 19th-century inventor who helped establish the cinematic principle of perpetual motion. This year's festival, which is Thursday through Sunday at venues throughout Oak Cliff, finds inspiration in more recent developments.
The No Wave Cinema movement took flight in late-'70s and early-'80s New York, the brainchild of downtown filmmakers with lots of gumption and very little money. (Among the better-known No Wavers is Jim Jarmusch, whose first feature, Permanent Vacation, will show at the festival.) No Wave's guerrilla filmmaking traditions carry on to this day, practiced by artists who have a distinct advantage over their forefathers: tiny cameras you can stick in your pocket and even use to make a phone call in a pinch.
Yes, we have reached the age of iPhone cinema. The camera that comes with our ubiquitous Apple devices isn't just for shooting selfies and police activity. You can also use your iPhone to make an entire feature film.
That's what Sean Baker did. Baker's Tangerine, OCFF's opening-night film, was shot entirely on three different iPhones. You would never know by looking at it: The images of Los Angeles street life pop with bright color (achieved in post-production). Baker also used adapter lenses to give Tangerine a widescreen feel.
"Yes, it's shot on an iPhone, but it's not a gimmick," says OCFF programmer Barak Epstein. "They shot on an iPhone because they were shooting in L.A. and they had to be stealthy. They didn't have permits. The iPhone was a practicality thing."
The sense of mobility adds to the manic energy of the film, which concerns the transgender prostitute Sin-Dee (Kitana KiKi Rodriguez). She's fresh out of jail and on the warpath through L.A. to find her unfaithful pimp boyfriend (James Ransone).
Tangerine, like Sin-Dee, never stops surging forward as it fills the screen with bold vistas of Los Angeles' underbelly. The film was one of the surprise hits of this year's Sundance Film Festival, and Magnolia Pictures will release it this summer.
Tangerine, of course, is merely the most notable film shot on iPhone. Apple is currently running an ad campaign featuring short films shot by iPhone users. Closer to home, University of Texas at Arlington film professor Ya'Ke Smith used eight iPhones to shoot the chilling short One Hitta Quitta.
One Hitta, which won a Special Jury Prize at this year's Dallas International Film Festival, uses the iPhone's mobile technology to critique the culture of Internet violence. The film's main character is a teen addicted to watching real-life attacks via his iPhone. Before long, he's committing his own assaults.
Smith saw iPhones as a perfect match for Hitta's subject matter.
"With phones you can have some control over the image," he says via email.
"But shooting with no external lenses, no lights ... you just have to take a leap of faith and surrender to the notion that this style is appropriate for this particular narrative."
Plus, you can always check Facebook between shots.