In the latest issue of Film Comment, there's an article on Texas filmmaker Eagle Pennell. Not only is it a fascinating read on a maverick filmmaker, but I'm ashamed to admit I've never heard of this man before.... or any of his films. But, in reading more and more about him, it seems evident that his films (along with the work of John Cassavetes) eventually wound up inspiring what we call "independent films" today. In fact, Pennell's 1977 film, "The Whole Shootin Match" which played at the 1979 USA Film Festival, has been quoted as the film that inspired Robert Redford to create the Sundance Institute.
How can such a large part of cinema history go unnoticed or undocumented for so long? Pennell eventually produced 6 feature films and one short, all based in Texas and employing the basic same cast members. Richard Linklater claims Pennell as a major influence. None of Pennell's films are available on anything except out of print VHS copies and there's been very little retrospective writing on his career, even though he seems to be a larger-than-life figure who caused more destruction by his drinking than his filmed efforts.
All of this got me thinking- I live in one of the largest states in the United States and our film history is exponential, boasting some highly innovative filmmakers and works who get very little attention (as I'm sure every state could claim). So, to rectify that in my own small way, I plan on seeking out Texas made films and shedding some light on their existence. This may be an arduous process at times... tracking down out of print VHS copies or soliciting the many local video stores for homemade, off-the-wall personal experiments, but its an undertaking I feel compelled to attempt. If we don't understand and experience the miles closest to home, how can we ever really call ourselves cultured in the base attributes of our native lands? So, be watching for 'regional reviews' (regional being the term applied to independent films before there was an independent movement) and enjoy.