Dallas filmmakers unearth alien city in forgotten WFAA footage

In 'Frame of Mind' episode, 10 filmmakers dig through WFAA's historical archives at SMU and discover new perspectives on Dallas' past and present.

By Peter Simek

From 1960 to 1977, WFAA shot its news footage on 16 mm film. Unlike much of the video the TV news affiliate has subsequently used to record Dallas news, that 16 mm film was never deleted, corrupted, or recorded over. Instead, it sat in storage for years until it was recently donated to SMU’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. The university library has since undergone the painstaking effort of identifying, cataloging, and digitizing 17 years of images of Dallas’ history.

This evening, on VideoFest and KERA’s Frame of Mind program, you can see some of that footage. As part of the show’s 25th anniversary season, Frame of Mind producer and VideoFest director Bart Weiss handed over access of the WFAA footage — all 1.3 terabytes of it — to 10 area filmmakers, who have each taken the fragments of history and reconstructed it into 10 new short films.

The results aren’t so much historical documents as they are interpretations and conversations with the past, as well as considerations of the way that film captures, preserves, and distorts the historical record. In fact, most of the filmmakers choose to focus on footage and themes that resonate with our current moment — race, policing, violence, equality, sexism — exploring how some of these themes percolate through the historic footage.

Perhaps what is most interesting about all of the films is the way the disconnect between the filmmakers’ individual visions and the perspective or original intent of the WFAA footage reveals latent attitudes and cultural assumptions.


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