If you’re a corporate headhunter recruiting a CEO for an energy company, where better to look than in Houston? Likewise, if you’re making a movie about such a headhunter scouting energy company CEO candidates, why would you make the movie anywhere else?
Bastian Gunthier, a German filmmaker who lives part of the year in Austin with his American wife, wrote and directed such a story. The city of Houston figures so prominently in the resulting film that Gunthier titled the movie after the city. Houston is playing at the Sundance Film Festival this month as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.
It is one of several Texas-set movies playing at the festival, which is going on now in Park City, UT, in what film critic Christopher Kelly called “an unusually Texas-flavored program.” Other movies include Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Jeff Nichols’ Mud and Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess.
Austin’s Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, Sundance veterans, also have movies showing at the festival though neither is set in Texas. Linklater’s film is Before Midnight, the third in a trilogy of highly regarded relationship movies starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Rodriguez is in Park City for an anniversary screening of his earlier Sundance favorite El Mariachi.
Houston, on the other hand, is steeped in Texas – Houston particularly. After spending a couple of days here scouting locations, the director tells CultureMap, “It was immediately clear to me that I needed to shoot in Houston.” The heat and humidity, the highways, the looming Ship Channel and the general look of the city – a result of the city’s lack of zoning – all figured in his decision.
“Houston is almost its own character in this film, which is why I titled it Houston – because it’s an antagonist in the film,” Gunthier says.
The filmmaker says he likes Houston – he even recreated part of the Art Car Parade for the movie – but his use of the word “antagonist” and a few other things that he says makes it sound like our city doesn’t come across all that positively.
Then again, don’t movie actors always say that they prefer playing bad guys? It’s more fun playing villains, they say, and they really get to show their stuff.