Two indie films with Texas connections make their debut in Waco screenings this week although independent and Texas are their main common threads. Well, both are also free.
On Friday, a 20-minute documentary on Calvary Baptist Church’s pastor, Mary Alice Birdwhistell, will be shown at the Mayborn Museum, 1300 S. University Parks Drive, at 7 p.m.
Monday will feature the showing of the feature film “Texas Cotton,” directed by Tyler Russell, at 7 p.m. at the Waco Hippodrome.
The Birdwhistell documentary looks at the Waco pastor, her calling and church as part of a video series created by Baptist Women In Ministry and EthicsDaily.com.
“I’ve heard it said, ‘If you can see it, you can believe it,’” said Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women In Ministry. To provide those visuals, BWIM and EthicsDaily.com have agreed to produce a video series on women pastors in which they discuss their backgrounds, their experiences and churches.
Birdwhistell’s story and those that will follow — the next is due in early 2019 — are meant to encourage young women contemplating a call to pastor a church as well as offer churches interested in calling women pastors a feeling for that experience.
The short Birdwhistell video goes online this weekend on both the BWIM and EthicsDaily.com websites. Shot in the span of several days in Waco and Birdwhistell’s hometown of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, the video features her, her parents and church members as they discuss her journey of faith to Baylor’s Truett Seminary, Calvary Baptist Church and the pastorate that she accepted last year.
“It’s intimidating. You feel very vulnerable to have your life story shared so openly and honestly,” said Birdwhistell. “It’s overwhelming in the best way possible.” At the same time, she added, it’s not all about her. “It’s also a beautiful story about Calvary. It’s such a huge part of my journey. This community of faith saw this within me,” she said.
“Texas Cotton,” on the other hand, is a commercial independent feature film made to entertain and — an important part for director Russell — made in Texas. After about five years of making movies outside Texas, the Austin resident decided it was time to stay and film in the state.
Shot in locations such as LaCoste, Hondo and San Antonio, Russell said “Texas Cotton” is nothing fancy, just a story that has a lawman in a good light and with more than action and violence.
“Texas Cotton” follows a retired small town lawman (George Hardy) who has a gut feeling that a stranger accused of a crime is innocent, and works on his own to prove that. “Who doesn’t like a film that surprises you, that makes you happy, that makes you laugh,” he said. “This is for those who don’t want to see anyone get hurt or do anything bad.”
Hardy, an Alabama actor, found it a “real joy” to film in small-town Texas and didn’t have to change much to convince viewers of his Texanness. “I probably have more of a twang than a drawl . . . but Texas is a big place and there’s room for different accents.”
“Texas Cotton” also features Wacoan Torren Davis.
Russell is screening his film across the state to boost the profile of Texas filmmaking and it’s in that cause that the Deep In The Heart Film Festival, held at the Waco Hippodrome, is sponsoring Monday night’s screening.