Weird Texas towns, alien saviors, confederate swords: July indie movie screenings

David Byrne's 'True Stories,' 1986

David Byrne's 'True Stories,' 1986 Image courtesy Warner Bros.

This July: a lost classic rediscovered, a lost sword making trouble, and music dudes making movies.

True Stories
Walker Art Cinema
7 p.m. July 17 & 19

True Stories (1986) is a faux documentary about a fictional Texas town celebrating 150 years and the quirky people who keep it alive. It’s directed by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, who stars as the faux-doc host, cruising in a red convertible (that is obviously in front of a green screen), narrating with an infectious smirk-wink. He's driving a car that’s going nowhere—and everywhere in our imagination—with earnest absurdity.

The wacky characters—like those played by John Goodman and Swoosie Kurtz—are inspired by true tabloid stories. That's life for the living, and, when it gets weird, it's just time to laugh. Like a heartfelt song about a small town, Byrne’s True Stories celebrates the goofy things that keep us going.

Cane River
Walker Art Cinema
7 p.m. July 24 & 26

Director Horace Jenkins, a brother, made Cane River (1982), a movie about the relationships and dramas specific to a free black settlement in Louisiana. The project was financed entirely by wealthy black funders, and featured an all-black crew and cast.

Jenkins died unexpectedly that same year at 42. Without its ship captain, Cane River sank to the unchecked storages of a studio... until someone stumbled upon and restored it in 2014.

Cane River
is splendidly shot, capturing the heat and brightness of the Southern sun and black culture. The movie tells the tale of black Creole life, of living and loving and fucking, and of the shame and triumphs in a Southern black community.

The all-black production presents beautiful shots of black grace and beauty, of black life and charm, but also does not shy away from issues in the community of colorism and the stultifying taboos of relationships and sex.

Sword of Trust
Landmark Theaters
One week starting July 26

Marc Maron has built a huge following being at the forefront of podcasting, drawing in listeners to his show, WTF with Marc Maron, through insider stories of life as a comedian.

His latest project, Sword of Trust, is about a man with a confederate sword that is worth a lot of money to people he despises and fears. He will, however, still take a buck from them. This gem of a movie is full of rolling, contemplative dialogue that crackles as characters maneuver around the comically rich conceit, and arrive at the truly emotional realizations Maron is known for.

Lynn Shelton directs, and Maron’s killer supporting players also pop and thrive, including nonstop ballers like Jullian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Toby Huss, and Dan Bakkedahl.

Space Is the Place
Trylon Cinema
Various times July 28-30

Jazz composer Sun Ra made a free jazz-style album, then wrote an escapist movie around it about black freedom.

Space Is the Place (1974) is an apocalyptic science-fiction flick. Scored by Sun Ra's unwieldy, experimental jazz, which is unrestricted by tempo or melody, the movie, starring Ra as a fictional version of himself, follows him as he attempts to free black people from oppression by transporting them to an alien planet.

Directed in a judgment-free verite style by John Coney, it's full of fun shots of ’70s Oakland and features Sun Ra’s eclectic, liberating, and hypnotically rhythmic imaginings.