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NASA and Houston Cinema Arts Society Present: CineSpace

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The Houston Cinema Arts Festival is held annually to celebrate films made by and about visual, performing, and literary artists. For the first time in seven years of the fest, the Houston Cinema Arts Society has introduced an element of competition. HCAS collaborated with NASA to present CineSpace, a short film contest featuring shorts made with actual NASA imagery. CineSpace was created to bring awareness to the massive archive of footage available to the public, and to encourage people to use it. In all, there were 194 entries from 22 countries and 32 states. The rules stipulate that films must be less than 15 minutes, and at least 10% of each short must be comprised of NASA footage. The winners received cash prizes and their films were played on the International Space Station.

The program we watched at the festival featured 16 shorts in all; the finalists and the winners. The films ran the gamut from super artsy to super corporate and it was interesting to see the different ways filmmakers chose to incorporate the space and shuttle footage, all of which looked amazing on the big screen. The finalists were narrowed down by committee and first place was chosen by acclaimed director and native Houstonian, Richard Linklater. He awarded the top prize to Higher Ground, a quaint little film about a family who watches a shuttle launch on TV, gets inspired, and builds a spaceship out of scraps and pieces torn from their home. A lot of work clearly went into the project and it was revealed in a Q&A after the screening that Mary Magsamen, Stephen Hillerbrand, and their children, actually did rip apart their home to build a two and a half story chrome spaceship in the backyard. Far out. (click on pics to enlarge)


Second place went to Fernando Dueñas Peña for the uniquely animated Mission Avante, third place went to Alexandre B. Lampron for the whimsical Le Voyagers, and special jury prizes were awarded to Wayne Slaten for Red Pearl, a sweet mother-daughter story featuring a water crises and Mars, and Home, a very brief short film fashioned like a recruitment commercial.

NASA recently posted all 16 shorts on youtube (woohoo!). I made a playlist that puts them in the order they were screened at the festival (mostly, Guiding Light may be out of place), and also embedded them individually in case you want to explore on your own terms. While searching for the shorts, I came  across a version of Sander van den Berg’s film Outer Space (a personal favorite) with different music. It features That Home (Instrumental) by The Cinematic Orchestra, and is a better pairing of music and imagery. Both versions are posted below, but the playlist only has the one from the festival.

Prepare for liftoff.

Playlist (all 16 short films)


1. Home by Benjamin Eck. Sherman Oaks, CA
Winner- “Film Best Depicting Spirit of Future Exploration of Space”


2. Red Pearl by Wayne Slaten. League City, TX
Winner – “Film Best Depicting Benefits to Humanity from the International Space Station”


3. As We Set Sail by Lee Arter. Los Angeles, CA


4. Come Closer by Amia Yokoyama. Los Angeles, CA


5. Gravitation: Variation in Time and Space by Andrei Severny. New York, NY


6. Guiding Light by Guy Shahaf. Yehud, Israel


7. Is It Possible To Define Inspiration? by Courtney Robinson. Grimsby, Lincolnshire


8. Higher Ground by Mary Magsamen and Stephen Hillerbrand. Houston, TX
Winner- 1st Place


9. Outer Space by Sander van den Berg. Pijnacker, Zuid-Holland. HCAF version.

Other version featuring That Home (Instrumental) by The Cinematic Orchestra.


10. General Astronomy by Victoria Taylor-Gore. Amarillo, TX


11. Le Voyage by Alexandre B. Lampron. Laval, Quebec
Winner- 3rd Place


12. Voyagers by Daniel Land and Paul Frieling. Detroit, Michigan


13. A Little Journey by Lisset Mendoza. Anaheim, CA


14. Mission Avante by Fernando Dueñas Peña. Bogota Colombia
Winner- 2nd Place


15. End of the Sky by Elijah Alvarado. Iowa


16. Supersymmetry by Trent Jaklitsch. Brooklyn, NY


Welcome back to Earth. While the Cinespace shorts competition doesn’t exactly fall under the Houston Cinema Arts Festival’s credo of “films made by and about artists”, it was a welcome addition to the festival and it didn’t feel out of place. It played alongside A Year In Space, a 10 web episode chronicle of astronaut Scott Kelly’s time aboard the International Space Station, and a 20th anniversary screening of Apollo 13 with screenwriters William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert, as well as astronaut Don Pettit. With NASA located nearby I think it was appropriate, and I hope to see the Houston Cinema Arts Society team up with them again in the future–whether it’s part of the festival or something else.

More HCAF coverage coming soon!

Amazing photos courtesy of NASA:

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 at at 7:05 a.m. EST, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Florida. The Orion spacecraft orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean. No one was aboard Orion for this flight test, but the spacecraft is designed to allow us to journey to destinations never before visited by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. Photo credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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The back shell of the InSight spacecraft is lowered onto the lander in a clean room at Lockheed Martin.

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