Marfa is a small town in Texas that has gained cultural capital and earned a place in the American imagination for its out-of-time feeling of lost enchantment. James Dean filmed his last film in Marfa; it’s also one of the most buzzed-about hubs of contemporary art in the U.S. As a place, it seems to combine a sense of a borderless, amorphous past immune to history with a feeling that anything unexpected can show up.
Filmmaker Greg McLeod first traveled to Marfa from his native England for the town’s film festival many years ago. When he returned, he collaborated with his brother and filmmaker partner Myles on a uniquely hypnotic and visually arresting animated travelogue, full of small vivid moments, stories that capture the sense of an eternal Americana and characters that seem to exist in their own netherworld.
Combining photos, audio footage, interviews and beautifully rendered ink-and-watercolor hand-drawn animation, the film captures Marfa’s impressionistic yet vivid sense of place. As a result of its craft and technique — and enriched with a rich sound design by Tom Angell — this short animation about a captivating place is in itself remarkably entrancing, and accomplishes the feat of turning a place into a character, with its own sense of logic and time.
“Marfa” went on to have its debut at Sundance and played at over 20 other prestigious festivals, where it was lauded for its loose, lively feel and its stellar sense of craftsmanship. Many of us may never get to see Marfa, but through this remarkable travel documentary, we can enjoy seeing it through a singular, brilliant vision.