Much to my regret, I haven't yet been able to get to Cine Las Americas this year. Fortunately, several other excellent online writers have been sharing previews, reviews and other interesting notes on the film festival.
Check out these websites, which will tempt you to head out to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and the Mexican American Cultural Center for the remaining films and events at Cine Las Americas this week. Feel free to share links to other coverage in the comments.
- Austin Vida is publishing movie reviews from Cine Las Americas. Annar Verold was impressed with the Chilean documentary Nostalgia de la luz, and amused by opening-night film Las marimbas del infierno.
- Over at Austin Film Society's Persistence of Vision blog, AFS Programming Director Chale Nafus has been sharing his enjoyment of the festival and offering previews of many films. Here are his entries for Day One and Day Three of Cine Las Americas this year, and I'm sure he'll have more before the week ends.
- Kimberley Jones and Richard Whittaker at the Austin Chronicle recommends five must-see events at Cine Las Americas, some of which you can still catch.
- Even the parties are getting a bit of press: Michael Barnes reports on Friday night's Iron Dragon reception on the Statesman's Out and About blog, and chats with the Cine Las Americas filmmakers that attended.
It may still be early spring, but we're definitely seeing summer weather, which means people are going to the movies to cool off. A whole lot of films are opening in Austin this week, see for yourself. In addition, Cine Las Americas is underway all week at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and -- screenings are free at this venue -- the Mexican American Cultural Center. Read my preview for details.
Movies We've Seen:
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold -- Morgan Spurlock, the man who took on McDonalds and super-sized meals, now takes on product placement, with the help of POM Wonderful in this SXSW 2010 selection. Read Mike's SXSW review. (Arbor, Alamo Lamar)
Echotone -- Jette says: This AFF 2010 documentary about the Austin music scene and how it's affected by local development is back in town for a four-night run. It's also a very lovely movie with some great music. Read Debbie's review from AFF or my review for Cinematical. Don't miss seeing it in a theater. (Alamo Ritz)
Here's the latest Austin movie news and a few upcoming special events:
- Violet Crown Cinema downtown is gearing up to open April 29. If you can't wait that long, Austin Film Society is holding a fundraiser preview at the new theater on Wednesday, April 27. AFS founder Richard Linklater has selected eight titles from the Criterion Collection to screen in the theaters that night; you can pick a single or double-feature ... and the ticket prices include garage parking downtown. I'm very tempted to slip down there for Paris, Texas myself. Look for my interview with VCC manager Elizabeth Skerrett next week.
- Speaking of Linklater, local actor/artist Wiley Wiggins will be drinking and live-tweeting during a broadcast of Dazed and Confused tonight at 6 pm on cable TV network Current. Read this A.V. Club interview with Wiggins for all the details.
- If you prefer your movies in a theater and Twitter-free, you can always head over to the AFS Screening Room for a special screening of The Whole Shootin' Match at 7:30 pm with Sonny Carl Davis in attendance.
- Since the Dobie Theater closed last year, Austin no longer has a Landmark-owned theater in town, but it's still interesting to hear that Mark Cuban is putting the theater chain up for sale, along with Magnolia Pictures. Also interesting and slightly related: One of Magnolia's co-founders was Bill Banowsky, owner of Violet Crown Cinema here in Austin.
There is an ancient joke that the people of Texas would be much better off if the Texas Legislature, instead of meeting for 140 days every two years, would meet for two days every 140 years. Given the current legislature's less than stellar performance, I'm inclined to agree. (Molly Ivins said it best when she labeled Texas "the national laboratory for bad government.")
Whatever your opinion of the Texas Legislature, you'll probably agree that the biennial proceedings at the Texas Capitol are endlessly fascinating. And in conjunction with the current legislative session, this month I'm featuring a few TAMI videos that remind us some things never change in Texas politics.
Produced c. 1965, Mr. Speaker is an entertaining and informative documentary about a day in the life of Texas House Speaker Ben Barnes. Only 26 when he took office in 1965, Barnes was the youngest speaker in Texas history. He served as speaker until 1969 and then as lieutenant governor from 1969 to 1973.
Richard Linklater may not be there this year to scare European journalists with his "demonic gestures" (aka the "Hook 'em" sign) but Cannes Film Festival is going to have some excellent Texas and even Austin representation in May. I mentioned one short film last week but I keep hearing more and better news.
Here's what I have so far -- feel free to comment if I missed anything. I have no clue yet whether any of the local filmmakers/writers mentioned below will actually travel to France for the festival ... I just hope the movies come back here so I can see them (if I haven't already).
- The most obvious Central Texas movie at Cannes will be The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's latest film, which we will hopefully see in Austin starting on June 4. The Tree of Life is one of the features in the main Cannes competition, up against new films from Pedro Almodovar, Takashi Miike and Lars von Trier, among others.
- Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols' latest film, Take Shelter, will screen as part of the Critics Week competition at Cannes. You may recall that Take Shelter premiered at Sundance this year, although it hasn't yet screened here in Austin. Another Texas connection in the Critics Week lineup is a special screening of Walk Away Renee, directed by Houston filmmaker Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation).
- The Directors Fortnight at Cannes will include short film Fourplay: Tampa, directed by former Austinite Kyle Henry and written by still-an-Austinite (I hope) Carlos Trevino. It's one of only three American films in the Directors Fortnight this year. The short is part of a series that was awarded Texas Filmmakers Production Fund grants in 2009 and 2010.
Cine Las Americas is almost upon us so it's high time to do a little preview before opening night on Thursday. If you aren't familiar with Cine Las Americas, it's a festival celebrating the films and realities of those of Latin and Indigenous America, including a diverse selection of narratives and documentaries. Unlike most of the festivals in town, a great deal of the programming for Cine Las Americas is free.
This year, the primary venues are Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). The MACC screenings are free, and this year, the MACC is the main venue. In addition, two satellite venues offer a few additional free movies: the Jones Auditorium at the Ragsdale Center (St. Edwards University), and the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in. Plus there are those Master Classes I mentioned last week. That means a whole lot more free. Sure, passholders (the equivalent of badges) get priority seating, but that just means with a little patience, you can see a lot of world-class cinema regardless of how tight your budget. Besides, the passes are pretty affordable anyway.
It is a week full of narratives based on true stories ... and in one case, a classic work of literature. It's also one of those rare weeks when we haven't seen many of the movies opening in Austin. But that's okay, we've got the Off-Centered Film Festival happening this weekend, not to mention impatiently waiting for Cine Las Americas and the Violet Crown Cinema opening later this month.
Movies We've Seen:
Even the Rain (Tambien La Lluvia) -- I regret not getting a chance to see this dramatization starring Gael García Bernal. This story is about a controversial film production in Bolivia as locals face privatization of water in this eerie parallel of exploitation in both the past and present. Don has seen it and has a lot to say about this true story in his review. (Arbor)
If today's political activists are seeking inspiration from history, they should look no further than the 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas. As one of the early Spanish settlers in the West Indies, Las Casas participated in many of the atrocities -- slavery, torture and murder -- the settlers committed against the indigenous peoples. But Las Casas later saw the error of his ways, gave up his slaves, and devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the Indians, whom his fellow colonists considered less than human. Through his writings and activism, Las Casas is considered one of the first advocates for universal human rights.
Sadly, Las Casas probably would be very disillusioned by the state of today's world, where oppressed peoples continue to suffer in so many ways. But he also might find hope, for his modern-day activist brethren are still raging against their oppressors. The fight goes on.
This perpetual struggle for human rights is the backdrop for the stellar movie Even the Rain (También la lluvia), in which Las Casas is both a character and an inspiration. Spain's official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film, Even the Rain is a brutal, beautiful and emotionally wrenching examination of how today's struggle for social and economic justice has deep roots in history.
It may seem a bit off-topic to feature an interview with a craft brewer on Slackerwood, but Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing is no stranger to the film and television industry. As the star and host of the Discovery Channel's Brewmasters, the secrets behind his off-centered brewing techniques have been revealed to the general public. Calagione also selected Austin and Alamo Drafthouse to help him host the Off-Centered Film Fest (OCFF), which features short films from aspiring filmmakers.
I spoke with Sam Calagione by phone before his arrival in Austin, and here's what he had to say about the OCFF as well as the overlap between film and brewing.
Slackerwood: You've been in Austin for the Off-Centered Film Fest (OCFF) for several years now?
Sam Calagione: This is the fifth anniversary. I've come personally to Austin for the film fest every year.
What inspired the expansion of the OCFF for this year?
Calagione: I think we've expanded the program as a result of expanded excitement in craft beer in general -- also the enthusiasm that we have for working with the Alamo Drafthouse, which we think is just the perfect off-centered collaborator for us.
Here's the latest Austin movie news:
- Local movie Five Time Champion was a big winner at the Dallas International Film Festival last weekend, taking home the Texas Filmmaker Award ($20K in cash/goods/services). Read Don's review of the movie from SXSW and you may understand why. In addition, now-Austin filmmaker Clay Liford won a special jury prize for Wuss, the Dallas-shot film that premiered at SXSW last month (my review). For more about Austin movies at Dallas IFF, don't forget to read Peter Martin's column from yesterday.
- Austin Film Festival has teamed up with KLRU-TV for a dozen episodes of a new series called On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival. Each episode will include a short film by a Texas filmmaker that has screened at AFF, plus clips of panels, interviews, etc. from past fests. You can watch the show on Saturday nights at 7:30 on KLRU-Q, and the shows will be available online on klru.org. The opening show on Saturday will include the short Frente Noreste as well as footage of Lawrence Kasdan, Shane Black and Randall Wallace.
- Cannes will have some Central Texas representation this year. Katrina's Son, the short feature from UT alum Ya'Ke Smith, is included in the Short Film Corner (Court Metrage) at Cannes. You may remember that Katrina's Son screened at Austin Film Festival, where it won the Narrative Short Jury Award. Visit the short film's website for more info and a trailer.
- Austin Movies in the Park has cranked back up again for free screenings in Republic Square Park this month and next. Another series, Eastside Movies in the Park, will run through August at Fiesta Gardens. Austin Movie Blog has the details.