The drought in Texas shows no sign of letting up and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports that approximately 22 percent of active community water systems are on voluntary or mandatory water use restrictions as of April 17, 2013.
But the water crisis is not limited to just Texas -- it is a constant source of concern across the globe. The producers behind An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc. and Waiting for Superman focus on the global water crisis in the 2012 documentary, Last Call at The Oasis. Written and directed by Academy Award winner Jessica Yu (Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien), Last Call at The Oasis presents evidence about why the global water crisis will be the most critical issue of this century.
The film explores the role of water for our daily existence, as well as those communities across the world that are struggling with the lack of this essential resource. It features statements from activist Erin Brockovich and journalist Alex Prud'homme along with notable experts like climatology scientist Peter Gleick, hydrologist Jay Famiglietti and law and public policy professor Robert Glennon.
For more details about the movie, read Christopher Campbell's review from its 2011 premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, in which he says it's "necessary viewing for anyone on the planet who drinks water."
Last Call at The Oasis is currently available for viewing online, but you can catch a special screening of this documentary at the Alamo Drafthouse Village on Monday, April 29 at 7 pm. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Texas Water Foundation, a nonprofit organization created for "the purpose of generating a heightened public awareness among all Texans regarding the vital role water plays in our daily lives."
You'll see a familiar name from the local film industry amongst the Texas Water Foundation Board members, which include former Texas senator J. E. "Buster" Brown, former TCEQ Chairmans and Commissioners Kathleen Hartnett White and Buddy Garcia -- Austin Film Society founder and filmmaker Richard Linklater currently serves as a director.
Jonathan Demme, director of such feature films as Rachel Getting Married and Philadelphia, and such documentaries as Jimmy Carter Man from Plains, will receive the top award at the 2013 Austin Film Festival this fall. Demme is being honored with the fest's "Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking" Award.
Demme won an Oscar for his direction of The Silence of the Lambs. Recently Demme has done directing work on TV shows such as HBO's Enlightened. His Fear of Falling, based on a screenplay by Wallace Shawn, is currently in post-production. The photo above is from SXSW 2009, when Demme brought the concert documentary Neil Young Trunk Show to Austin.
AFF also announced its "Outstanding Television Writer" for 2013: Vince Gilligan, acclaimed for his creation of and work on the AMC series Breaking Bad. Gilligan also served as executive producer for The X-Files, and wrote screenplays for Hancock and the Texas-shot movie Home Fries. (Does this mean we might see Home Fries at AFF in October?)
On weekends as a kid, my sister and I would go play on my godparents' farm, which was just outside of the county seat where we lived in rural Maryland. Their two kids were our greatest friends, and together we formed a fearsome foursome, subjecting ourselves to our own glorious reign of terror that included snapping turtle bites, egregious poison ivy, falls from trees, fences, tire swings, horses and roofs, unfriendly ghost sightings, four-wheeler accidents and various fights with fists/mud/sticky burrs/chewing gum. We were always filthy and often bloody, but it was always an amazing adventure.
Some great children's films, like The Goonies, The Black Stallion and The Wizard of Oz, have captured youthful myth-making and discovery to cinematic advantage, and often use childhood dramas as a metaphor for adult problems happening just outside the frame. In Jeff Nichols' latest movie Mud, the grown-up world is at the center of the story but is seen through the electric naivete of youth. The magic of Mud is that you don't have to pretend to remember the heightened feeling of being a kid who finds an adventure. With Mud, you can watch the movie through a 12-year-old's eyes without ever leaving your own.
Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play Ellis and Neckbone, a contemporary Arkansas version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Like those two, one of the boys has a family and one is essentially an orphan, but both have problems at home and find that in this world, trouble itself is routine. The boys have a confidence that's both impressive and comic; they can fish, drive and operate a motorboat, but they are still learning how to curse.
When writer/director Nora Ephron died months ago, I was surprised to see Silkwood mentioned along the many other credits in her obits. Little did I know Ephron co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for this 1983 drama alongside Alice Arlen. Then I found out via IMDb searching that the movie was filmed in Texas! Obviously, I had to move it up my Netflix queue.
Silkwood is based on the true story of the woman of the same name, Karen Silkwood, who was born in Longview and spent some time in Beaumont. When we meet her in the film, however, she's a gal in her mid-twenties, played by Meryl Streep, working at a nuclear facility in small-town Oklahoma. Karen lives with boyfriend Drew (Kurt Russell) and best friend Dolly (Cher), who both work in the plant as well.
There are many other recognizable faces in this movie. David Strathairn and Fred Ward (who I know best from my childhood favorite Big Business) play co-workers in Silkwood's division, Craig T. Nelson appears as a smarmy guy at the plant, and I even spied Bill Cobbs (I'll Fly Away, Go On) in a lunchroom scene.
One of the breweries I featured in my first Film on Tap column is Hill Country-based Jester King Craft Brewery, one of the winning plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) regarding labeling and marketing. That case helped grease the wheels for the Texas Legislature to work closely with the TABC, craft brewers and other stakeholders to introduce legislation that impacts Texas craft brewers. The bills have made it through the state Senate, with a House vote expected by mid-May.
Jester King is participating in a less controversial endeavor next month, as the Violet Crown Cinema (VCC) has announced their new series CineBrew, a retrospective film program paired with regional craft beer tastings.
The series debuts on Wednesday, May 15, and will feature Jester King's Metal series of farmhouse beers: Black Metal, Funk Metal and Viking Metal. Brewery representatives will discuss the brewing process and how each of the beers attains its own style. My personal favorite featured is the farmhouse imperial stout, Black Metal, along with Funk Metal, a sour barrel-aged stout. Viking Metal is a truly unique beer aged in an Old Tom gin barrel and based on the ancient Swedish Gotlandsdricka, brewed with birchwood smoked malt, juniper and Myrica gale.
Viewers can enjoy the craft brew while watching the digitally remastered and previously unavailable 1992 documentary Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest, preceded by local filmmaker Kat Candler's powerful short film Black Metal, which screened at Sundance and SXSW this year.
It's a human drama thing. It's more than just a contest and it's more than just winning the truck. -- Benny Perkins, Hands on a Hardbody
If you're unfamiliar with Hands on a Hardbody, the essential thing to know about this compelling documentary is that that it's not about trucks. It focuses on a contest to win a truck, but the tricked-out 1995 Nissan Hardbody pickup is merely a prop at the center of a fascinating collection of character studies and a great commentary on human nature. The movie has finally been released on DVD and will have a special screening in Austin on Friday.
In S.R. Bindler's cult-classic 1997 film, a Longview, Texas car dealership sponsors a contest in which two dozen contestants compete to win a new pickup. The event is a grueling test of endurance: The lucky (and exhausted) winner is whoever remains standing the longest with at least one hand on the truck. The rules are rather draconian -- contestants are allowed only a five-minute break every hour and a 15-minute break every six hours. They must remain standing the entire time; no leaning, squatting or kneeling is allowed. A contestant who removes both hands from the truck for even one second is out of the contest.
By Marcelena Mayhorn
Friday marked my last chance to catch some really great films from Cine Las Americas, although I sadly wished I had gotten a chance to take in more. I mentioned earlier how I tried to check out films from different genres. I decided to take it a step further for my last day to check out two types of movies I don't usually take in: a thriller and a documentary.
My thriller choice was The Second Death, a film about Alba, a cop trying to solve a murder mystery in a small town. The victims are discovered as being "burned from the inside out," found by the police with a rosary in their hands and positioned as if they were praying. When the clues and witness accounts start to incorporate religious undertones, Alba's faith and beliefs are tested (especially since she does not believe in God). The film has a great twist at the end, exposing the truth of the crime and how the local church was tied into it.
On Friday, the movie Upstream Color opened in Austin and is currently screening at Violet Crown Cinema and Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter.
While at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, I sat down for a conversation about the film with writer/director Shane Carruth, pictured above with producer Casey Gooden, production designer Tom Walker and editor David Lowery. This psychological science-fiction narrative is Carruth's long-awaited second feature.
Carruth also stars in the film with Amy Seimetz as a couple reluctantly brought together by forces of nature and fate beyond their control. Together they must piece together their lives and come to an understanding of their connection to one another and other people.
By Marcelena Mayhorn
For me, days two and three of Cine Las Americas were spent at Alamo Drafthouse Village, indulging one too many times in items from the wide menu selection (I'm certain I've already gained ten pounds). I tried to make it a point to not only see films from different countries, but from different genres as well. Here's what I got to check out.
Wednesday afternoon gave me I Am a Director, a hilarious comedy about Carlos, a guy trying to make a Hollywood film with no money and no past experience. It reminded me of being in film school and meeting those dummies who thought they were the son or daughter of Spielberg himself, but didn't even know how to turn on a camera. Carlos is a lovable character, but you want so much to just slap him because he is so naively ignorant. Everything was spot on humor-wise though, and I imagine film students will probably laugh the hardest at this movie.
The evening then brought me 3 -- a story of a mother and daughter dealing with the consequences of the man who walked out on them years ago. Ironically, the father/husband, Rodolfo, wants to come back to be a part of their lives again many years later. The two women obviously felt the sting of his leaving and have dealt with it by not caring about what happens to them, living as roommates more so than as a family. Rodolfo cannot see that they hurt and act this way all because of his moving on with his life. There was a sadness to the story I hadn't seen before: the reality of losing trust and how we cope with the remaining scars. A very moving film, to say the least.
Here's the latest in Austin and Texas film news.
- Two Austin-based theater chains are expanding their reach in the U.S. Violet Crown Cinema will open a second location in Santa Fe at an undisclosed date, according to Austin 360. The arthouse theater, owned by Bill Banowsky, co-founder of the Austin-based Magnolia Pictures, will be part of the Santa Fe Railyard development. Austin Business Journal reports that Alamo Drafthouse will open its first Lubbock area location next year, with construction currently underway.
- The inaugural Q Fest, celebrating queer cinema, began yesterday at the Josephine Theatre in San Antonio, the San Antonio Current reports. Festivities include a short films package and documentaries, such as San Antonio Four, about four Latina lesbians from San Antonio who may have been wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two children in the early '90s.
- The latest movie by former Austinites Joel and Ethan Coen, who filmed the 2010 remake True Grit in-and-around Austin, has been chosen as an official selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival, according to IndieWire. Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, tells the story of an aspiring folk singer-songwriter (Oscar Isaac) in 1960s Greenwich Village.