Debbie Cerda's blog
This year's SXSW Community Screening: Austin Film Society ShortCase will be held Sunday, March 10 at 4 pm in Boyd Vance Theater at the Carver Museum, and will feature short films by Central Texas filmmakers ranging from science fiction to history, comedy to documentary. The screening is open to the general public (and free), but seating is limited so I suggest arriving early.
This year over 65 entries were submitted by AFS filmmakers. AFS Program and Operations Manager Ryan Long, AFS Marketing and Events Coordinator Austin Culp and I worked together to select the seven best films to fill the 90-minute screening time. We saw a lot of creative content representing the talent of AFS filmmakers, and we hope the SXSW audience will enjoy these films as much as we do.
For filmmakers who didn't make the cut, we hope that you'll submit films for future ShortCase events and take advantage of the programs available to the AFS filmmaker members.
Without further ado, here are this year's SXSW ShortCase films:
Polari and Stateside Independent present the Austin premiere of Any Day Now on Monday night at 7 pm at the Stateside Theatre. Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star as a gay couple who take in and provide a loving home to an abandoned teenager with Down syndrome. More information, including how to buy tickets, is available here.
The Austin Film Society celebrates the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused (pictured above) on Wednesday night at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre, with screenings at 7 and 9:30 pm and a cast Q&A and after-party. Purchase tickets here.
This week's Austin Film Society Essential Cinema offering is Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story. An Egyptian female talk show host stirs up political controversy when she focuses her on-air discussions on the topic of women's issues. Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story screens Tuesday at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse Village.
And don't forget the Slamdance on the Road event on Saturday, complete with a Q&A I'm moderating.
Movies We've Seen
A Place at the Table -- This compelling documentary exposes the truths and debunks myths about the critical issue of hunger experienced by millions of Americans on a daily basis. I find myself discussing several key elements of this film with friends days after watching the screener, and hope that others will join the dialogue about hunger insecurity. Read more in my review. (Violet Crown Cinema)
As I'd mentioned in my Sundance wrap-up, I was quite pleased to catch part of the concurrent Slamdance Film Festival while in Park City, Utah. You don't need to leave Austin, however, to catch some of the great films featured at the independent film festival this year, including some Texas shorts.
Slamdance hits the road this month with "Slamdance on the Road," a traveling showcase featuring 2013 Grand Jury award winners and local film shorts. The first stop is here in Austin on Saturday night at the Stateside Theatre. It's a double-feature, starting with Slamdance 2013's best documentary Bible Quiz and Austin short Hearts of Napalm, and ending with best feature narrative The Dirties and Texas-made short Winkelmann, TX. Filmmakers will be in attendance for post-screening Q&A.
Local filmmaker and Slamdance alumnus Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate, The Fickle) will also participate in a "Slamdance On The Road Coffee With..." with writer/director and lead actor Matthew Johnson and writer/producer Matthew Miller of The Dirties, following the feature screening. I'm moderating this event and from my interaction with Johnson and Miller at Slamdance last month, I can assure an engaging discussion from the pair. Slamdance founder Peter Baxter and producer Mark Matukewicz will also be in attendance for this special event.
One of the most controversial films to screen at Slamdance, The Dirties revolves around two friends who are subjected to constant bullying while they're working on a movie for a high-school class project. As they create a revenge film around their real-life antagonists, fiction builds into darkly humorous and terrifying insights into the tragic effects of bullying in high schools.
Local short film Hearts of Napalm, written and directed by Andy Irvine, premiered at Slamdance last month and will precede The Dirties. Starring local actors Ashley Spillers and Alex Dobrenko, this film offers an intimate and humorous look at the efforts of two lovers seeking the ultimate satisfaction in bed.
According to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (CAFB), food insecurity is "the condition of not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life." CAFB serves 21 Central Texas counties, from cities like Austin, Round Rock and Waco with dense pockets of poverty to small, rural communities with limited access to services. Of the nearly 300,000 people CAFB serves each year, 41 percent are children, and more than a third of the agency's older clients go for extended periods without food. CAFB reports "1 in 5 families served by CAFB experience the physical pain of hunger."
Across the U.S. the numbers become even more staggering, with 50 million people uncertain about where their next meal will come from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush bring this critical socioeconomic issue to audiences in their hard-hitting and engrossing documentary, A Place at the Table, focusing on three at-risk individuals from rural Mississippi to Philadelphia. Mississippi has the highest food insecurity rate in the U.S., but also the highest obesity rate from the empty calories consumed.
The main subjects featured in the film A Place at the Table include Barbie, a single mother in Philadelphia trying to get an education to provide a better life for her kids than she had growing up; Tremonica, a Mississippi eight-year-old who suffers from asthma, compounded by her weight issues brought on by the empty but cheap calories her mom can afford; and Rosie, a fifth grader who can't focus and is failing in school due to hunger and the resulting fatigue, and whose dream is to be an honor roll student.
Long-time Alamo Drafthouse programmers Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen may be moving into the next chapter of their careers, but one project that you can expect these vanguards to continue to support is the nonprofit American Genre Film Archive (AGFA). AGFA board members and advisors include Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League as well as Nilsen and Carlson, Joe Ziemba, and Sam Prime, who oversees the operations and development of the archive.
On Sunday at 2 pm, AFGA hosts a Reel One Party at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Periodic inspections are conducted on undocumented 35mm film prints contained in the archive by threading up several "reel ones" (which come in containers like the one at top), then watching the first 15-20 minutes to take note of opening credit information, overall condition of the film, and general plot information. Nobody knows what to expect and whether a film will be fun or a dud. After the mystery selections are played, the audience will vote for their favorite with the winning title screened at 11 pm. Tickets for the evening feature are $3 with proceeds going to AFGA.
As part of the monthly series "A Decade of Comedy in Latin American Cinema," Cine Las Americas presents a free screening of the Chilean comedy drama Ilusiones Opticas (Optical Illusions) on Wednesday at 8 pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). A group of characters attempt to deal with disappointments and setbacks, under the shadow of a corporate culture based on the privatization of the state health-care system.
The Stateside Independent film series and the Texas Independent Film Network are co-hosting the Austin premiere of the understated comedy Far Marfa, on Monday, February 25, at the Stateside Theatre. The 7 pm screening is already sold out, but tickets are still available for the 9:30 pm slot. This 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF) recipient film project features original music by local composer Graham Reynolds (Bernie, Before Midnight). Filmmakers will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
Writer/director Cory Van Dyke currently resides in Marfa, Texas, the west Texas town where this movie is set. Carter Frazier (Johnny Sneed) is just barely hanging onto an existence in a town where not much is needed much to get by. Without money or a job and a girlfriend who's recently moved out, Carter is desperately in need of a wake-up call, which comes from a brief but life-altering encounter with a stranger who turns out to be a famous modern artist, Steve Vincent (Steve Holzer).
Film on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.
The SXSW Film Festival and Conference is less than a month away, and the lineup includes a couple of alcohol-related movies worth seeing. Unfortunately the documentary Crafting a Nation, which features several local breweries, wasn't accepted based on their rough-cut submittal, but they are optimistic that the improved final cut will screen in Austin soon.
Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs) will premiere Drinking Buddies, a tale of two co-workers in a Chicago brewery who may be better suited for one another than their current partners. Will love blossom at the brewery, when beer is a factor?
In Hey Bartender (seen at top), documentary filmmaker Douglas Tirola tells the story of "the bartender in the era of the craft cocktail." The documentary focuses on two bartenders -- one young, one old -- pursuing their dreams through bartending. After being injured, a former Marine focuses on being a mixologist at the most popular cocktail bar in New York City. The older bartender left his job decades ago to open a hometown bar, and now struggles to keep it open.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
It's not often that biographical documentaries portray lesser-known behind-the-scenes movie professionals, but novelist and film journalist Joe O'Connell is capturing key player Gary Kent in his film project Love & Other Stunts, which is currently funding on Indiegogo through Wednesday, February 27. Kent has contributed to over 100 films in his 50-plus years in the film industry as a stuntman, actor, director, and writer. He's been a stunt double for Jack Nicholson and Robert Vaughan and was stunt coordinator for Richard Rush's Hell’s Angels On Wheels and Don Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-tep, as well as acting in noir Westerns such as The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind.
Love & Other Stunts covers not only Kent's film career, but his personal life from the release of his memoir Shadows and Light: Journeys with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood through more personal challenges, including his wife's battle with alcoholism and death in 2005. Kent has struggled with the aftermath of physical damage from stuntwork and a bout with cancer. O'Connell's documentary aims the spotlight on a now local legendary icon deserving of public recognition.
Local filmmaker Ronald Short premiered his comedy Billi & Theodore (seen at top), at the Indianapolis International Film Festival in July 2012, and finally makes its Austin debut Saturday at 10:45 am at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. This buddy road-trip film features Jordan McRae and Travis Emery as best friends picking up the pieces as they endure a car-jacking, parking lot brawls, and angry exes. McRae will be in attendance at this special engagement.
Most folks know the ND Austin venue at 501 Studios as a music venue, but art and film offerings are also taking place throughout the month. On Tuesday at 7 pm, The Puro Chingon Collective presents a free screening of Alfonso Cuaron's Mexican road-trip tale Y Tu Mama Tambien. Be sure to check out ND Austin calendar for more film-related events including screenings with live scores, and note that the North Door Pizza kitchen opens for calendared events.
As part of the monthly series "A Decade of Comedy in Latin American Cinema," Cine Las Americas presents a free screening of the comedy O Cheiro Do Ralo (Drained) on Wednesday at 8 pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). Pawnshop owner Lourenço (Selton Mello) manipulates his desperate clients for his own amusement. When he meets an attractive waitress (Paula Braun) at his local diner, he becomes obsessed with her "perfect well-shaped buttocks," much to his demise.
What a blur of activity and film that filled my first Sundance Film Festival, with my sixth day mostly at press screenings for Texas-related films Pit Stop, Prince Avalanche and Upstream Color. Read my review of Yen Tan's Pit Stop here, which you can watch at SXSW along with the low-key comedy Prince Avalanche and Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, his journey delving into psychological sci-fi.
I also watched Ass Backwards, a feminine version of the buddy road trip full of crass and self-absorbed humor. As much as I tried to enjoy this raunchy comedy, I found the storyline and editing quite messy, especially a subplot involving a reality TV personality who's a meth head and sex addict. Kudos to writers and stars June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson for putting their butts literally on the line, but save yourself time and instead watch the classic Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.
Day Seven was meant to be a writing and leisurely paced day with an interview with Shane Carruth, but I wound up at the well-attended Sundance Filmmakers Reception. The event provided a relaxed atmosphere for members of the press to mingle with filmmakers, including Pit Stop director Yen Tan and New York based writer/director Lauren Wolkstein (pictured at top).