Debbie Cerda's blog
Now that you've perused Slackerwood's AFF Venue Guide and hopefully built your Austin Film Festival schedules, it's time to see what else Austin has to offer when you are not in a theater, and where you can enjoy local fare. The SXSW 2010: Where to Eat Around Film-Fest Venue Guide is a great start for places to find good eats around the some of the AFF venues. As Jenn stated, we aren't going to recreate information that you can find on Yelp or Dishola -- you can go to their sites yourself -- but rather share some of our local favorites.
I recommend checking out some of the local food bloggers to find out what's new and exciting in the Austin food scene. Tasty Touring and Relish Austin are good places to find out about a lot of the trailer eateries and new restaurants -- check out the blog roll on Relish Austin for more local resources. Want to know who uses local and seasonal products? Check out Edible Austin's local products resource guide to restaurants that use locally sourced food on their menu selections.
Here are some places to enjoy a bite to eat near AFF festival venues:
Jenn shared an insightful post earlier this week about why you shouldn't pass on a Austin Film Festival pass this year, and I have another reason for you -- the abundance of amazing short films that have been selected for 2010. AFF is really knocking it out of the park with 12 diverse shorts programs, each of which will be screened twice during this year's fest. These short films range from darkly humorous to heart-wrenching sadness, including narrative and documentaries. So many of the selections are based in Texas that they're too numerous to mention, but there are definitely a few that I'll highlight. Check out the extensive list of Compiled Shorts programs and be sure to add a couple -- if not all -- of them to your AFF film schedule. A few short films will also be screened before selected features.
I had an opportunity to watch several of the short films to be offered at AFF this year, and although I enjoyed many of the films, by far my top recommended shorts are in the Shorts 3 program, including Katrina's Son, which was awarded a grant in 2008 by the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. From the opening scene to the final moment, Katrina's Son is the most powerful 15 minutes that I've seen all year. Director Ya' Ke Smith (Hope's War) portrays a young Katrina evacuee who has been ignored by society. After losing his grandmother during Hurricane Katrina, he travels to San Antonio, Texas to find his mother, who abandoned him years earlier and has communicated only through postcards. Working with kids and animals is never an easy job, but Smith's writing and tight direction connects the audience to the lead character.
Swedish screenwriters and directors Johan Storm and Johan Lundborg attended Fantastic Fest this year for the American debut of two films -- the thriller Corridor (Isolerad) and a 30-minute short film, Rosenhill. Both of these suspenseful movies were well received by audiences at Fantastic Fest, and you can read my review of Corridor. Emil Johnsen, lead actor from Corridor was also here to support the film at both Q&As.
I sat down during the fest with "the Johans" to discuss their films, as well as differences between American and European film audiences and festivals. Johan Storm's uncle is actor Peter Stormare, and we also talked about his involvement in Corridor. Here's what they had to say:
What's it been like to screen Corridor at Fantastic Fest?
Johan Storm: It was the second screening ever of the film. It was a tremendous experience to see it with an audience that good, that well-behaved. In thrillers and comedies we really need the response of the audience to feel that it's okay to laugh, and to feel the excitement. I think that we hit all the right notes with the audience.
I strongly believe that anyone who proclaims themselves a horror fan should be required to read Danse Macabre, Stephen King's non-fiction commentary on horror fiction in print, radio and film. Although it was written almost 30 years ago, his often-academic examination into the influences on his writing is extremely insightful. One discussion that I think of time and time again is his classification of the horror genre into three levels: terror, horror and revulsion. King further states that terror is the "finest element," and one he strives for himself. He defines terror as the suspenseful moment before the actual monster is revealed -- horror is when we actually see the monster. Finally, King equates revulsion with the gag reflex, a bottom level which he considers a cheap gimmick.
One of the horror films that I saw at Fantastic Fest this year captured the finest element of terror, so much that I saw it in the theater twice -- the psychological thriller Corridor, written and directed by Johan Storm and Johan Lundborg. In an everyday setting of a Swedish flat, these emerging filmmakers created a terrifying experience for both their characters and the audience.
Corridor opens with an introduction to Frank (Emil Johnsen), an introverted medical student who has a small quiet flat where he can focus on his sutides. However, when new neighbor Lotte (Ylva Gallon) moves in upstairs, his quiet life is disrupted by her intrusive nature and late-night lovemaking with her abusive boyfriend Micke (Peter Stormare). Frank also resents his classmates, from the teacher's pet who gets a perfect score to the poor scoring student who wants to study with him.
Let's face it: Zombie movies can be stumbling messes with running times that are so lengthy that many genre film festival programmers and fans want a break from the subgenre. It's not that I don't like zombies, but when it comes to celluloid it's zombie overkill. However, when a film as tight as writer Benjamin Hessler and director Marvin Kren's Rammbock comes along, I'll definitely make an exception. The film clocks in at 61 minutes due to pressure from the producer to keep the budget down and a format that would be conducive to television broadcast in Germany. Yet the story engages viewers so quickly and keeps a steady pace that my only complaint about the brevity of Rammbock is what happens in the next chapter of this story.
The central protagonist of Rammbock is Michi (Michael Fuith), who becomes a reluctant hero by being at the wrong place at the right time. Just as he arrives for a surprise visit to his ex-girlfriend's apartment in Berlin to rekindle their romance, a zombie outbreak occurs. Instead of finding Gabi in her apartment, Michi encounters repairmen in her apartment, one of whom has been infected. Michi winds up trapped in the apartment with the younger and uninfected repairman Harper (Theo Trebs). The pair soon discover other survivors within the apartment complex, and begin communicating to others across the courtyard. Some folks are in need of help, and promise food to Michi and Harper if they can help. Others make a desperate attempt to escape, only to be ravaged by the fast-moving zombie hordes who are attracted to noise and activity. In the meantime, Michi just wants to find Gabi and make things right.
Typically I would have been dealing with post-Fantastic Fest blues last weekend, but instead I managed to make it to another local film event: Texandance International Film Festival in New Braunfels. Jette spoke highly of the inaugural Texandance last year, so I decided to take a short trip on Saturday to this weekend-long film fest.
What a welcome change from the fast-paced, jam-packed Austin film festival scene -- after a leisurely brunch of apple strudel on the square at the oldest bakery in Texas, I meandered over to the Brauntex Theater. This historic venue provided a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the day's programming, including music videos, short films, documentaries and feature-length films. As an international festival, Texandance had a lot to offer in this year's official selections. However, most of my personal favorites were from right here in Texas.
I arrived too late to see The Eyes of the Beholder, filmed in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but was able to view it online -- by "liking" the film's Facebook page you can watch the short film in its entirety. The story focuses on Emily (Mary McElree), a teenage girl who has been blind from birth. A life-changing turn of events reveals not only the world around her, but also changes her relationships and outlook on life. Personal decisions have an even greater impact, with heartbreaking consequences.
I may have only seen one film at Fantastic Fest 2010 on Wednesday after hitting the wall for a second time, but I managed to get a third wind for a full last day on Thursday. What a day it was -- I had to spend this morning recuperating from lack of sleep and too much rich food and tequila from the closing-night party. For all the Fantastic Fest veterans that were disgruntled with open invites for parties in previous years, this year's festivities were the redemption with an amazing event for all badgeholders as well as the hardworking Alamo Drafthouse staff and Fantastic Fest volunteers. For more details, read Jenn's recap of the closing-night party.
I started out my last day at Fantastic Fest at the 10 am press screening of Troll Hunter, which had been the secret screening the night before, with director Andre Ovreda in attendance. On Thursday night, I'd chosen Fatso over gambling on another secret screening; the only secret screening I attended in 2010 turned out to be Hell Driver, which I walked out of after 15 minutes.
Lead actor Eduardo Noriega and director Eugenio Mira attended Fantastic Fest in support of their latest film, the world premiere of Agnosia. The producers of Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage brought another suspenseful story to Fantastic Fest with Agnosia. It is a visually stunning and elegant period piece about Joana Prats, a young woman whose childhood bout with encephalitis leaves her stricken with agnosia, a strange neuropsychological illness that affects her perception. Joana becomes the center of a sinister and life-threatening plot to discover her father's secret formula for a lens with revolutionary military implications. Two men who both have desires for her play integral roles in whether she will be cured of her illness, or a victim of the dastardly plans. Noriega plays Carles, Joana’s fiancé and her father’s right-hand man, who has some dark secrets of his own.
Mira is a veteran of Fantastic Fest, as he debuted his film The Birthday at the very first Fantastic Fest in 2005. Mira has also collaborated with Nacho Vigalondo on short films and composed the score for Timecrimes. He can also be seen in my favorite Vigalondo short as the nervous keyboard player in 7:35 In the Morning.
Jenn already covered the list of this year's Fantastic Fest Award winners in her Fantastic Fest: Day 5 Dispatch, so I'll just share the highlights through photos. And like Jette mentioned in her earlier post, words are hard to put together when you average five films a day and a 4 am bedtime.
The audience award winner of Fantastic Fest 2010 was Bedevilled, with director Jang Cheol-so and Producer Han Man Taeg (seen above). Bedevilled is primarily a horror film, but the story is a blend of dark humor, drama and suspense. Actress Ji Sung-won took the Best Acress award for the AMD and Dell "Next Wave" Spotlight Competition for her role as Hae-won Chung, a young woman with a bad attitude living in Seoul. She's identified as a murder witness, but she doesn’t want to cooperate with the investigation. An involuntary vacation leads to even more trouble.
I am utterly amazed -- after only three days at Fantastic Fest, it feels like I've been at it a solid week. So many wonderful films and conversations, many that I'll share in later entries. I've yet to be in bed before 4 am, but it's been worth the lack of sleep to be part of the magic and chaos of Fantastic Fest. As a veteran attendee, the best advice that I can impart on newbies is to "go with the flow." Plans are great, but you never know when being in the wrong place at the right time means seeing firsthand why Fantastic Fest is what you make of it -- and there might be someone filming, more on that after the jump. The best part is seeing celebrities relaxing and enjoying the festival along with regular attendees, without fanfare or massive entourages.
My Saturday was one of martial arts and karaoke, with my first dive in the deep end of the Fantastic Fest party pool. Here are the highlights:
I started the day with Naan Kadavul, described as "a music-infused Tamil epic about a dope-smoking Vedic superman and a group of beggar slave children." Nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock of this film. Naan Kadavul is one of those films that I -- or any American, for that matter -- would have been able to see if not for the dedication of Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers in bringing this film to the festival. The film is not a masterpiece, but its gift is a view of a landscape that is both colorful and dirty, full of tradition and tragedy.