Debbie Cerda's blog

Nonprofits: Submit Your Films to Lights. Camera. Help. Fest

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Lights. Camera. Help. FestivalLocal film nonprofit organization Lights. Camera. Help. is currently accepting submissions for their 2010 film festival, which will take place from July 29 to August 2. Filmmakers and nonprofits still have plenty of time to participate. The film festival does not charge a fee to submit a film, and all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the prize winners.

Any film that heavily features a cause is eligible to submit to the Lights. Camera. Help. Nonprofit Film Festival, including films by or about nonprofit, non-governmental and/or grassroots organizations. Dramatic, documentary, experimental, and animation films are all welcome. Details on the submission process are available on the Lights. Camera. Help. Nonprofit Film Festival web page. All films must be received in the Lights. Camera. Help. office by June 30, 2010. The fest awards cash prizes for best feature film, best short film and the best public service announcement (PSA). 

If you want to attend the fest, film passes will go on sale starting on May 24. Early submissions include works from Global Voice Productions, Best Friends Animal Society, One Story Productions, ChannelAustin, Scottish Rite Learning Center and others. One of the feature-length films submitted is The Ancient Astronomers of Timbuktu, supporting history preservation in that region -- see the promo video here.

Watch Bob Schneider Directed by Robert Rodriguez

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Robert RodriguezThis week has been a nostalgic one for me. Two days after I moved to Austin in 1993, I saw Bob Schneider as the hair-slinging, shorts-dragging frontman of Joe Rockhead at a Fourth of July outdoor concert at Zilker Park. I became better acquainted with Schneider that same year as a regular at the Steamboat 1874 and the Black Cat, two historic Sixth Street music venues that are long gone (although there's a huge Steamboat reunion at Threadgill's on May 16). After Joe Rockhead left the scene, Schneider fronted Ugly Americans and then The Scabs before striking out on what's proven to be quite a successful solo career.

Schneider has always been good about releasing live recordings of many of his performances, but until now the Austin musician has not really explored much on the video side of his music. That's changed recently with the help of one of Austin's busiest and most well-known filmmakers, Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez took a weekend off from post-production on Predators and Machete to direct a music video for Bob Schneider's song "40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)," from the album Lovely Creatures. The video stars Schneider and actress Kat Denning, and, Rodriguez's youngest son Rogue Joaquin also appears. The video is embedded below -- see if you can identify the Austin locations, which I'll reveal after the jump.

Austin Fair Trade Film Festival Debuts This Weekend

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Austin Fair Trade Film FestivalDespite growing up in Houston amongst diverse cultures, I didn't learn about fair trade practices until I moved to Austin in 1993. I stumbled across the annual International Holiday Market, which features jewelry, clothing and arts and crafts from artisans across the world. I've volunteered at the market for the last 16 years, and just over five years ago one of the featured fair trade retailers, Ten Thousand Villages, opened a local storefront.

One of the core principles of fair trade practices is that employers and exporters in developing nations agree to abide by fair employment and trade practices, including no child labor, promoting cooperative efforts and even directing some profits back towards the communities' health and education needs. Those retailers can then include the Fair Trade logo on their products. Austinites will have an opportunity to learn more at a new film festival this Saturday, May 8.

In honor of the World Fair Trade Day, which is held the second Saturday in May, the Austin Ten Thousand Villages retailer, Texas Coffee Traders and Fair Trade Austin are presenting the First Annual Fair Trade Film Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. The festival is an all-day event, featuring entertainment both indoor and outdoor.

Reel Women's SXSW Short Film Showcase Returns

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Reel Women SXSW Saturday Showcase

If you missed the Reel Women short films that played during SXSW this year, you can catch special encore screenings of these locally produced films on Friday night, April 30, at Picture Box Studios. The shorts are divided into two sections, one of which screens at 6:30 pm, one at 8:30. Many of the filmmakers are in the above photo.

Local nonprofit organization Reel Women provides support for women at all levels of experience in the film and video industries, and their member filmmakers along with cast and crew from the shorts will be at the event to answer questions. Admission is $5 for one screening, or enjoy a double feature for $8. Reel Women members are admitted for a discounted price of $3 for one screening or $5 for both screenings.

I didn't attend the screenings at SXSW, and am looking forward to seeing these films on Friday. I find the synopsis of Hung Up to be quite intriguing, done in a film noir style and told from the point of view of a dress worn by the femme fatale. The filmmaker is Erin Randall, who has also worked as a costumer on several Robert Rodriguez films. It was voted an "Audience Favorite" by attendees at the SXSW screenings.

Blu-ray Review: The Basketball Diaries

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The Basketball Diaries on Blu RayBased on a true story, The Basketball Diaries (1995) chronicles the life-changing times of poet Jim Carroll's youth in the early 1960s. As a talented basketball player at a Manhattan Catholic school, Jim showed lots of promise for a professional career. However, his recreational activities with high-school buddies embroiled him in petty crime and hard drugs, including heroin. Now available on Blu-ray from Palm Pictures, The Basketball Diaries provides an interesting retrospective on Leonard DiCaprio's early acting career. After winning several awards for the 1993 critically acclaimed What's Eating Gilbert Grape, DiCaprio took on the intense dramatic role of Jim Carroll.

As much as Jim enjoys basketball and writing in his diary, he spends more time hanging out and causing trouble with his friends including Mickey (Mark Wahlberg), Pedro (James Madio), and Neutron (Patrick McGaw). His best friend Bobby (Michael Imperioli) fights a losing battle with leukemia, and Jim tries to bring some small pleasures to his dying friend. Don't be mistaken -- Jim's not a good boy gone bad, it's evident right away that he has no respect for authority and a penchant for drugs. His mother (Lorraine Bracco) can't understand what's wrong with her son, and after he spirals out of control she kicks him out of their home.

DiCaprio's portrayal of Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries is brutal and raw, often gut wrenching. As engrossing as a bad car accident, the film hooks viewers into watching as Jim sinks deeper and deeper into the seedy and frightening underworld of addiction. Mark Wahlberg delivers as the tough buddy who sticks with his friends until his drug-induced zealousness results in the death of a drug dealer. The late Bruno Kirby plays Jim's basketball coach who wants to get to know him better in a more intimate way. Although I'm not typically a fan of Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers), her small role as a dopehead who will do anything to score a fix is underrepresented. Ernie Hudson (Congo, Ghostbusters) as Reggie would also have been welcome with more screen time. Jim Carroll himself oddly appears in a cameo role true to his life of this era.

Review: The Losers

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The Losers

Adapted from the Vertigo comic by the same name, action flick The Losers is a tale of betrayal, deception and revenge. At the center of the plot is an elite black ops U.S. Special Forces team, which tackles search-and-destroy missions across the globe. Things get complicated when a mission into the Bolivian jungle becomes a double-cross, and the team is left stranded in the jungle, presumed dead. All this takes place in the opening credits, and the remaining 80-plus minutes of action, directed by Sylvain White, follow the team as they track down the enemy that betrayed them.

The central characters in The Losers are the Special Forces team members, including "Colonel" Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), tech guy Jensen (Chris Evans), tactical Roque (Idris Elba), driver Pooch (Columbus Short), and sharpshooter Cougar (Óscar Jaenada). The group must first focus their efforts on getting out of Bolivia and back into the U.S. to track down Max (Jason Patric), the ruthless rogue CIA agent who is intent on starting a high-tech global conflict.

Review: City Island

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City Island

In the comedic drama City Island, writer/director Raymond de Felitta pairs Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies together as Vince and Joyce Rizzo, a couple that cause more damage by hiding their aspirations than by opening up to one another. Interestingly enough, in The Man from Elysian Fields, Garcia portrayed a man hiding his secret career as a male escort from his wife, played by Margulies. However, City Island is much lighter and palatable fare and with a broader appeal to viewers. 

The Rizzos appear to live a mundane life on the outskirts of the Bronx on City Island. As a corrections officer, Vince Rizzo (Garcia) takes particular interest in young ex-con Tony Nardella (Steven Strait) and decides to bring him home in his custody. Turns out that Vince has many secrets that he keeps from his wife, most importantly that he has an illegitimate son -- guess who? -- and that his weekly poker game is really an acting class. He's afraid of his wife Joyce's (Margulies) temper, although his deception backfires in that she thinks he's having a affair. Meanwhile, his daughter Vivianne (Dominik García-Lorido) is hiding the fact that she lost her college scholarship and is working as a stripper to earn money for school.

Photo Essay: Kick-Ass in Austin

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Clark Duke at SXSW 2010

With Kick-Ass opening on Friday, it seemed like time to revisit the film's screening on the opening night of SXSW. This year's festival started with a record crowd turning up for Kick-Ass, with many of the film's stars and creators in town. Although Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine), pictured above, had not been to SXSW before, he revealed that this wasn't his first time in Austin. He admitted that he loved Austin and had planned to move here after college, but landed in Los Angeles instead.

Review: Dance with the One

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Dance with the One

From the UT Film Institute (The Cassidy Kids, Elvis and Annabelle) comes the powerful drama Dance with the One, which premiered at SXSW Film Festival last month and screened this week at the Dallas International Film Festival. Actor Michael Dolan (Hamburger Hill, Biloxi Blues) makes his directorial debut with a story co-written by Smith Henderson and Jon Marc Smith. As thrilling and suspenseful as a crime caper, it's really the family drama and determination of the main character that engage viewers.

In Dance with the One, small-time pot dealer Nate (Gabriel Luna) is in the business to support his family. Scarred by the tragic death of their mother, Nate wants to get his little brother Sitter (Mike Davis) away from his alcoholic dad Owen (Gary McCleery), as well as himself and his childhood sweetheart Nikki (Xochitl Romero) out of Texas to Oregon. Nate takes the opportunity to help his boss Bobby (Paul Saucido) -- who's also Nikki's dad -- to take care of a situation with a harder substance, hoping the money he earns will be the final push to freedom. However, things go wrong when the drugs go missing, and Nate must find a way to protect his family from the silent partner out for his investment and blood.

Review: Clash of the Titans

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Clash of the Titans

Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) pays homage to stop-motion king Ray Harryhausen with his own version of Clash of the Titans, based on Harryhausen's 1981 original. Harryhausen's films from the 1950s through 1970s were full of amazing monsters and stop-motion action, most notably Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and One Million Years B.C.  Like Harryhausen, Leterrier brings to life the mythical world of the Greek gods through larger-than-life monsters and the golden ethereal world of Mt. Olympus.

The 2010 version of Clash of the Titans begins with the infant Perseus discovered afloat at sea by a poor fisherman. Perseus (Sam Worthington) turns out to be the son of Zeus but is raised as a man, and watches helpless as his family dies from the wrath of Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld. Mankind is defiant, and the gods retaliate by allowing Hades to teach a lesson to the arrogant king and queen of Argos. With his anger against Hades fueling him, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat the Kraken before it either destroys Argos or takes the sacrifice of the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos). Meanwhile, Hades plots to seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth.

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