Debbie Cerda's blog
Summer is almost officially here with plenty of free summer movies, and there's still time to register for kids' summertime filmmaking camps and workshops in Austin. A few of last summer's offerings are either full or are no longer taking place -- Dougherty Arts Center has no film classes this year -- but kids still have plenty of camps and sessions to choose from.
These affordable camps and workshops provide unique experiences for local youth in various aspects of filmmaking including acting, screenwriting, editing and animation. At the end of many of them, friends and family are invited to attend a screening of the movie campers helped make, or bring home a DVD to hold their own private screening party.
Here's a list of all the summer movie-related camps and classes in the Austin area that we could find. Some of the descriptions are pretty much verbatim from press releases or websites -- although I was the Sierra Cubs Camp director for several years, sadly I've yet to be involved in any kids' film camps. Although they're for kids and not adults, don't be too disappointed -- you'll find a couple of options for grownups at the end of the list.
If I've missed anything, let me know in the comments and I'll add the info to the list.
Street art fascinates me -- although I can't recall seeing an artist in action, I've often wondered about the process of late-night tagging and wheatpasting. How did someone manage to paint the Roman symbol of Venus on the train trestle over Lady Bird Lake? The most well-known street art in Austin has to be Daniel Johnston's "Hi, How Are You?" mural with Jeremiah the Frog on the Drag, and the Flickr: Austin Street Art documents the vast and diverse street art on our city streets. Many people discredit this art as street vandalism, but a new documentary shows a different view of this fringe art form, including the hypocrisies and controversies surrounding street art.
Narrated by actor Rhys Ifans (Greenberg, Pirate Radio), Exit Through the Gift Shop is the first film from infamous street artist Banksy from the Bristol underground scene. Although his name might not be familiar to most, his reputation has spanned the globe. In 2004 in the Louvre, Banksy hung a picture he had painted resembling the Mona Lisa but with a yellow smiley face. In June 2007 Banksy created a circle of plastic portable toilets -- nicknamed "Portaloo Sunset" -- to resemble Stonehenge at the Glastonbury Festival, not far from the "sacred circle." Deemed inappropriate, his interactive installation itself was vandalized before the festival even opened. Most recently, an artistic feud developed between Banksy and his rival King Robbo after Banksy painted over a 24-year-old Robbo piece on the banks of London's Regent Canal. "Team Robbo" retaliated by painting over several Banksy pieces in London.
As a member of Austin Cinemaker Co-op -- a Super 8 filmmaking collective that is sadly no more -- one of the most popular events was our annual Make a Film in a (M.A.F.I.A.) weekend event. Filmmakers had 48 hours to film a short in camera with no editing, incorporating a prop that was provided at the beginning of the event. Nowadays local nonprofit Austin School of Film hosts a Youth M.A.F.I.A. Day Film Festival for SXSW every year. Students have only 24 hours to conceive, shoot, and edit their films.
One of the largest 48-hour filmmaking events, The 48 Hour Film Project, will include an Austin event this year. The project is spread across over 50 cities across the United States and another 34 international cities. Reel Women founder Sherry Mills is organizing the Austin event, which takes place June 25-27. 48 Hour Film Project began in 2001, and Austin filmmakers have participated since 2005. On Friday night, teams receive a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, all which must be included in their movie. They will then spend a wild and sleepless weekend writing, shooting, editing and scoring it -- in just 48 hours. The winning film will go up against films from around the world.
Want to participate but don't have a team? No problem -- just stop by one of the upcoming Reel Women events including the First Monday Mix at the Stompin' Grounds from 6-8 pm on June 7, or at the monthly meeting at 7 pm on Wednesday, June 16. First-timers can ask questions as former team leaders, cast and crew take part in a Q&A session. If you can't make the events, no worries. To help teams come together, 48 Hour Film Project hosts a networking service that you can join here.
When an environmentally conscious friend told me that he and his wife planned to follow a primitive cultural practice of not using diapers on their firstborn son, I was intrigued -- how is this done? Award-winning French filmmaker Thomas Balmes and writer/producer Alain Chabat shed some light on this question and many other cultural habits in the documentary Babies, originally titled Bebe(s), opening in Austin theaters today. This amusing and inspiring film provides a charming cross-cultural vision of one year in the life of four babies from around the world, from Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo.
Babies simultaneously follows the wee ones from birth to first steps: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.
Local 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.
This 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.
Despite 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.
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.
Based 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.
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.