Debbie Cerda's blog
The Brewers Association proclaimed May 13 - 19 as this year's American Craft Beer Week, which means film-and-beer events are taking place across the nation. Just down the road in San Antonio, the documentary Crafting a Nation premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak last evening. Unfortunately I missed the screening, but I did get to the premiere after-party at Freetail Brewing Company. There I caught up with producer Courtney Cobb and a couple of the featured subjects in the film: Scott Metzger of Freetail and Davis Tucker of North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery (pictured above with Cobb).
The Crafting a Nation filmmaking team has been traveling across the U.S. this week with their film -- director Tom Kolicko hosted the San Diego screening. Cobb reports that the team is holding off on the Austin premiere so that they can "do it up really big" since central Texas was a featured region of the film. I heard a few of the audience members got a bit teary-eyed during a couple of scenes, and hope to see the movie for myself in Austin soon.
As the crème de la crème of the film industry begins invading the French Riviera for the 2013 Festival de Cannes, it is quite apropros for a movie about one of the Impressionist masters who spent his last days in the lush French countryside to open this week at the Regal Arbor here in Austin.
Based upon Jacques Renoir's work Le Tableau Amoureux, director and screenwriter Gilles Bourdos' drama Renoir paints a lush vignette of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) at the age of 74. Arthritis wreaks havoc on his body, and his middle son Jean (Vincent Rottiers) is dealing with his own combat wounds from his World War I mobilization.
The pair are both enamored and inspired by Renoir's latest model, the fiery headstrong young Andrée (Christa Theret). Pierre-Auguste's grief over the death of his wife Aline is lightened by Andrée's free-spirited nature and graceful body. Despite Jean's determination to rejoin his comrades once he's recovered from his injuries, his love for Andree inspires him to plan for a future in cinema as a filmmaker.
When Chris Nicola traveled to the Ukraine, it was to understand his own family's history and explore caves. Not only did he inexplicably discover everyday objects such as buttons and shoes in a remote cave, but he also unearthed a rumor of a group of Jews who lived in a cave. These discoveries led to an incredible Holocaust survival story of how 38 people lived underground for a year and a half -- the longest recorded sustained underground survival -- to escape the death camps. Nicola confirmed the story by locating 14 of the original cave inhabitants.
The experiences of these Ukrainian Jews is captured in the documentary No Place on Earth -- which opens in Austin tomorrow at Regal Arbor -- by longtime television producer Janet Tobias in her film directorial debut. The survivors are now in their eighties and nineties, but they were quite young when they took refuge in the cave. According to Tobias (from the press notes), "There were no leaders in the cave above about 35. And they were doers – they weren’t thinkers and analyzers. They really didn’t have the time to sit around and contemplate."
No Place on Earth can easily be described as a docu-drama rather than documentary, as the movie relies mostly on dramatic re-enactments of the group's experience in the cave. This vérité style is enhanced with interwoven present-day interviews with the main storytellers, including brothers Saul and Sam Stermer and sisters Sonia and Sima Dodyk. Thanks to the resourcefulness and determination of the brothers, the group had a community that survived despite the odds -- often with very little food or water for days on end, and with very little light.
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.
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.
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.
After accomplishing attending Sundance Film Festival in January and SXSW last month, I thought for sure that I'd be burnt out on film festivals. However, my "one day on, one day off" approach to SXSW this year kept me rested enough to keep the pace going into my first Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF). I was only able to attend the first four days, but that was more than enough time to enjoy the hospitality and diversity of the Dallas film community. I also enjoyed seeing familiar Austin and Texas faces whom I met on the festival circuit before, including the Pit Stop crew of actor Richard Jones, cinematographer HutcH and director/co-writer Yen Tan (pictured above).
I was quite impressed by the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm and support from locals for the Dallas Film Society and DIFF. Well-dressed Dallas socialites calling out greetings across the theater to friends during seatings was rampant, a distinct contrast to Austin festival audiences. I also met and spoke with folks extremely active in the local film scene, including filmmaker and Dallas Producers Association (DPA) president Russ Jolly. The DPA offers frequent networking opportunities for its members such as "Third Thursday Breakfast" and mixers, as well as filmmaker conversations that are open to the public.
Homeland star and San Angelo native Marc Menchaca and Josh Barrett teamed up for their writing and directorial debut, This Is Where We Live, an intimate look at a family wrought with physical and emotional troubles. The duo were in attendance for the movie's north Texas premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival last week. During the post-screening Q&A, the filmmakers revealed that although the story is fictional, one of the main characters was inspired by Menchaca's close friend Thomas, who has cerebral palsy.
This Is Where We Live brings viewers into a small-town family's home, where every member of the Sutton family suffers, Diane (C.K. McFarland) ignores her own health issues to meet the demands of her full-time job as a stocker at the local supermarket and to take care of her son August (Tobias Segal), who suffers from cerebral palsy. Her husband Bob (Ron Hayden) is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and daughter Lainey (Frances Shaw) lazes about the house -- both of them distant from the rest of the family.
Programming a short film before a feature can be a hit or miss at times, and I enjoy selections that complement one another. A solid well-crafted short can warm up an audience and set the tone for the feature presentation ... as demonstrated at the Dallas International Film Festival this week with a pair of Austin films.
The short film S/ash by Austin filmmaker Clay Liford -- pictured above with executive producer Farah White and Ashland Viscosi -- is the best foreplay that I could imagine to experience before The Bounceback, the latest movie from writer/director Bryan Poyser and co-writers Steven Walters and David DeGrow Shotwell. Neither film is for the prudish, but if you enjoy titillating humor and some impropriety then you're in for a special treat.
The Dirties won Best Narrative Feature and the Spirit of Slamdance Award at the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival, and made its way this week to the Dallas International Film Festival. While producer and cinematographer Jared Raab was in Dallas, writer/director and lead actor Matthew Johnson was at a screening at the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival (VTXIFF).
The Dirties revolves around two friends who share a passion for movies, Matt (Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams). They are subjected to constant bullying while working on a movie for a high-school class project. After their initial film fails, the boys decide to create a revenge movie around their real-life antagonists, whom they refer to as "The Dirties." While Owen reconnects with a childhood sweetheart, Matt becomes obsessed as the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.
Johnson and writer/producer Matthew Miller drew inspiration for The Dirties from the 1992 French satire Man Bites Dog, a dark portrayal of what happens when a documentary film crew becomes involved in the actions of their subject, a ruthless criminal and killer. The pair also studied home videos of bullying from Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to develop a more realistic view rather than the stereotypical Hollywood over-exaggeration.