Debbie Cerda's blog
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.
Dallas writer/filmmaker Clay Luther made his feature directorial debut at this year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) with Cry, a drama that explores several timely topics including bullying and homophobia. Luther effectively portrays the complexity of his main characters and avoids the formulaic and simplistic Hollywood ending.
Cry focuses on two neighbors on the opposite ends of life -- Cable (Bill Flynn) is a despondent widower who has lost the will to live and is estranged from his daughter, and Carson (Skyy Moore) is a high-school student who is bullied by fellow basketball player Micah (Erick Lopez).
Carson may not have experienced life, but he has suffered the death of his mother and lives with his openly homosexual uncle, Jeremy (Del Shores). Although Carson has his girlfriend Grace (Cherami Leigh), he's emotionally troubled from the almost daily beatings he receives from Micah. It is inferred that Micah and Carson had been best friends, but a significant event caused an estrangement. As Carson struggles with his personal drama, a tragic event connects him to Cable, who also finds his life a challenge to live. Resolution does not come easy for either of them, but through their relationship they find the will to take the necessary steps towards contentment.
Yes you read that right -- in honor of the 50th anniversary of contributing sponsor Mary Kay, the traditional red carpet at this year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) opening night was replaced with Mary Kay's favored pink. The evening featured a public service announcement-style video produced by the Dallas-based company to promote their "Don't Look Away" campaign, which focuses on ending domestic violence.
In addition to the film stars and filmmakers to walk the carpet, which you can see after the jump, several festival dignitaries were also in attendance including Dallas Film Society (DFS) CEO Lee Papert and DFS board chair Lynn McBee. Emmy nominee and Dallas television series producer Ken Topolsky was accompanied by Janis Burklund, Director of the Dallas Film Commission (seen above), and spoke about the receptiveness of the Dallas residents to film and television production in their community.
This year's Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) kicks off tomorrow night and runs through April 14. Many familiar faces and movies have made their way there from Sundance and SXSW, not to mention Austin Film Festival. In addition, the film festival will debut movies with local and state connections, some as part of the Texas Competition, a juried competition of films either shot in or relating to the Lone Star State.
Austinite Jeff Nichols' movie Mud screens on Friday, April 5, as part of the Premiere Series at DIFF -- read my review from Sundance. This engaging and mystical tale features Austin native Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan from Eckhart, Texas, with music by local composer David Wingo and sound by Austin's Stuck On On.
Here are all the other films we found with Austin and Texas connections -- let us know if we're missing anything.
- The Bounceback (Don's review) (screening times)
Austin filmmaker and two-time Independent Spirit award nominee Bryan Poyser's latest feature shows us that breaking up can be even more difficult if your ex hasn't given up and is willing to travel many miles in the hopes of making up. It's even harder when your friends who are breaking up try to keep you apart as well. (Elizabeth's interview)
Texas singer-songwriter Buddy Holly was immortalized onscreen in Steve Rash's 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story, brilliantly played by Gary Busey (pictured above). The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz presents a special screening of a new 35mm print for this week's Music Monday as well as an additional screening Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday at Alamo Village, Cine Las Americas presents Anita as part of their Signature Series, co-presented by the Austin Jewish Film Festival. Anita is a young Argentinian woman with Down syndrome who lives with her mother Dora (Academy Award nominee Norma Aleandro) until tragedy strikes nearby. Anita must then fend for herself as she ventures out across Buenos Aires and encounters other survivors of the deadliest bombing in Argentina's history. After viewing the opening clip, I can't wait to see what happens next.
Elizabeth already covered the Stateside Independent special screening of Academy Award foreign film nominee War Witch on Monday but I want to reiterate -- don't miss this powerful story about a young female child soldier.
The Austin Film Society's Essential Cinema presents the Turkish film Toll Booth on Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Introverted toll booth officer Kenan may seem to live a humdrum life but his imagination more than makes up for it in this darkly humorous drama.
I was quite excited to hear that one of my favorite music documentaries at Sundance Film Fest was coming to SXSW 2013: Sound City, directed by Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. This film was a perfect fit for Austin, with Grohl's focus on the human element of music as well as the vanishing technology and places that built and supported music for decades.
Grohl delivered an inspirational keynote at SXSW Music Festival -- which you can watch on NPR Music -- that expanded on some of our conversation just before the SXSW premiere. Grohl was joined by fellow members of the Foo Fighters, Lee Ving of Fear, and the Sound City Players. Find out what he had to say, as well as see other famous rockers who were on the red carpet, after the jump.
There's never a short supply of well known actors at SXSW Film Festival promoting their feature-length movies, but it's not often that you'll find stars representing short films. However, this year one short film stood out for its female-driven story supported by strong performances from familiar faces Anna Camp and Ashley Williams -- Sequin Raze, directed by former reality television producer and writer/director Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. The film won an Honorable Mention jury award for narrative shorts at SXSW.
Sequin Raze takes viewers behind the scene of a hit reality TV show as jilted contestant Rebecca (Camp) attempts to leave with her dignity while battling producer Rebecca Goldberg (Williams), who must get the "money shot" for ratings. The pair engage in a psychological battle from which only one woman can emerge victorious -- but at what price? This riveting film made such an impact on me that I'll never look at reality television in the same way. I spoke with stars Camp and Williams as well as writer/director Shapiro at SXSW earlier this month about Sequin Raze.
Slackerwood (to Shapiro): What can you tell us about the background and realization for Sequin Raze?
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro: Legally I can't be super-specific about what the inspiration was, but it was inspired by a moment in my life. I did work in reality TV, so there's obviously those parts of my life informed it a lot. I think it was a really poignant moment that kind of folded into the layers of all that and encapsulated all the struggles that I had during that time, and a lot of specific scars that I'm left with and I still struggle with based on that experience. It was more than a specific incident that I built off. It was all of these themes, ideas and feelings that I deal with in all of my work. It just became the perfect place to explore them.
Ghost Ghirls is a new online comedy series presented by Yahoo!Screen that follows two young female ghostbusters as they solve mysteries of paranormal phenomena. Portrayed by comedians Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci, the pair emulate Shawn and Gus of Psych more than Sherlock Holmes and Watson as they attempt to convince their clients and local law enforcement of their legitimacy as investigators.
Ghost Ghirls was created by Jeremy Konner, Lund and Blasucci, who also serve as executive producers -- seen above with fellow executive producer Jack Black. Konner, who is best known for his Drunk History series on Funny or Die, also directed Ghost Ghirls.
An exclusive sneak preview of two episodes of Ghost Ghirls was presented at SXSW 2013, featuring hilarious cameo appearances by Dave Grohl, Val Kilmer, Molly Shannon and numerous other celebrities. I thoroughly enjoyed the witty writing and well paced storylines, and look forward to more adventures with the paranormal pair. Following the screening, Lund and Blasucci along with Black and Konner hosted a Q&A as comical as their on-screen performances. The audience was then treated to an intimate performance by Black's band Tenacious D.
See more photos from the event after the jump.
Marathon-length viewing of 30 Rock episodes laid the groundwork for my fandom of Second City and Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey, but it was her witty insightful book Bossypants that set my admiration of her in stone. I was a bit conflicted about reviewing the dramedy Admission both due to my bias as well as being skeptical about an onscreen romance between Fey and co-star Paul Rudd. Although Rudd is no stranger to being a romantic lead, the combination of these actors who often portray rather quirky characters left me wondering how well they would mesh. The result is a light-hearted vehicle to explore chemistry between Fey and Rudd, with veteran comedic actress Lily Tomlin stealing scenes with her portrayal of a strong feminist.
Based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz and directed by Paul Weitz (About A Boy), Admission focuses on Princeton University admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey). Portia seems to be content with her prestigious and challenging job and stable live-in relationship with English department chair Mark (Michael Sheen). However, she finds that her life is not as perfect as she has thought, having to compete with colleague Corinne (Gloria Reuben) for the coveted position of head of admissions ... and her boyfriend leaving her for his pregnant mistress.