Debbie Cerda's blog
As much as I'd admired Sam Shepard as an actor for decades, I was not familiar with his writing until I read a collection of his short stories, Cruising Paradise. This anthology of 40 short tales written between 1989 and 1995, set mostly in remote reaches of the U.S. and Mexico, depicts the loneliness of a man who grew up in with familial discord brought on by alcoholism. Some of the stories are fictional, but several come straight from Shepard's personal diary.
The poignant documentary Shepard & Dark by filmmaker and part-time Austinite Treva Wurmfeld reveals even more of the life and loves of Shepard, told through both personal interviews and archival footage and letters exchanged between himself and Johnny Dark. The pair met in the Sixties during an off-off Broadway play in Greenwich Village that Shepard had written. One playwright from California, the other an odd-jobber from Jersey City, talked about their childhood of airplanes and dogs and found a connection when they shared stories of their fathers.
Film on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.
Over 49,000 beer enthusiasts descended upon Denver, Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) earlier this month, and Texas craft beer was well-represented. This year’s festival competition featured 732 breweries from around the United States entering 4,809 brews to be judged and distinguished as the best of American craft ales, lagers and specialty libations. Texas brewers received 10 awards this year with four gold, two silver and four bronze medals, including a gold to Austin Beerworks (seen at top with Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian) for their Black Thunder German-style schwarz beer.
In addition to Texas brewers, several Austin film-related projects and businesses took part in the festivities surrounding GABF. Alamo Drafthouse's Beverage Director Bill Norris and Creative Director John Gross made the trip to Denver, with Gross moderating "The Business of Fun: Beyond The Beer" panel. North by Northwest founder Davis Tucker was on the panel along with representatives from Odell's Brewing and Oskar Blues, discussing how craft beer goes beyond just drinking and brewing and supports many other business sectors including marketing and design.
Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.
Two local movies that were well received at their SXSW 2013 premieres are now crowdfunding for distribution: The Bounceback and Before You Know It. Local filmmaker Bryan Poyser has a Kickstarter funding campaign through Sunday, November 17, for his romantic comedy (with air sex!) The Bounceback -- check out Don's review as well as Elizabeth's interview with Poyser.
PJ Raval -- director of photography for The Bounceback -- is also seeking funding for his feature-length documentary Before You Know It through October 30. This insightful and thought-provoking film reveals the discrimination, neglect and exclusion faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual senior citizens. Raval tells the story through several inspirational individuals who have found the strength to form communities where they and others can be comfortable and accepted.
Check out the pitch video for the Before You Know It campaign, which includes some of the film's subjects, after the jump.
Last month Mondo announced a new venture into soundtracks produced on vinyl, starting with the limited edition release on black 180-gram vinyl, and randomly-inserted milky yellow/clear vinyl of the score created by "Chucky Namanera" for the science fiction thriller Timecrimes. This film about an ordinary man whose life is changed -- repeatedly -- by the consequences of traveling back in time by just one hour debuted at Fantastic Fest 2007 and found U.S. distribution shortly afterward.
Austin composer and writer Brian Satterwhite collaborated with Mondo on the project for this previously unreleased soundtrack, and hosted a special screening and Q&A of Timecrimes during this year's Fantastic Fest at the new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. A limited number of the LPs with artwork (pictured at right) including the cover by Australian artist and commercial illustration studio We Buy Your Kids was available for sale at the screening and online.
Namanera is actually the nom de plume of filmmaker Eugenio Mira (Grand Piano, Agnosia), who attended the special screening along with Timecrimes writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and producer Nahikari Ipina. Mira said he prefers to use an alias for his musical accomplishments to keep them separate from his work as a writer and director.
A recurring urban legend is that of a business traveler who awakens in his hotel room after a nightcap in the local bar, finding himself in a bathtub full of ice and a bandaged incision. Upon examination at the hospital, he is informed by doctors that his kidney has been removed.
This cautionary tale would seem quite a fitting start for a horror film, and this year's Fantastic Fest featured a title that is reminiscent of this alleged morbid crime -- Tales from the Organ Trade. However, this film is actually a provocative documentary by writer/director Ric Esther Bienstock and narrated by David Cronenberg that will prompt many people to sign their organ donor card. More importantly, it should cause viewers to wonder what they would do if they or a loved one was in need of a transplant.
Across the world, thousands of people often wait for years for a donor organ while the general perception supported by doctors and the government focuses on the "exploitation of the human condition" to condemn illegal kidney transplants. Bienstock provides an in-depth and well-balanced view of this international phenomena. The stories of two people who have sought and failed to receive organ transplants through conventional means, as well as a third person who owes his survival to an illegal transplant, are contrasted with organ donors in the Philippines.
South Korean writer/director Sang-ho Yeon created quite a stir at Fantastic Fest in 2012 with the disturbingly bleak animated drama, The King of Pigs. Serious tales conveyed through animation are rare, and Yeon shows no mercy in demonstrating the brutality and exploitative nature within various castes of South Korean society.
Yeon continues to expose the futility and atrocities suffered by the weak and lower class with his second feature-length animated drama Saibi (The Fake). A dying village is scheduled for evacuation before new construction begins and the land is flooded. Many of the villagers look to their church elder, Choi, to save them both figuratively and spiritually, along with the newly recruited Pastor. Unfortunately neither the villagers or Pastor are aware that Choi is a criminal wanted for fraud. He has promised to build a new housing complex for the villagers, when his actual plan is to take off once he's stolen all of their government compensation money.
Generally Fantastic Fest programming is heavily centered around films from around the world, so it was great to see Texas production We Gotta Get Out of This Place on the slate of premieres at this year's festival. Directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins (seen above) may be LA filmmakers, but this thrilling drama set in the rural outskirts of Corpus Christi is firmly rooted in Texas.
Producer Justin X. Duprie is from the small town of Taft, Texas, where primary production of the film took place. Duprie had described his hometown to writer Dutch Southern, who was inspired to write the screenplay for We Gotta Get Out of This Place.
In 1904, Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson excavated one of the greatest discoveries of the Viking Age -- a burial mound located on the Oseberg farm near Tornberg, Norway, containing a well-preserved ship, grave goods and the skeletal remains of two women. The quality and abundance of items within the grave indicate that at least one of the interred was a woman of high status, and it has been suggested that she was the legendary Norwegian Queen Asa.
Norwegian director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose couples this archaeological find with the Norse myth of the end of the world's events in his action/adventure Ragnarok, which premiered at Fantastic Fest. This family-friendly film pays homage to blockbusters such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Goonies without the overdone Hollywood gloss. Don't get me wrong -- the movie includes plenty of long shots of sweeping landscapes with a majestic musical score to match, and CGI special effects reminiscent of the most memorable "cat-and-mouse" chase scenes of Jurassic Park. These assets make up the lovely packaging containing the true gift of writer John Kare Raake, an engaging and thrilling story of loss, intrigue, and family bonds that stretch over one thousand years.
Pål Sverre Hagen (Kon-Tiki, Troubled Water) portrays archaeologist Sigurd Svendsen, a widower whose obsession with solving the secrets of the Oseberg ship leaves him ignorant of his children's need for attention. His theory that Vikings had actually traveled further north than popular conception -- to the heavily wooded and unpopulated Finmark, the northernmost region of Norway referred to the "no man's land" that lies between Russia and Norway -- is not well-received by the museum patrons who've funded his research, and he is demoted from his position.
Sigurd's colleague Allan (Nicolai Cleve Broch) returns from an extended field expedition with a rune stone that has apparent ties to the Oseberg ship, as well as runes that translate into the phrase, "Man knows little." Is this phrase an observation, or is it a message from the past? Sigurd is determined to find out, and so with Allan and Allan's field assistant Elisabeth (Sofia Helin), he sets off on an expedition with his reluctant children Ragnhild (Marie Annette Tanderod Berglyd) and Brage (Julian Podolski) in tow.
I can't possibly imagine how I would have managed this year's Fantastic Fest anywhere other than at the new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. Balancing the demands of a new day job and my first film project along with the festival has been a daunting task, but the ten-minute commute and ease of parking helps. Attending Fantastic Fest has always been an immersive experience for me as I soak up content and engage in social interactions with incredibly talented filmmakers, actors, fans and film critics -- such as Badass Digest's Devin Faraci (who's in Jodorowsky's Dune) and actor A.J. Bowen (The Sacrament) seen above -- from around the world.
I am also extremely fortunate that despite having lost my Superfan status of several years when the lottery was implemented, I've still had great experiences at Fantastic Fest. The only disadvantage is not being able to get into the high demand and secret screenings to sit with the Fantastic Fiends that I've known since the first fest in 2005.
Local filmmaker Clay Liford's short film Slash (aka S/ash), which premiered at Dallas IFF in April, screens this week at Fantastic Fest. This wickedly funny short film portrays Sam (Arthur Dale), a 13-year-old boy who writes erotic fan fiction involving characters from the Harry Potter franchise. Not an unlikely premise when you think of Internet Rule #34: "If it exists, there's porn for it."
I met with Liford at a local coffeehouse where he frequently works on projects, and we spoke about Slash and its creation as well as other projects. Liford traveled this past week to New York for Independent Film Project (IFP) Film Week where the script for the feature-length version of Slash was included in a project. He describes his short film as "a very nerd movie about this subculture of fan fiction" and spoke of the challenge presented by references to copyrighted materials in an unintended light.
The selection of the name Slash contains a double meaning -- not only is "slash" a type of fan fiction that features homoerotic relationships (often male), but it's also a reference to Harry Potter's signature lightning-shaped scar.