Texas Film Fests
The Lone Star Film Festival kicks off tonight in Fort Worth, and it will live up to its name with a number of Austin and Texas selections, as well as some honored guests. The festival runs through Sunday, November 10.
The Austin Chronicle co-founder and SXSW director Louis Black, musician and actor Lyle Lovett and Fort Worth businessman Stephen Murrin, Jr. will be honored tomorrow for their role in film and the arts at the Fort Worth Club. In addition, the following movies all have Austin or Lone Star connections:
- Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self, about two friends who reunite at a conference, just won the Ron Tibbett Excellence in Filmmaking Award at this year's Memphis Indie fest. Writer/director Eric Steele and producer Adam Donaghey are owners of the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, Texas. Donaghey also produced LSFF selection Little Hope Was Arson.
- Tim's Vermeer, LSFF's opening night film, follows Texas-based inventor Tim Jenison on his quest to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring).
- Little Hope Was Arson (Elizabeth's interview) made its Texas premiere at Austin Film Festival. This debut documentary from Theo Love takes a look at the string of fires set at East Texas churches in January 2010, igniting the largest criminal investigation that area has ever experienced.
The second annual Oak Cliff Film Festival seeks to showcase the best of independent filmmaking of all genres from Oak Cliff (a Dallas district), Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth and Austin. From June 6-9, these films will be screened in the heart of the city's burgeoning Bishop Arts District and in some of its most historic movie theaters, like The Kessler Theater, which is said to have opened in the spring of 1942. The fest's home theater is the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, which hosts eclectic repertory film programming year-round (and which has a colorful history).
The nonprofit fest, which donates a portion of all ticket and badge sales to the North Texas Food Bank, announced its lineup earlier this week. Highlights include movies screened at this year's SXSW Film Festival, like Oak Cliff's opening night films Drinking Buddies (Rod's review), about the relationship between two co-workers at a Chicago brewery, and the documentary Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer, that follows three members of a Russian art collective who were arrested on charges of religious hatred after performing a 40 second "punk prayer" inside one of the country's main cathedrals.
In addition, the fest's closing-night film is the regional premiere of Bobcat Goldthwait's latest movie, Willow Creek, a horror film starring Alexie Gilmore. And DFW-area filmmaker David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) will present some short films, a secret screening, and a not-so-secret screening of McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
For the second year in a row, I spent a lovely spring weekend in Fredericksburg for the 2013 Hill Country Film Festival. This is not one of those film fests where you get up early to get a good ticket reservation/spot in line and then proceed to watch four or five films, and then at 2 am collapsing in exhaustion (or going into overtime with karaoke) before getting up early to do it again, downing Red Bull and energy bars for sustenance.
This is a film festival where you watch a movie, and then go have some brunch, and then watch another movie, and perhaps go shopping, and enjoy cocktails with filmmakers, and maybe watch another movie or have a leisurely dinner, then go to a party and talk about the movies you watched while enjoying more cocktails. There was a screening in a winery (pictured above) on Sunday and yes, there was wine as well as sausages from Austin restaurant Frank. I took it very easy, which is why my dispatches are coming to you after the fest and not during.
Look for my capsule reviews/descriptions of many of the shorts and features I saw later this week. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some photos from my time at the fest.
The Marfa Film Festival is back after a hiatus of a couple of years, and several of us at Slackerwood couldn't be more thrilled. Yesterday, the fest announced most of the movies that will screen from June 26-30. The lineup includes several films with Austin and Texas connections:
- An Oversimplification of Her Beauty -- Dallas native Terence Nance's narrative film is about what happens when a young man is stood up. It will screen here in Austin at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz later this month.
- The Taiwan Oyster -- Don reviewed this movie about two Americans on a road trip in Taiwan when it screened at SXSW 2012. He said, "The Taiwan Oyster is a gorgeous and captivating film, a physical and spiritual journey in an exotic land. It has much to say about life, loneliness and death, and our eternal struggles with all three." Filmmaker Mark Jarrett is from Austin.
- The Passage -- Houston filmmaker Alex Douglas shot this documentary about the Panama Canal. The movie will have its world premiere in Marfa.
- Houston -- This German film was shot partially in the title city. A German headhunter is sent to Houston on a business errand and finds his life upended. Director Bastian Gunther is now living in Austin.
- See the Dirt -- This short documentary from local filmmakers Eric Mauck and Chelsea Hernandez is about a 14-year-old boy who collects and is fascinated with vacuum cleaners. It won the documentary short jury prize at Austin Film Festival 2012.
- Sahasi Chori (Brave Girl) -- Former Austinite Erin Galey made this short about a 13-year-old Nepalese girl traveling to her first job in the city. Brave Girl was one of the Austin Film Society ShortCase films this year -- see Debbie's article for more details and a short interview with Galey.
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.
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.