Austin Film Society

AFS Doc Nights Preview: Blood Brother

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Still from Blood Brother

Blood Brother, which Austin Film Society will screen Tuesday evening at the Marchesa as part of the Doc Nights series, is very obviously a labor of love. Filmmaker Steve Hoover travelled to India with his best friend Rocky Braat, who was returning after a short break to his work volunteering at a rural hostel for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. For a few months, the director documented the daily life of his friend and the kids he serves.

The documentary may sound at first like a white-guy-goes-to-a-developing-country-to-do-good story (it kind of is one, literally), particularly when Rocky says things like he went to India "seeking authenticity." But Blood Brother is a layered film, and goes far deeper than this initial premise. The film kicks off in medias res, with an older man clutching a near-lifeless child to his chest; Rocky and others are shown racing to take the girl to the hospital. In this manner, Blood Brother grabs your attention from the start. Later on, the viewer learns more about these events and the people involved. 

Texas Filmmakers: Apply Now for AFS Grants 2014

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afs logoHere's some exciting news for Texas filmmakers: The Austin Film Society has announced that the 2014 AFS Grant Cycle is now open, and the deadline for applications is June 2, 2014. Filmmakers who live in the state can apply for up to $15,000 to cover production, post-production or distribution of their independent narrative, documentary, experimental and short films. 

To help grant hopefuls through the application process, AFS will hold free and open to the public workshops during April and May in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Register to attend an AFS Grant Workshop here and take a look at the details below. 

AFS Grant Workshops

  • Austin -- Monday, April 21 at 7 pm in the AFS Screening Room (1901 E 51 Street, Austin, TX 78723).
  • Houston -- Tuesday, April 29 at 6 pm at the Aurora Picture Show (2442 Bartlett St., Houston, TX 77098); co-presented by SWAMP.
  • Dallas -- Monday, April 28 at 7 pm at KERA, Public Television and Radio for North Texas (3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75201); co-presented by the Video Association of Dallas. 

Photo Essay: 2014 Texas Film Awards

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Robert Rodriguez with From Dusk Till Dawn alum on the Texas Film Awards Red Carpet, , by Rick Kern, on Flickr

The red carpet at the Texas Film Awards featured stars from near and far, but the spotlight was mostly on local filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and his cast and crew of El Rey's From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Iconic supernatural crime movie From Dusk Till Dawn, which originated it all, was awarded the prestigious Star of Texas award. The award was accepted by Rodriguez as well as by Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Danny Trejo (pictured above).

This year's event was hosted by master of ceremonies Luke Wilson and honored several Texas-related film industry professionals. Country music icon Mac Davis received the Soundtrack Award, presented by Priscilla Presley. SXSW co-founder and senior director Louis Black received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater and Variety Executive Editor Steven Gaydos. Other honorees included former Austinite Amber Heard with a Rising Star Award and filmmaker David Gordon Green, whose award was presented by Danny McBride.

Following the awards ceremony, attendees enjoyed The Texas Party with great food and libations, as well as the Lady Luck lottery and a live auction of film-related items and local services. According to the Austin Film Society, "$580,000 was raised for programs that support filmmakers, promote film culture and build a renowned film community." These programs include the AFS Grants, community education and artist services.

Submit Your Short to the AFS ShortCase at SXSW

SXSW Film 2014 LogoAustin Film Society (AFS) members who are filmmakers have the opportunity to submit their short films to screen during the SXSW Film Festival as part of ShortCase, this year's AFS Community Screening. ShortCase is a 70- to 90-minute special screening of locally connected short films.

To submit, you must be a current AFS Make-level member (or above) and either a producer, director or writer of the piece submitted -- one of the people most creatively responsible for the work. If you are not currently an AFS member at the Make level, you can join or upgrade here.

This will be my third year curating the ShortCase film series. This year's jury includes AFS Film Programmer Lars Nilsen and local AFS filmmaker Clay Liford, who produced the Sundance award-winning short Rat Pack Rat, which also screens in the SXSW regular programming.

We remind AFS filmmakers to take advantage of the wealth of member resources provided through AFS Artists Services, including the AFS Grant and Moviemaker Dialogues.

Highlights for this year's AFS ShortCase submission process:

  • Submit films using online screeners with private or password-protected links (either via Vimeo, Youtube or any other streaming service). If you set an expiration date for viewing, it should be available until at least March 15, 2014.
  • Your submission form must be submitted by Monday, February 17, at 6 pm CST -- be advised this is not a "postmark-by" date.
  • Short films must be no longer than 20 minutes, so we can open up the screening to more AFS filmmakers.
  • Entries are limited to one submission per membership, so send your best work -- no works-in-progress.

AFS Preview: Richard Linklater Programs 'Jewels in the Wasteland'

king of comedy still

This week marks the beginning of a film event that will no doubt turn out to be of lasting importance to many Austin movie lovers and the local film scene in general. The city's own Richard Linklater (if you're reading Slackerwood he needs no introduction) will begin presenting a series of films from the early 80s that, for various reasons, impacted him both as an appreciator and creator of independent cinema.

"Jewels in the Wasteland: A Trip Through '80s Cinema with Richard Linklater" begins Wednesday and is set to continue through May. The first five films have been announced so far, and aside from the time they were released ('81, '82 or '83), they seem to have little in common. That's the best part. This isn't a series simply curated by Linklater; he'll actually be on hand after each screening and will sit down for a conversation with Austin Film Society Programmer Lars Nilsen to discuss the whys and hows of that night's selection. 

"What makes this such a momentous series to me is that we all get to share the simple joy of talking about movies with Rick," Lars told me in a email. 

Take a look at the initial lineup below and don't wait too long to get your tickets; if the Austin film community is paying attention, these screenings should all be well attended. 

Flashback Photos: Meet the 2014 Texas Film Award Honorees

Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater

Yesterday, the Austin Film Society announced honorees for the 2014 Texas Film Awards, previously known as the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards. The gala event takes place March 6 this year -- the night before SXSW Film begins -- and tickets are available both for the awards dinner and ceremony, and for the glitzy (and more affordable) after-party.

I've been to the awards (on the red carpet, at the ceremony or both) since 2008, and many of these honorees and presenters have attended before. Others have visited Austin, if not to the gala event. So I'm presenting the emcee, honorees and presenters announced yesterday in photographic format (whenever possible), to add to the fun. Keep reading and you'll find out why I chose that top photo.

First of all, this year's emcee is actor Luke Wilson. At the 2008 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards, Wilson presented an award to Austin filmmaker Mike Judge. Here's Wilson on the red carpet that year:

Preview: 'Citizen Architect' and Fundraising for the Rural Studio

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MASON'S BEND COMMUNITY CENTER (WINDSHIELD CHAPEL), DUTCH RALL/BIG BEARD FILMS

The Rural Studio is a program through Auburn University started by the late architect Samuel Mockbee. Architecture students live and work in rural, empoverished communities of Alabama, designing and building community projects and homes for some residents using donated and recycled materials.

The Austin Film Society is hosting a special screening Tuesday, Jan. 14 of Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio to raise funds for the Rural Studio on the 20th anniversary of its founding. [tickets] The film, directed by Austinite Sam Wainwright Douglas, peers into parts of Mockbee's biography while showing progress on a 2002 Rural Studios housing project for "Music Man."

Interview subjects in the documentary include academic figures (UT Austin's Stephen Ross among them) who praise Mockbee's program for offering in-field learning. There are only a couple of dissenting voices -- a reluctant Alabama resident who says the Rural Studio has done nothing to help (until they build a fire station in his town) and a Yale professor/architect who has faint praise for Mockbee. 

AFS Doc Nights Preview: 'Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer'

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Photo by Jamel Shabazz, seen in Jamel Shabazz Street PhotographerStreet-style photography seems almost pedestrian now, with blogs like The Sartorialist, Humans of New York or (my favorite) What Ali Wore popping up every day, but this wasn't the case when photographer Jamel Shabazz started snapping pics in the '70s.  A friend of the artist says he was "capturing life in its purest form."

Shabazz depicted the history of his NYC borough, documenting the early days of hip-hop culture, the fashion and lifestyle he saw day-to-day in the subway or walking the streets of Brooklyn. 

Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer (2013) delves into the photographer's influential work and follows some of his current-day activities. Director Charlie Ahearn's previous work includes 1983's Wild Style, a hip hop docudrama. In this film, Ahearn includes interviews with cultural figures such as Fab 5 Freddy and KRS-One among others.

Austin Film Society will show the Shabazz documentary this Sunday, Jan. 12 at 4pm [tickets] at AFS at the Marchesa. Watch the trailer below.

AFS Preview: Godard vs. Truffaut

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"Breathless" movie still

Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, cinema legends and titans of the French New Wave, duke it out for the Austin Film Society's series "Godard vs. Truffaut" from Jan. 3 through Feb. 23 at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre

But there's no need to take sides*, as various seminal works by each filmmaker are spotlighted biweekly. Discover your inner Francophile at 8 pm Fridays and 2 pm Sundays at the Marchesa.

Breathless (1960) -- Friday 1/3 [tickets], Sunday 1/5 [tickets]

The rules of cinematic composition are thrown out the window in Breathless, Godard's first feature-length film and one of the earliest of the French New Wave. A young petty criminal with delusions of grandeur drags his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg, whose haircut alone was influential) into his escape plot after killing a police officer. 

AFS Essential Cinema: Russian Films of the Past Two Decades

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still from Russian Ark

The tumultuous and dangerous political atmosphere that defined 20th-century life in the Soviet Union made it difficult for Russian artists to reach their potential, and it wasn't until the dissolution of the USSR that expressing creative freedom at home became a real possibility.

Beginning in January, Austin Film Society will present a series of movies that reveal the pent-up talent and emotion of six different Russian directors working at a time when they were finally free to analyze and critique Mother Russia and its people. All released in the last 20 years, the eight films of "Pushing the Curtain Aside: Russian Films of the Past Two Decades" portray a range of styles and subjects but share a dedication to originality.

Screenings all take place Thursdays at 7:30 pm at the Marchesa. Go here for more information about screenings and tickets, and take a look at the lineup below.

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