Does hanging out with "good" people make you a good person? New Low attempts to address this question. Twenty-something Wendell (played by writer/director/editor Adam Bowers) is a slacker video-store employee living in Gainesville. In his free time, he helps write stand-up material for his pal Dave (Toby Turner). He has no desire to venture into the world of stand-up himself, though. This says a lot about his character: he's lackadaisical with no forward momentum.
He meets dumpster-diving bartender Vicky (Jayme Ratzer), who on their first date points out three of Wendell's physical faults (and sleeps with him anyway). Vicky is happy to troll dumpsters for food or mooch off of free food offered at gallery openings. She appears to be stuck in a rut, but at least (we discover as the movie progresses) she does have goals as far as her art is concerned.
Joanna (Valerie Jones) -- the other woman -- is an activist/feminist who happens to be an artist as well. While Vicky is the type of gal who tosses her empty cigarette packets on the ground, Joanna is the type who picks up other people's litter, telling Wendell, "I don't understand why people insist on living in such a shitty world." She drags Wendell along to parties where he never really fits in and gifts him with a book on environmental/social action.
I took my own advice from the AFF 2010 Dining Guide and stopped in at Thai Passion for a meal before the Brother's Justice premiere at the Paramount Theatre on Sunday. Several AFF attendees were enjoying dinner at the restaurant, including UT alum and filmmaker Ya'Ke Smith. I ran into him again in front of the Paramount where I snapped the photo above. Smith has a good reason to smile. AFF announced the winners of the juried film competitions, and his short film Katrina's Son won in the narrative short category. I'd recommended Katrina's Son in the AFF 2010 Preview: Selected Shorts, and was glad to tell Smith personally how much I enjoyed his short film.
Smith just completed production on a documentary entitled Father, which addresses a domestic issue that's very personal to him -- the challenges and pain of growing up fatherless. According to a U.S. Census Bureau, 1 out of every 3 children grow up without their fathers in the home. For African-American children that number is even higher at 65%. Father focuses on five individuals who must deal not only with the absence of a male role model, but other issues in their household. One of the subjects is Lawrence, whose mother suffered from alcoholism and mental illness. You can get a glimpse at the material for Father here. I look forward to news of Father on the big screen soon.
Some people really know how to work a festival, including Slackerwood contributor Chris Holland, who also happens to be the author of Film Festival Secrets. Another person is Mark Potts, whose film S&M Lawn Care is one of several of his films that have played AFF. Mark was on the "The $2 or the $200,000 Film: What You Need to Know" panel, which I was planning on seeing and missed, but thanks to Chris's tweets, it was almost like I was there. Check out the hashtag for #lowbudgetfilm that Chris used to get the gist of the panel, at least Mark's comments.
I made it to the Showrunner panel with Noah Hawley and Peter Murrieta, which was moderated by Andy Langer. I loved the analogy that a Showrunner is like a writer who's also a manager of a 7-11. Sounds a lot like being a *gasp* manager. Only with assistants helping to avoid the other minions when you need a breather.
Austin Film Festival has announced its winners today, and with no further ado, here they are:
- Best Narrative Feature: Adios Mundo Cruel – Writers: Jack Zagha Kababie, Enrique Chmelnik
- Narrative Feature Special Jury Mention: Dog Sweat – Writers: Maryam Azadi, Hossein Keshavarz
- Best Documentary Feature: Louder Than a Bomb - Directors: Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel
- Best Narrative Short: Katrina’s Son - Writer: Ya’Ke
- Narrative Short Special Jury Mention: The Six Dollar Fifty Man - Writers: Louis Southerland
- Best Documentary Short: Birthright – Director: Sean Mullens
- Best Animated Short: The Lost Thing - Director: Shaun Tan
- Best Narrative Student Short: Down in Number 5 - Writer: Kim Spurlock
The Festival is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which means the award-winning narrative short and narrative student short films are also eligible for an Academy Award, so try to see them again in their encore screenings, and you just might have bragging rights to say "I saw it when it played AFF."
Got a late start this morning, but that happens when you go to bed at 3 am. Started it off at Frank, with the guys behind S&M Lawn Care, all spiffy in their tuxedos and ready to have corndogs. Only the flapjacket that is corndog-ish is a cornmeal-based jacket, so it didn't quite carry the corndog theme, but that didn't deter us. And amazingly, the guys did not have any unfortunate food malfunctions and not a single stain on their crisp white shirts before they had to turn off to do the tech prep for their regional premiere of S&M Lawncare. From the picture above, you can tell that was quite a feat. The guys talked a bit about their world premiere with the Friars Club, and some of the unexpected interpretations of their mower driven comedy. Pictured above are Mark Potts, Cole Selix and William Brand Rackley. I haven't seen the final edit, but the early version I saw was hilarious, so I highly recommend you go see it when it plays again at the Ritz.
University of Texas alum and writer/director Jack Zagha Kababie makes his feature film debut at the Austin Film Festival this year with Adios Mundo Cruel (Goodbye Cruel World), a delightfully understated dark comedy from Mexico. Reminiscent of Jean Pierre-Jeunet's film Micmacs, the story focuses on an individual who through an unfortunate turn of events is pulled into a ragtag group of thieves and their world of crime. However, Adios Mundo Cruel is much more subtle and accessible to audiences who are able to identify to the main character's job situation and marriage woes.
Angel (Carlos Alberto Orozco) is a hard-working, mild-mannered accountant who wants nothing more than to provide for his family. His wife Claudia (Adriana Louvier) is content to stay home and watch soap operas all day -- so much so that any news of the day is about her favorite soap's character Luis Armando (Rafael Amaya). Unfortunately Angel is laid off from his job, and is greeted at home by the news that his wife has just bought a new car that they won't be able to afford. After an unsuccessful attempt to tell her that he's lost his job, Angel endures a series of job interviews so far from his experience, including in a pet shop and as a door-to-door cosmetics salesman.
Esther (Heather del Rio) is a young woman in service to the local pastor of a fringe Christian group. She's obedient and accepting of the life her church has planned for her until an unexpected encounter leaves her cast out into the world without a home, spiritual or otherwise. When Gabriel (Dane Seth Hurlburt) and his roommate take her in, they take it upon themselves to help Esther adjust to her newfound and unwanted freedom.
Andie Redwine's script could easily have been cliché-ridden, and while there are stereotypical characters, the focus is on Esther, and her self-doubts and much as her self-discovery and she tries to find balance between the world she used to know and her predetermined path and the greater world where she must forge her own future. The initial crisis of conscience that delivers Esther from her dreary life is just the beginning; Esther is more homeless than she initially appears. verything she valued and relied upon becomes suspect, but she's not able to completely abandon all of her beliefs.
Oh, how I need sleep, already, even though I only did a partial day for AFF Day One 2010. Of course, I started it right by going to the Opening Night Party at Speakeasy. I finally got to meet James Faust of the Dallas International Film Festival, pictured above on the right with Houston filmmaker Kelly Sears and her friend Gabriel (I apologize, I didn't get his last name). Kelly is in town to show her short Voice on the Line, and James is a panelist/moderator this year, but I can't find where on the website. But I know he introduced one of the Ed Burns films tonight. I think he's doing another "working the festival circuit" type panel like he did last year with Chris Holland, which was very informative.
I had to leave the party early to see Bradley Scott Sullivan's I Didn't Come Here to Die, which played opposite the Opening-Night Film. I have a tradition of not seeing the Opening Night Film at most fests because the films opposite it don't get the same amount of attention and are usually well worth it. I Didn't Come Here to Die didn't disappoint. It's a small horror movie with no monsters, yet uses a series of unfortunate events to create a tense little drama, shot in central Texas, primarily Bastrop, Kyle and Austin.
I Didn't Come Here to Die plays again up at Alamo Lake Creek, and this is one that will get horror fans' tongues wagging about being able to create tension through very believable characters in real situations. Yes, some of the mishaps are based on real ones. And you can't beat the tagline of "Volunteer work is a real killer" especially when the organization is "Volunteers in American Generating Goodwill" (think acronym). Bradley is pictured below with William Seegers, who did the music on the film -- both of them have every right to be happy with the turnout for the second ever screening of this feature.
Now that you've perused Slackerwood's AFF Venue Guide and hopefully built your Austin Film Festival schedules, it's time to see what else Austin has to offer when you are not in a theater, and where you can enjoy local fare. The SXSW 2010: Where to Eat Around Film-Fest Venue Guide is a great start for places to find good eats around the some of the AFF venues. As Jenn stated, we aren't going to recreate information that you can find on Yelp or Dishola -- you can go to their sites yourself -- but rather share some of our local favorites.
I recommend checking out some of the local food bloggers to find out what's new and exciting in the Austin food scene. Tasty Touring and Relish Austin are good places to find out about a lot of the trailer eateries and new restaurants -- check out the blog roll on Relish Austin for more local resources. Want to know who uses local and seasonal products? Check out Edible Austin's local products resource guide to restaurants that use locally sourced food on their menu selections.
Here are some places to enjoy a bite to eat near AFF festival venues:
Jenn shared an insightful post earlier this week about why you shouldn't pass on a Austin Film Festival pass this year, and I have another reason for you -- the abundance of amazing short films that have been selected for 2010. AFF is really knocking it out of the park with 12 diverse shorts programs, each of which will be screened twice during this year's fest. These short films range from darkly humorous to heart-wrenching sadness, including narrative and documentaries. So many of the selections are based in Texas that they're too numerous to mention, but there are definitely a few that I'll highlight. Check out the extensive list of Compiled Shorts programs and be sure to add a couple -- if not all -- of them to your AFF film schedule. A few short films will also be screened before selected features.
I had an opportunity to watch several of the short films to be offered at AFF this year, and although I enjoyed many of the films, by far my top recommended shorts are in the Shorts 3 program, including Katrina's Son, which was awarded a grant in 2008 by the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund. From the opening scene to the final moment, Katrina's Son is the most powerful 15 minutes that I've seen all year. Director Ya' Ke Smith (Hope's War) portrays a young Katrina evacuee who has been ignored by society. After losing his grandmother during Hurricane Katrina, he travels to San Antonio, Texas to find his mother, who abandoned him years earlier and has communicated only through postcards. Working with kids and animals is never an easy job, but Smith's writing and tight direction connects the audience to the lead character.