I saw Satellite of Love at Dallas International Film Festival earlier this year, and it was easily the loveliest movie I caught at the fest. It's set primarily in a vineyard, and the opening sequence takes place at a fair with some gorgeous shots on a Ferris wheel. In addition, the film is a poignant look at the complexity of intimate relationships, with excellent performances from Zachary Knighton and Nathan Phillips in particular. I reviewed the movie and wondered when we'd get to see it here in Austin.
Fortunately, Satellite of Love is in the Austin Film Festival lineup, and you have one more chance to see it -- tonight at 7 pm at the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. What were you planning to do tonight? Don't do that, see this movie instead. It really shines on a big screen, and director/co-writer Will James Moore will be there.
I interviewed Moore via email about the movie -- his responses are below.
Slackerwood: Can you give us the 25-word summary/pitch of the film?
Will Moore: Catherine is married to Blake, a restaurant-owning workaholic, and from the outset it is easy to see that there is a lack of passion in their relationship. Worldly musician Samuel, a former lover of Catherine and best friend to Blake, invites the couple to a vineyard for a week to make up for his absence at their wedding.
The documentary Rising from Ashes follows the formation of the Team Rwanda cycling team. As director T. C. Johnstone told me, "In 2005, I traveled to Rwanda with my friends Dan Cooper and Tom Ritchey ... One morning we arrived in the parking lot to find 15 cyclists; Dan had met them on a previous trip. They rode with Tom for 100 miles and over dinner the idea of a team came together. They asked if I was interested in making a film about it. Seven years later, here we are!"
Johnstone's film, narrated by actor/producer Forest Whitaker, portrays the beauty of the recovering African country while introducing viewers to the members of the new team, as well as their coach, Jock Boyer.
This year, I was disappointed to miss out on my traditional filmmaker networking and photo ops during Austin Film Festival (AFF) at the annual Hair of the Dog Brunch on Sunday. As I walked through the Driskill Bar, I was envious of the cliches of attendees engaged in enthusiastic conversation at every table. I was determined to meet some filmmakers before the day was over, and had to look no further than the well attended panels on the final day of the conference.
I was delighted to hear my personal favorite filmmaker Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption), pictured above, speak with moderator and AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan about how he got his "break" into movies and the collaborations and friendships that have fueled his career over the years. After his panel he greeted and spoke with attendees, signing autographs and consenting to photos with a stream of fans. Find out what he had to share with the audience after the jump.
Much like Austin music, the local comedy scene has seen its ups and downs through the last couple of decades. Lately Austin comedians have received more recognition not just on stage but onscreen. Sometimes the writing and delivery of stand-up doesn't translate well to the silver screen. However, this year Austin Film Festival features Pictures of Superheroes, a local movie that not only showcases great comedic talent but congeals their multiple personalities in a humorous and insightful tale written and directed by Don Swaynos.
Pictures of Superheroes drops viewers into the humdrum life of maid-for-hire Marie played by Kerri Lendo (Sleep Study) as she deals with her insensitive boyfriend Phil (Byron Brown) and even sleazier boss Gil (Chris Doubek) who runs the French Maid "Cleaning" Service, which fronts as a prostitution store. After being fired from her job and breaking up with Phil, Marie is hired off the street by businessman Eric (Shannon McCormick) who lives alone but can't seem to keep his place clean. Turns out that Eric has forgotten that he does have a roommate, slacker and sometimes busboy Joe (John Merriman).
I'm very fond of Austin Film Festival and this year, a little sad that I'm not able to spend as much time at the fest as I'd like. Still, I've had nothing but good AFF experiences so far. Here are a few highlights from the first couple of days.
First of all, if you are going to do AFF and you can afford the tickets, the Film and Food Party is the best way ever to kick off the fest-ivities, especially if you have an adventurous eater with you, especially especially if she helps encourage you to not eat all the heavy-duty pork dishes so you don't feel too terribly stuffed.
I even bid in the silent auction this year, being lured by a signed Star Trek script as a potential way to score major Awesome Wife points, although I got outbid on that one and decided that after a certain price point, you can't decimate the household budget and still be Awesome Wife. Hopefully I got points for trying. I also was outbid on the signed Spy Kids poster, which is probably a good thing because my house is in a state of movie poster overload. You can see the poster above with the gentleman who signed it, honorary Film and Food chair (and local filmmaker, natch) Robert Rodriguez.
Informant, a thrilling documentary from Jamie Meltzer, tells the story of Austinite Brandon Darby, the former anarchist who turned in Brad Crowder and David McKay during the RNC protests in 2008. How did Darby morph from someone who "would've attacked the government for what it was doing to people" in New Orleans during Katrina to someone who trusted governmental authority so much that he would inform on a planned/possible attack? Meltzer's film, through intimate interviews (almost like on-camera confessions) with Darby and some of his former associates, attempts to explain.
The movie introduces the viewer to Darby through his work with other activists co-founding the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He comes off as determined in his work to serve the people in the Ninth Ward. He and his pal Scott Crow (also an Austinite) brought guns to the city to combat the violence against "looters." Crow speaks of Darby's "revolutionary rhetoric." Then when you think you have some vague idea about the kind of guy Darby is, or rather was, a bizarro trip to Venezuela brings a change to his character.
Chances are if you're reading this, it's because you love film. Whether it's Texas-centric films, or the occassional Hollywood blockbuster that you enjoy reading a review about, it doesn't matter. Either way, you're here and you're here because you love movies. The Rep understands that love, and the documentary focuses on three people who were willing to risk their livelihood to share that love with the people in their hometown in Canada. Alex Woodside, Charlie Lawton, and Nigel Agnew are the proprietors of the Toronto Underground Cinema, a single-screen repertory theater that caters to the film nerd community who crave seeing films the way they were meant to be seen.
Backed by a single investor, in a theater hidden underneath a giant condo building, the underground cinema sits away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets, visible to no one. That didn't stop the three cinephiles from trying to make their dream a reality, to run their own cinema that plays the films they love on the big screen.
The Rep starts out with interviews that include a few prominent names, such as Kevin Smith, George Romero, and folks who represent other repertory cinemas. Austin's very own Lars Nilsen of Alamo Drafthouse shares more than a few poignant views on the joys and difficulties of running a repertory cinema, or "rep house" as their affectionally called in the film.
The Rep is put together in a really great way. As the Toronto Underground Cinema launches with much fanfare at a free screening, it seems as if this risky venture wouldn't be so risky. But the passionate trio quickly learn that if you build it, they don't always come. Despite the apparent lack of initial success, there are still moments that would make anyone realize the true power of cinema and how much it can really affect someone. Andrew Parker, a local film critic in Toronto, was literally on the verge of suicide until he happened upon the Toronto Underground Cinema. Even though the theater was in desperate need of every dollar they could get their hands on, Charlie gave him some free passes to help cheer him up on what he thought was just a movie fan having a bad day. He wrote a blog post about this experience, which you can read here.
Informant, an intense documentary which focuses on Austinite Brandon Darby, is documentarian Jamie Meltzer's latest film. The movie is made up of interviews with Darby, a former anarchist who informed on two young men during the 2008 RNC, and his (former) friends and co-workers.
Meltzer is currently an assistant professor in the MFA program in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford, and his previous films include Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story, Welcome to Nollywood and the short La Caminata. His Informant will show as part of Austin Film Festival on Sunday 10/21 and Wednesday 10/24.
Before the fest kicked off, Meltzer answered some questions I had via email.
Slackerwood: Why did you decide to make a film about Brandon Darby? Did you know him before you started working on the movie?
Jamie Meltzer: I first discovered this story when Brandon posted his "open letter" declaring he was an informant, which The New York Times picked up on. I immediately emailed him and began the (long) process of getting him to agree to an interview (it took six months to do the first interview and another year before he agreed to allow me to use the interview in the film).
Whether at home or traveling to new locales, I always try to stick to local fare or independent food establishments. Austin Film Festival (AFF) takes place at venues convenient to some favorites of our Slackerwood contributors, and this year we've put together our personal favorites in this food and beverage guide.
For AFF attendees interested in trying our burgeoning Texas craft beer, timing could not be better with the third annual Austin Beer Week taking place October 20 - 28. Over 150 events spread throughout 40 different venues over 9 days are sure to please craft beer fans of any level or palate. Find out more about food and beverage venues at the end of this article.
The guide is divided into four locales corresponding to the venues: Downtown (easy walk to ACC or Paramount or both); Slightly South (convenient to Rollins/Long Center), Slightly North (Bob Bullock) and Way Up North (Alamo Village). Thanks to my fellow Slackerwood contributors for their input included after the jump:
Downtown Austin is jam-packed with food spots including chain restaurants Chipotle Mexican Grill (801 Congress Avenue) and Jamba Juice (600 Congress Avenue), which are great places to grab a quick bite during the day.
But the overwhelming favorite of Slackerwood contributors is the small urban grocery store Royal Blue Grocery with several locations downtown. Slackerwood contributor Elizabeth Stoddard recommends the 609 Congress Ave location, not far from the Paramount or Driskill. Elizabeth states, "I love their pre-made sandwiches, but they also have pizza (from East Side Pies, I think?) you can buy by the slice. Compared to other downtown eateries, Royal Blue is very reasonably priced. Even when there is a line, it's not too long, and it's a nice place to stop between movies."
Kit Pongetti is a grad of the RTF program at The University of Texas in Austin who now resides in Los Angeles. Her directorial debut, Stakeout, will premiere at Austin Film Festival as part of Shorts Program 9 - The View from Outside (Friday 10/19 at 3:30 pm and Thurs, Oct. 25 at 4 pm at The Hideout). The comic short depicts two 1980s-era teenage gals who sit in their car and watch their peers at parties.
I asked Pongetti a few questions over email to find out about her first directing experience.
Slackerwood: What is your connection to Austin?
Kit Pongetti: I completely romanticize Austin. Or is it just kind of romantic already? I grew up in the Houston suburbs and fell in love with Austin after a trip there my senior year of high school. I ended up going to UT for five years. Can't just stop at four.
I did a bunch of firsts there, too... first freedom, first love, first band, first road trip. I was in a band called Those Who Dig and we played all over town for four years back in the 90s. The hills, the water, the music, the bbq ... My relationship with Austin is ongoing and starry-eyed.