Local Cast and Crew

Dallas IFF Review: Produce

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Produce Still PhotoFilmmaker Chris Dowling, an alumnus of the radio-TV-film program at The University of Texas at Austin, wrote and directed family drama Produce, which debuted at the Dallas International Film Festival last week. Although this film deals with some heavy-hearted issues, overall Produce is an engaging and entertaining story that should please viewers.

The opening sequence of a morning routine of breakfast, shower and a bike commute to work at first appears typical, until the camera angle widens and we see the character simply known as Produce (David DeSanctis), who has Down's Syndrome. It's this foundation that sets an important plot point for the film -- Produce is not defined by his condition despite the challenges and prejudices that he faces daily. He wants nothing more than to be employee of the month at the Value Market where he works as a produce clerk. Sadly his manager and co-workers don't respect him or appreciate his strengths.

The character who's the most challenged in Produce is Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha), a former professional baseball player who choked during a game and numbs his shame with alcohol. The real adult in the house is his daughter, 17-year-old Katie (McKaley Miller), often left to fend for herself while her dad is out drinking with his booze buddies. Calvin's self-destructive behavior threatens his relationship with his daughter, as well as a potential career as a baseball manager.

Dallas IFF 2014: Farah White, 'About Mom and Dad'

Farah WhiteIf I had to place a wager on who will "out-Mars" Austin talent Jonny Mars with the number of film projects that one Texan can possibly be associated with in one year, my bet for the top contender is Dallas-based Farah White. At this year's Dallas International Film Festival, White was involved in five films as either a member of the cast and producer.

Hell hath no fury like a Texas woman scorned in Rachel Shepard's About Mom and Dad, a comedic drama of a couple whose decades-long marriage disintegrates. White leads the ensemble Texas cast as Teri, effortlessly delivering many of the film's witty lines including, "There are no sides -- you just need to know that I am right." Dallas-based Brent Anderson stars as dad Eddie, and Austinites Heather Kafka and Jonny Mars also appear in supporting roles in the movie.

White is also executive producer for About Mom and Dad, having acted in and produced Shepard's road journey drama Traveling, which premiered at DIFF 2011. About Mom and Dad stars Reece Rios, Melissa Odom and Texan actress McKaley Miller, and was shot in Marfa as well as the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Dallas IFF Review: Flutter

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WeeWee and Johnathan -- Flutter Still PhotoTo what length will mothers go to protect their children -- or grandchildren -- and what's the definition of a "bad" parent?

That's the core theme of Flutter, the narrative debut for Austin filmmaker Eric Hueber, who wrote this moving family drama as an homage to his own deceased own mother. That personal connection lends to an intimate portrayal of a mother's unconditional love for her son.

Johnathan (Johnathan Huth Jr.) is obsessed with the sea, and battles the imaginary creatures within along with his 300-pound pet pig Wee Wee. Due to an often debilitating condition of of nystagmus and severe glaucoma, Johnathan must take medication to relieve the excruciating pain and pressure that could cause irreversible blindness.

Texas Films at Dallas IFF: Landscapes, Cowboys and Music

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Flutter Still PhotoThe 2014 Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) runs from Thursday, April 3 - Saturday, April 13, and features over fifteen films that originated in the Lone Star State. From Texas musicans to epic Southern fables, there's plenty of great Texas-based content stretching from Dallas to the Piney Woods of East Texas to the coastal towns of Taft and Port Neches.

Austin-based writer and director Eric Hueber made his feature directorial debut at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011 with his documentary Rainbow's End. Originally from Nacogdoches, Hueber studied film at Stephen F. Austin State University and has worked as an editing assistant for director Terrence Malick. Hueber returns to DIFF with the touching family drama Flutter (screening times).

Flutter focuses on nine-year-old Johnathan (Johnathan Huth Jr.), who loves sea monsters and his massive pet pig Wee Wee. His eyes flutter and he is also going blind as a result of nystagmus and severe glaucoma. Johnathan's mother JoLynn (Lindsay Pulsipher) raises him on her own with some help from her husband David's parents. David (Jesse Plemons) is absent, out on the road in search of musical fame as a singer/songwriter. JoLynn makes personal sacrifices for her son that jeopardize her own safety.

SXSW Interview: Nacho Vigalondo, Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey, 'Open Windows'

Working a film festival, selfies and internet privacy. These were just a few things that writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and actors Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey chatted about regarding their latest film, Open Windows, shot partially in Austin. 

The movie premiered at SXSW (my review), and I was beyond eager to hear firsthand what went into the making of this film. Check out what they had to say about what drew them to the idea, as well as the technological hurdles they had to overcome.

Slackerwood: Congratulations on the premiere of your film here at SXSW. How does it feel to bring it back to Austin?

Nacho Vigalondo: It's amazing, but I prefer to come here [to this festival and others] without a movie because I enjoy movies -- I love watching them. I love other people's movies more than mine. I enjoy making my films, but I don't enjoy watching my own films. I hate to be a critic to myself.

SXSW 2014: Connecting With Local and Indie Music Through Film

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James Hand and Blake DeLong of 'Thank You A Lot'I've often encountered a false assumption that all Austinites are familiar with every musical artist and band in the self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World." Despite decades of involvement in the local music scene as a college radio station DJ, band manager and "merch girl," I probably only know one-tenth of who's playing the clubs nowadays. Therefore I welcome any films that feature local or unknown musical artists.

Music documentaries really stood out at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, but this year it was the movies that focus on fictionalized characters in the music industry that I enjoyed the most. Not only did I like the narrative aspect of these films, but also the introduction to some wonderful music that I'd not been familiar with prior to my movie-watching experience.

My SXSW film experience began appropriately on opening night with Matt Muir's Thank You A Lot, a project that we've been following since my set visit in the summer of 2012.

SXSW Review: Open Windows

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How close are you to your phone right now? Maybe it's in your pocket, or your purse. And what about your laptop? Best to keep those things on you at all times, right? You might think so, but Nacho Vigalondo's latest film Open Windows could leave you wanting to lock those devices in your closet.

I say this (somewhat) ironically as someone who always has her phone in her hand. I know my way around my own personal electronic devices, but I don't expect someone else to. This is where Vigalondo's writing got me: from the start, we're watching Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) prepare for a date with his celebrity crush, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey).  He's won a contest online and has flown to Austin to meet her. But we're not just watching as an audience -- we're watching as if we're Nick's laptop camera, observing his every move as if we're on a Skype session with him. And when an unknown caller starts to interfere with Nick's phone and computer, we learn about the scheme he's set to be involved in, realizing that his potential date is actually a setup for blackmail.

SXSW Review: Yakona

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Filmed in Texas and told "from the perspective of the San Marcos River," Yakona had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival last week and went on to win an Audience Award in the Visions category. This meditative and visually captivating film can't be neatly categorized, and it will surely speak to the hearts of locals, nature lovers and anyone who has ever taken a swim in the San Marcos.

Filmmakers Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda chose to use a Pure Cinema stylistic technique, which relies on vision and movement rather than traditional narrative storytelling (not a single talking head is included and there is only minimal speaking). Instead, with footage captured using underwater cameras and reenacted scenes depicting life from prehistoric to modern times, Collins and Sepulveda create a collage of moments and emotions that together capture the spirit of the San Marcos River and the ecosystem of which it is an integral part.

SXSW Review: Premature

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Premature

Ferris Bueller meets Groundhog Day in the raunchy teen comedy Premature, from first-time writer/director Dan Beers. Rated R for language and sexual themes, Premature is unafraid to push the boundaries of good taste in the pursuit of laughter.

Beers has assembled a dynamic and talented cast including native Texans John Karna, Alan Tudyk and Carlson Young (look for interviews with these three next week). Karna stars as Rob Crabbe, an average teenager who wakes up on the most important day of his senior year lying in a wet spot on his bed. The events of the day, including his Georgetown college interview with Jack Roth (Tudyk) and tutoring session with sexy vixen Angela (Young), play out until he finds himself in bed with Angela, prematurely climaxes and immediately finds himself again in his bed at home, starting the day over.

Cursed to continue repeating the events of the day, Rob tries to work out a solution with the help of his best friends Stanley (Craig Roberts) and Gabrielle (Katie Findlay). Karna's charisma and naturally keen comic timing help to overlook weaker moments of dialogue where the teens sometimes don't feel like authentic teens as much as people delivering adult lines. Some lines are followed with a touch too much dead silence, as if edited to allow for insertion of a laugh track, but after such stumbles the pace always picks back up and delivers genuine laughs.

SXSW Review: Faults

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Faults still

I've never been one for films about cults. I suppose it's because they're such a taboo subject within our society, not to mention they flat out give me the creeps, I've never gone out of my way to watch films on the topic. And no, not even when people gave me the nickname "Martha Marcy May Marcelena." But something caught my attention in reading about Riley Stearns' debut feature film, Faults.

The story starts with a deadbeat guy getting kicked out of a restaturant. He is trying to use a free meal voucher, but the manager knows he already used it the night before. The guy downs his food, then tries to eat all of the condiments on the table. After a physical struggle with the manager, he is thrown out of the restaurant. This is Ansel (Leland Orser), our film's protagonist. What I later realized I enjoyed so much about this intro is that it sets up the main character perfectly: a washed up, once-famous public speaker who will do what he can to con people, even for a free meal.

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