Debbie Cerda's blog

SXSW Review: Good Night


Good Night Still PhotoAfter several years in the making, Sean Gallagher's Austin-shot film Good Night debuted at SXSW -- find out more about the journey from Gallagher in Elizabeth's interview. The good news is that since this narrative provides glimpses of the past, the filmmaker was able to capture the main characters over a time span that could mirror the fictional narrative.

Good Night revolves around a young twentysomething couple, Leigh (Adriene Mishler) and Winston (Jonny Mars) Rockwall, as they gather with their closest friends to celebrate Leigh's twenty-ninth birthday. The guests enjoy casual conversation as well as controversial and current topics as they enjoy their dinner, until Leigh drops a bomb having a profound effect on them all.  The guests, including Leigh's best friend Alice (Samantha Thomson), all react differently as they process the news. Through voice-overs and flashbacks we learn how each person became connected to Leigh.

Mishler is sweetly exquisite as Leigh, and Mars embraces the complexity of a husband who is frustrated by his inability to solve their problems. Good Night is also strengthened by its talented supporting cast, which includes Chris Doubek, Alex Karpovsky, University of Texas alum Todd Berger (It's a Disaster),  Parisi Fakhri and Jason Newman (The Man From Orlando).

SXSW Review: Hey Bartender


Hey Bartender Production Still"The culture of drink endures because it offers so many rewards ... above all the elusive promise of friendship and love" -- Pete Hamill, A Drinking Life: A Memoir

The documentary Hey Bartender opens with this fitting introduction into the world of cocktails. The story introduces us to several characters in this lively and engaging film from director Douglas Tirola (All In: The Poker Movie). We are introduced first to Dunville's owner Steve Carpentieri, who is struggling to keep his small business alive in Westport, Connecticut. Cheap beer flows at this hole-in-the-wall where everyone does know your name, but fancy cocktails don't cross the bar here. Carpentieri ponders whether to throw in the towel after almost 20 years in the business.

On the other end of the spectrum is Steve Schneider, a young man trying to advance in the ranks at Employees Only (EO), one of the most prestigious bars in New York City. It can take years to succeed as an EO principal bartender -- starting as a stocker and then serving two years as an apprentice before consideration as a principal. Schneider is proud of his hard-earned apprentice jacket, perhaps a little too much after receiving well deserved press in the print media.

SXSW 2013 Guide: Where Film Meets Interactive (and Music too)


Cpmputer Chess Still PhotoJust when you think it can't get any bigger, SXSW offers even more amazing content beyond its cornerstones of Film, Interactive and Music conferences. Continuing from 2012, this year's festivities include a SXSW Comedy program March 9-16 spotlighting stand-up comics, and SXSWedu from March 4-7, featuring content for educational innovation. The Tech Career Expo also returns March 8-9 in a new location at 311 East 5th Street, one block from the Austin Convention Center (ACC), open to those seeking careers in the tech and interactive media sectors.

Choosing among so many options can be difficult since the Film and Interactive conferences take place at the same time, from Friday, March 8 through Tuesday, March 12. The film festival starts on Friday as well and runs through Saturday, March 16. This guide will hopefully help you balance both Film and Interactive successfully, whether you have a badge for either conference or the Gold or Platinum badges that provide you access to both.

SXSW 2013 Guides: Drink Like an Austinite


Craft Pride Tap Wall

Quite a bit has changed over the last year in the Austin drinking scene -- thankfully more changes for the good than the bad. Sadly, the downtown Lovejoy's Taproom and Brewery closed and the Austin Ginger Man has transitioned to a more corporate model, but plenty of new watering holes are around to satisfy patrons, especially in the growing Rainey Street bar district. One of those is Craft Pride, a craft beer bar serving only Texas beer with regularly rotating selection on 54 taps and two cask engines, as seen above. The bar is introducing the "Texas-sized pints," with most beers served in 20-ounce pint glasses to allow appropriate head for proper presentation -- a novel concept created by owners J.T. and Brandi Egli, who are also local homebrewers. Step out back into the ample beer garden for tasty grub from the Bacon Truck.

In addition to the newest Austin breweries Rogness Brewing Company and South Austin Brewing Company, on the more diverse tap walls across town you can find Texas craft beer Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Lakewood Brewing out of Dallas and Guadalupe Brewing Company from New Braunfels. From hoppy ales with citrus and floral characteristics to barrel-aged milk stouts, these breweries are delivering beers worth trying.

Several well respected breweries from other states have taken notice of the explosive growth in Texas and have moved into the Texas market. Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing are the latest and greatest to offer their award-winning beers here. Be sure to try the Fusion Series beer made exclusively for SXSW 2013, a hoppy ale created by local homebrewers Keith Bradley of the Austin Zealots and Bob Kapusinski of the Texas Carboys that they brewed with Lagunitas head brewer Jeremy Marshall.

AFS Announces SXSW 2013 ShortCase Winners


Asternauts Still Photo

This year's SXSW Community Screening: Austin Film Society ShortCase will be held Sunday, March 10 at 4 pm in Boyd Vance Theater at the Carver Museum, and will feature short films by Central Texas filmmakers ranging from science fiction to history, comedy to documentary. The screening is open to the general public (and free), but seating is limited so I suggest arriving early.

This year over 65 entries were submitted by AFS filmmakers. AFS Program and Operations Manager Ryan Long, AFS Marketing and Events Coordinator Austin Culp and I worked together to select the seven best films to fill the 90-minute screening time. We saw a lot of creative content representing the talent of AFS filmmakers, and we hope the SXSW audience will enjoy these films as much as we do.

For filmmakers who didn't make the cut, we hope that you'll submit films for future ShortCase events and take advantage of the programs available to the AFS filmmaker members.

Without further ado, here are this year's SXSW ShortCase films:

Movies This Week: March 1-7, 2013


Dazed and Confused Still PhotoPolari and Stateside Independent present the Austin premiere of Any Day Now on Monday night at 7 pm at the Stateside Theatre. Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star as a gay couple who take in and provide a loving home to an abandoned teenager with Down syndrome. More information, including how to buy tickets, is available here.

The Austin Film Society celebrates the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused (pictured above) on Wednesday night at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre, with screenings at 7 and 9:30 pm and a cast Q&A and after-party. Purchase tickets here.

This week's Austin Film Society Essential Cinema offering is Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story. An Egyptian female talk show host stirs up political controversy when she focuses her on-air discussions on the topic of women's issues. Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story screens Tuesday at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse Village.

And don't forget the Slamdance on the Road event on Saturday, complete with a Q&A I'm moderating.

Movies We've Seen

A Place at the Table -- This compelling documentary exposes the truths and debunks myths about the critical issue of hunger experienced by millions of Americans on a daily basis. I find myself discussing several key elements of this film with friends days after watching the screener, and hope that others will join the dialogue about hunger insecurity. Read more in my review. (Violet Crown Cinema)

Slamdance Brings Its Best to Austin This Weekend


Slamdance On The Road: AUSTIN Playbill

As I'd mentioned in my Sundance wrap-up, I was quite pleased to catch part of the concurrent Slamdance Film Festival while in Park City, Utah. You don't need to leave Austin, however, to catch some of the great films featured at the independent film festival this year, including some Texas shorts.

Slamdance hits the road this month with "Slamdance on the Road," a traveling showcase featuring 2013 Grand Jury award winners and local film shorts. The first stop is here in  Austin on Saturday night at the Stateside Theatre. It's a double-feature, starting with Slamdance 2013's best documentary Bible Quiz and Austin short Hearts of Napalm, and ending with best feature narrative The Dirties and Texas-made short Winkelmann, TX. Filmmakers will be in attendance for post-screening Q&A.

Local filmmaker and Slamdance alumnus Bryan Poyser (Lovers of Hate, The Fickle) will also participate in a "Slamdance On The Road Coffee With..." with writer/director and lead actor Matthew Johnson and writer/producer Matthew Miller of The Dirties, following the feature screening. I'm moderating this event and from my interaction with Johnson and Miller at Slamdance last month, I can assure an engaging discussion from the pair. Slamdance founder Peter Baxter and producer Mark Matukewicz will also be in attendance for this special event.

One of the most controversial films to screen at Slamdance, The Dirties revolves around two friends who are subjected to constant bullying while they're working on a movie for a high-school class project. As they create a revenge film around their real-life antagonists, fiction builds into darkly humorous and terrifying insights into the tragic effects of bullying in high schools.

Local short film Hearts of Napalm, written and directed by Andy Irvine, premiered at Slamdance last month and will precede The Dirties. Starring local actors Ashley Spillers and Alex Dobrenko, this film offers an intimate and humorous look at the efforts of two lovers seeking the ultimate satisfaction in bed.

Review: A Place at the Table


A Place At The Table

According to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (CAFB), food insecurity is "the condition of not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life." CAFB serves 21 Central Texas counties, from cities like Austin, Round Rock and Waco with dense pockets of poverty to small, rural communities with limited access to services. Of the nearly 300,000 people CAFB serves each year, 41 percent are children, and more than a third of the agency's older clients go for extended periods without food. CAFB reports "1 in 5 families served by CAFB experience the physical pain of hunger."

Across the U.S. the numbers become even more staggering, with 50 million people uncertain about where their next meal will come from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush bring this critical socioeconomic issue to audiences in their hard-hitting and engrossing documentary, A Place at the Table, focusing on three at-risk individuals from rural Mississippi to Philadelphia. Mississippi has the highest food insecurity rate in the U.S., but also the highest obesity rate from the empty calories consumed.

The main subjects featured in the film A Place at the Table include Barbie, a single mother in Philadelphia trying to get an education to provide a better life for her kids than she had growing up; Tremonica, a Mississippi eight-year-old who suffers from asthma, compounded by her weight issues brought on by the empty but cheap calories her mom can afford; and Rosie, a fifth grader who can't focus and is failing in school due to hunger and the resulting fatigue, and whose dream is to be an honor roll student.

Movies This Week: February 22-28, 2013


Reel bandsLong-time Alamo Drafthouse programmers Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen may be moving into the next chapter of their careers, but one project that you can expect these vanguards to continue to support is the nonprofit American Genre Film Archive (AGFA). AGFA board members and advisors include Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League as well as Nilsen and Carlson,  Joe Ziemba, and Sam Prime, who oversees the operations and development of the archive.

On Sunday at 2 pm, AFGA hosts a Reel One Party at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Periodic inspections are conducted on undocumented 35mm film prints contained in the archive by threading up several "reel ones" (which come in containers like the one at top), then watching the first 15-20 minutes to take note of opening credit information, overall condition of the film, and general plot information. Nobody knows what to expect and whether a film will be fun or a dud. After the mystery selections are played, the audience will vote for their favorite with the winning title screened at 11 pm. Tickets for the evening feature are $3 with proceeds going to AFGA.

As part of the monthly series "A Decade of Comedy in Latin American Cinema," Cine Las Americas presents a free screening of the Chilean comedy drama Ilusiones Opticas (Optical Illusions) on Wednesday at 8 pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). A group of characters attempt to deal with disappointments and setbacks, under the shadow of a corporate culture based on the privatization of the state health-care system.

Travel to 'Far Marfa' at Stateside


Far Marfa Still PhotoThe Stateside Independent film series and the Texas Independent Film Network are co-hosting the Austin premiere of the understated comedy Far Marfa, on Monday, February 25, at the Stateside Theatre. The 7 pm screening is already sold out, but tickets are still available for the 9:30 pm slot. This 2011 Texas Filmmakers Production Fund (TFPF) recipient film project features original music by local composer Graham Reynolds (Bernie, Before Midnight). Filmmakers will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.

Writer/director Cory Van Dyke currently resides in Marfa, Texas, the west Texas town where this movie is set. Carter Frazier (Johnny Sneed) is just barely hanging onto an existence in a town where not much is needed much to get by. Without money or a job and a girlfriend who's recently moved out, Carter is desperately in need of a wake-up call, which comes from a brief but life-altering encounter with a stranger who turns out to be a famous modern artist, Steve Vincent (Steve Holzer).

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