Debbie Cerda's blog

Film on Tap: A Drink Before SXSW

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Hey Bartender Production StillFilm on Tap is a column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

The SXSW Film Festival and Conference is less than a month away, and the lineup includes a couple of alcohol-related movies worth seeing. Unfortunately the documentary Crafting a Nation, which features several local breweries, wasn't accepted based on their rough-cut submittal, but they are optimistic that the improved final cut will screen in Austin soon.

Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs) will premiere Drinking Buddies, a tale of two co-workers in a Chicago brewery who may be better suited for one another than their current partners. Will love blossom at the brewery, when beer is a factor?

In Hey Bartender (seen at top), documentary filmmaker Douglas Tirola tells the story of "the bartender in the era of the craft cocktail." The documentary focuses on two bartenders -- one young, one old -- pursuing their dreams through bartending. After being injured, a former Marine focuses on being a mixologist at the most popular cocktail bar in New York City. The older bartender left his job decades ago to open a hometown bar, and now struggles to keep it open.

Ready, Set, Fund: Avant-Garde Stunts

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Gary Kent in 'One Hard Road'

Ready, Set, Fund is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

It's not often that biographical documentaries portray lesser-known behind-the-scenes movie professionals, but novelist and film journalist Joe O'Connell is capturing key player Gary Kent in his film project Love & Other Stunts, which is currently funding on Indiegogo through Wednesday, February 27. Kent has contributed to over 100 films in his 50-plus years in the film industry as a stuntman, actor, director, and writer. He's been a stunt double for Jack Nicholson and Robert Vaughan and was stunt coordinator for Richard Rush's Hell’s Angels On Wheels and Don Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-tep, as well as acting in noir Westerns such as The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind.

Love & Other Stunts covers not only Kent's film career, but his personal life from the release of his memoir Shadows and Light: Journeys with Outlaws in Revolutionary Hollywood through more personal challenges, including his wife's battle with alcoholism and death in 2005. Kent has struggled with the aftermath of physical damage from stuntwork and a bout with cancer. O'Connell's documentary aims the spotlight on a now local legendary icon deserving of public recognition.

Movies This Week: February 8-14, 2013

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Billi and Theodore still photo

Local filmmaker Ronald Short premiered his comedy Billi & Theodore (seen at top), at the Indianapolis International Film Festival in July 2012, and finally makes its Austin debut Saturday at 10:45 am at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter. This buddy road-trip film features Jordan McRae and Travis Emery as best friends picking up the pieces as they endure a car-jacking, parking lot brawls, and angry exes. McRae will be in attendance at this special engagement.

Most folks know the ND Austin venue at 501 Studios as a music venue, but art and film offerings are also taking place throughout the month. On Tuesday at 7 pm, The Puro Chingon Collective presents a free screening of Alfonso Cuaron's Mexican road-trip tale Y Tu Mama Tambien. Be sure to check out ND Austin calendar for more film-related events including screenings with live scores, and note that the North Door Pizza kitchen opens for calendared events.

As part of the monthly series "A Decade of Comedy in Latin American Cinema," Cine Las Americas presents a free screening of the comedy O Cheiro Do Ralo (Drained) on Wednesday at 8 pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). Pawnshop owner Lourenço (Selton Mello) manipulates his desperate clients for his own amusement. When he meets an attractive waitress (Paula Braun) at his local diner, he becomes obsessed with her "perfect well-shaped buttocks," much to his demise.

Sundance (and Slamdance) 2013: The Wrap-Up

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Yen Tan and Lauren Wolkstein

What a blur of activity and film that filled my first Sundance Film Festival, with my sixth day mostly at press screenings for Texas-related films Pit Stop, Prince Avalanche and Upstream Color. Read my review of Yen Tan's Pit Stop here, which you can watch at SXSW along with the low-key comedy Prince Avalanche and Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, his journey delving into psychological sci-fi.

I also watched Ass Backwards, a feminine version of the buddy road trip full of crass and self-absorbed humor. As much as I tried to enjoy this raunchy comedy, I found the storyline and editing quite messy, especially a subplot involving a reality TV personality who's a meth head and sex addict. Kudos to writers and stars June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson for putting their butts literally on the line, but save yourself time and instead watch the classic Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

Day Seven was meant to be a writing and leisurely paced day with an interview with Shane Carruth, but I wound up at the well-attended Sundance Filmmakers Reception. The event provided a relaxed atmosphere for members of the press to mingle with filmmakers, including Pit Stop director Yen Tan and New York based writer/director Lauren Wolkstein (pictured at top).

Sundance 2013: Behind the Music and the Voices

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Twenty Feet From Stardom Still Photo"Which movies did you enjoy the most at Sundance, Debbie?" is a line I've heard often since returning from Park City. Despite several narrative favorites, the subcategory that really stood out was music documentaries. Two of these films will screen at SXSW next month: Twenty Feet from Stardom, the first film acquired at Sundance 2013, and Sound City, produced and directed by David Grohl of The Foo Fighters and Nirvana.

The festival opened with Twenty Feet From Stardom wowing audiences onscreen and later, offscreen with special performances. Producer/director Morgan Neville is no stranger to music docs, having directed several for television including Brian Wilson: A Beach Boy's Tale, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock'n'Roll, Johnny Cash's America, Search and Destroy: Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power, and several American Masters and Biography series spotlighting music icons.

Twenty Feet from Stardom provides an intimate view of background singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill, who over the years have supported music icons such as Bruce Springsteen and Bette Midler with their distinct voice talent. These largely uncelebrated artists have helped to shape the sound of 20th century pop music, from Darlene Love in "He's A Rebel" to Merry Clayton in the Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter."

Sundance Review: Pit Stop

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Pit Stop Still Photo

Director Yen Tan made his first appearance at the Sundance Film Festival this year with the drama Pit Stop, cowritten by Dallas filmmaker David Lowery. Inspired by stops along the Texas highways while traveling for a film project, Tan has woven parallel tales of two gay men dissatisfied with their current romantic relationships in a rural town. Tan received grants from both the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund and the Vilcek Foundation for the making of Pit Stop, which will also screen at SXSW Film Festival this March.

Construction worker Gabe (Bill Heck) can't quite accept the end of his affair with a married man and relies on the support of his ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz), who is also trying to move on with her love life. Meanwhile, across town Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) avoids his younger ex-lover Luis (Alfredo Maduro) -- who currently still lives with him -- by escaping to the bedside of a ex-boyfriend whose health is failing. There he spends his time reading aloud gossip magazines and reminiscing about their life together.

Sundance Review: Before Midnight

Before Midnight Still PhotoNot many details were given in last month's announcement that Before Midnight would premiere at Sundance, which left many wondering what the latest episode between Jesse and Celine would entail. So I was interested to see how the movie would fare, the follow-up nine years after Before Sunset and 18 years after Before Sunrise. I am pleased to report that Before Midnight is by far my favorite of this Richard Linklater trilogy.

It's been nine years since Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) were reunited while he was on a book tour, and they now live in Paris with their twin daughters. Although Jesse is a successful writer and Celine still works for an environmental organization, they still have difficulties. Jesse is conflicted by the distance between himself and his son Hank, who resides with Jesse's ex-wife in Chicago. Celine struggles with her own identity, both in her work as well as dealing with fans of Jesse's books who are convinced she is the woman in his stories. While vacationing in Greece with their children, they engage in philosophical conversations about love with both friends and one another.

Submit Your Short to the Austin Film Society ShortCase at SXSW

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SXSW Film 2013 logoAustin Film Society 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.

THe submitter must be a current AFS Make-level member (or above) and be 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.

I'm curating the ShortCase film series again along with AFS Programs & Operations Manager Ryan Long and Marketing and Events Coordinator Austin Culp. We sincerely hope AFS filmmakers take advantage of the wealth of resources provided through AFS Artists Services, including the Texas Filmmaker Production Fund and Moviemaker Dialogues.

Be aware of a few changes for this year's SXSW ShortCase submission process:

Sundance Review: Mud

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Mud Still PhotoAwardwinning writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories) pays homage to the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and a dying way of life on the Arkansas river in Mud. Nichols began working on the story in the 1990s, and delivers an engaging and mystical tale of broken hearts and strong friendships.

When teenage boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) venture to an island in the Arkansas River to investigate a boat stranded in a tree by floodwaters, they discover an inhabitant -- a fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Shrouded by mystery and full of odd superstitions, Mud awaits a reunion with his childhood sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). A hot pursuit is underway for him by both police and bounty hunters on the payroll of the powerful King (Joe Don Baker), whose son was killed by Mud.

At 135 minutes, Mud may seem a bit long as it meanders like the river it takes place on but it's hard to identify where to trim.The cinematography and production design effectively captures the slow-pace of the Arkansas River delta. Full of subplots and interesting characters, Nichols conveys personal stories including experiencing young love and dealing with rejection and divorce.

Sundance 2013 Dispatch, Days Four and Five: Parties Before Midnight

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The Texas Party at SundanceA phrase often heard at the Sundance Film Festival is "how to fest," and lesson number one that I've learned is that being on time isn't good enough, be early. A few times I've had ample time before an event, and filled in the gap with the frivolity of eating a meal. What I've then found is that I miss a couple of small events that fill up -- nothing major, but not the ideal scenario. Thankfully Sundance has so much to experience that flexibility is key, as you never know who you may meet on the shuttle bus or in line at a screening.

A highlight of my Sunday: Day Four was the Texas Party, presented by the Austin Film Society and Texas Monthly, and crowded with Austin and Texas filmmakers such as the Arts + Labor crew (seen above) including cast and crew from Pit Stop, Hearts of Napalm and Black Metal. Pit Stop and Black Metal screened at Sundance, while short films Hearts of Napalm and Spark were shown at the concurrent Slamdance Film Festival here in Park City.

I spent a short time at the party so I could ride with the Arts+Labor crew out to the Redstone Cinema for the premiere of Black Metal as part of the Shorts Program 4. This particular program featured several high-caliber but darkly toned short films, including On Suffocation by writer/director Jenifer Malmqvist, whose films Peace Talk and Birthday have previously screened at Sundance. On Suffocation centers around the execution of two homosexual males in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, relying solely on visuals with no dialogue.

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