Debbie Cerda's blog

AFF 2012 Dispatch: Building Relationships and Collaborations


Frank Darabont at AFF

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.

AFF Review: Pictures of Superheroes


Pictures of Superheroes

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).

AFF 2012 Guide: Dining (and Drinking)


Banger's MealWhether 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."

Fantastic Fest 2012: The Afterglow


FF 2012 Closing PartyFantastic Fest 2012 is behind us and the number one complaint that I've heard is about Fantastic Fest withdrawal. The closing-night party was filled with the same high energy and camaraderie demonstrated above by badgeholders for karaoke at the American Legion Hall. No one wanted the party or the week to end. Despite a few issues with the boarding pass reservation system and oversold badges, everyone seemed to have a wonderful time with an amazing and diverse amount of film content.

Credit for the memorable experiences that overshadow any problems should be given to the Fantastic Fest staff and volunteers -- not just the founders and film programmers, but the staff at the concierge desk and the box office and the army of volunteers manning the doors. I'd been unsuccessful in securing my traditional Superfan badge for 2012 and was quite prepared for a more difficult experience, expecting long lines and missed screenings. However, my personal experience far exceeded what I'd expected. The last minute additions of several screenings with seats for press as well as a handful of early morning press-only screenings meant that many more attendees were accomodated without feeling as if we were at a massive and crowded film festival. The well balanced program meant that I only missed a few films I wanted to see but I had no trouble finding an appropriate alternate selection.

Find out what I thought were some of the highlights of Fantastic Fest 2012 after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Photos: 'Aftershock' with Eli Roth


AFTERSHOCK Eli Roth and Nicholas

When I reflect on the big box office successes of the 1970s, I think most about the disaster film genre dominated by producer and "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen. Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure are the most well known films where characters must overcome natural calamities to escape and survive in the wake of destruction. Most of these movies relied on various subplots based on relationships between the survivors.

This year's Fantastic Fest featured Aftershock, a fictional disaster movie that pays homage to and amplifies Allen's legacy while adding an overwhelming dose of horror. Based on actual events surrounding an earthquake that struck Chile in 2010, the film stars actor/writer/producer Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds, Hostel). The movie was shot in many of the same Chilean locations impacted by the 8.0 earthquake.

The storyline came about after a conversation between Roth and Aftershock writer/director Nicolas Lopez, during which Lopez described not just the devastation of the earthquake, but also the aftermath of the disaster including chaos and secondary effects such as a destructive tsunami.

Roth and Lopez were in attendance for the premiere of Aftershock, including the red carpet pictured above. See more photos from the event after the jump.

Film on Tap Giveaway: Texas Craft Brewers Festival


Christine Celis Still Photo

Want to check out what has documentary filmmakers abuzz about craft beer in Texas? Slackerwood has a pair of tickets to the Texas Craft Brewers Festival on Saturday, October 6, at Fiesta Gardens. These tickets are for two general admission packages worth a total of $50 at the door, and include festival wristband for admission from 2 - 6 pm, six 4 oz sampling tokens, and a commemorative plastic tasting glass.

Twenty-eight Texas breweries will feature over 115 craft beers, many not available in Austin and exclusive to the festival. In addition to craft beer, live music, and great local food, the festival features the Eastside Beer Sessions. The Texas Craft Beer Explosion panel will feature several Texas brewery representatives, but most notably Christine Celis of Celis Brewery (pictured above). Celis is one of several local brewery representatives featured in the upcoming documentary Brewed in Austin: The Zymurgence of Craft Beer in Central Texas. She made the news after reclaiming her father Pierre Celis' intellectual property to all Celis recipes and labels, and hopes to begin brewing the historical Celis beers soon.

Fantastic Fest Photos: Miami Connection


Miami Connection Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster Y.K. Kim Watermelon2During my recent interview with Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson, we spoke about the American Film Genre Archive (AFGA) and some of the found films that  volunteers that support this nonprofit have saved. One of those titles is the zany 1987 martial-arts film Miami Connection, directed by ninth-degree black belt/philosopher/author/inspirational speaker Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, seen above demonstrating his skills before the movie screened during Fantastic Fest. The story's plot revolves around the members of the synth-rock band Dragon Sound, adult orphans and martial artists who fight criminals -- especially hated ninjas -- in the streets and back alleys of Orlando, Florida.

The special screening at Fantastic Fest 2012 included demonstrations by Grandmaster Kim as well as a reunion of the band Dragon Sound. Attendees at the afterparty pumped their fists and chanted with the band, many of them wearing sleeveless Dragon Sound t-shirts. See more photos after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Photos: The Dutch Invasion


Dutch Filmmakers at Fantastic Fest 2012

The Norwegians may have landed at Fantastic Fest with world premieres of the television series Hellfjord and the documentary The Exorcist in the 21st Century, as well as the North American premiere of Øystein Karlsen's feature directorial debut Fuck Up, but it was the Dutch who left a lasting impression with their film offerings featured in this year's "No Clogs or Tulips" Dutch spotlight.

Several filmmakers and cast members of films premiering at this year's fest traveled to Austin from the Netherlands, including Fantastic Fest 2011 Best Director awardwinner Steffen Haars (New Kids Nitro) -- seen above second from left with director/writer Arne Toonen (Black Out), fellow New Kids Nitro cast members Wesley Van Gaalen and Huub Smit and writer/director Max Porcelijn (Plan C). New Kids Nitro was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Film in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards. See more photos after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Photos: The American Scream


THEAMERICANSCREAM MannyHome haunt documentary The American Scream premiered at Fantastic Fest 2012 to a sold-out audience, and the audience applause lasted longer in the initial screening than any other film I attended. Therefore it came as no surprise when the film won Best Picture in the Documentary category in the 2012 Fantastic Fest Awards -- read my review of this award-winning documentary that captured the audience and awards jury's hearts.

Several members of the cast and crew were in attendance and participated in a Q&A after the premiere, including director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and film subject Manny Souza (pictured above).  After the Q&A the audience was informed that due to a spill in the hallway, attendees would need to exit through an alternate route. We were then ushered out and into a darkened makeshift alcove, where we were greeted by The American Scream producer Zack Carlson -- read my recent interview with Carlson -- who sent groups through the haunted house created exclusively for this year's Fantastic Fest. At the end of the haunt attendees were treated to Halloween candy, cans of SILLY STRING, and complimentary sponsor beer and cocktails.

Check out Fantastic Fest 2012 The American Scream Q & A teaser and see more photos from the event after the jump.

Fantastic Fest Review: The American Scream


Still Photo from The American Scream"When you are scared, you are most alive. People need that -- they need to feel alive." -- Victor Bariteau, The American Scream

Before sharing my views of the haunted house documentary The American Scream, I must provide two disclaimers. First of all, I've known producer Zack Carlson for several years through his roles at Alamo Drafthouse, which we discussed in a recent interview. Second, I've been involved in a local haunt SCARE for A CURE for several years, although not this year. As a haunter, I am more aware of the inner workings of a haunted house and was fortunate enough to have grown up during an era where haunted houses were as common as Christmas decorations in our community. We knew which houses had the scariest scenes and the best candy selection as we did our Halloween night lap around the neighborhood. 

If it appears that I can't be objective about The American Scream, I must actually admit to being more critical and even skeptical than usual -- my moviegoing tastes often are quite different from Carlson's, but I can appreciate his passion for certain subgenres. However, I often used the film Darkon as a gauge for personal story documentaries and so my expectations were set quite high. My prognosis is that the filmmakers behind The American Scream wholeheartedly captures the soul of those folks who dedicate blood, sweat, tears and energy often year-round for one special night.

Director Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and the rest of his crew scoured the U.S. for the best home haunts to feature in their documentary, and it would be hard to believe they could have found a better mix than in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Deprived of Halloween celebrations as a child by his parents' religious beliefs, Victor Bariteau compensates by making his home haunt a year-round obsession for his family. His eldest daughter is thoroughly immersed and helpful, and his supportive wife Tina states, "Not too many people know what their dream is -- they might think they do, but if they have a chance would they take it?"

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