Debbie Cerda's blog

SXSW 2012: A Look at the AFS ShortCase Filmmakers


AFS SXSW ShortCase Filmmakers

Many members of the local film community converged during SXSW at the Austin Film Society (AFS) ShortCase screening on Saturday, March 10. Seen above are several of the AFS filmmakers in attendance including (clockwise from lower left): Chithra Jeyaram (Mijo), Nicholas Cormier III (Smile), James and Ryan Barlow (Huntered), Bob Ray (Sacked), Allison R. Smith and Justin Corsbie (Hot Dogs & Hand Grenades), Stephen Gamache (Mustachio), Joshua Flanagan (Mustachio), Will Shipley (Mentiroso), Brady Dial (Apogee of Fear proxy for Richard Garriott de Cayeux).

As one of the curators for the SXSW Community Screenings: AFS ShortCase program I was pleased to hear the audience reactions to all the selections. Afterwards, the filmmakers offered their advice during the Q&A session, ranging from the advantages and disadvantages of filming in a remote location to the challenges of animation.

Check out more photos from this special screening:

SXSW Review: Amor Cronico


Amor Cronico

This year's SXSW Film Festival featured over a dozen music-related films between special screenings and the 24 Beats per Second program selections, but none fused together film and music like Cuban filmmaker Jorge Perugorría's documentary/narrative Amor Cronico. The film spotlights Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and actress Cucu Diamantes, a Grammy-nominated Cuban-American singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist. Perugorria seamlessly blends together live concert footage of Cucu Diamantes' cabaret style performances across Cuba -- the first touring artist from outside the country in over 50 years -- with a narrative full of humor and homages to historical filmmakers and movies, including Cuban underground films.

Amor Cronico is a love story, but less about Gurapo's (Liosky Clavero) unrequited love for Cucu and more about Cucu's love for Cuba. All is not perfect for Cucu when she returns to her country of birth -- "too much of a Cuban to live in New York, too much of a New Yorker to live in Havana" and referred to as "the Crazy Red" and "Caribbean Mata Hari." Cucu's complexity relies on balancing her carefree artistic expression with her steadfast determination to be herself as demonstrated through her mantras -- "love performs miracles" and "you have to be who you are, and stand on your own two feet."

SXSW Quick Snap: Geoff Marslett and Friends at Film Opening Party


Geoff Marslett, Aidens

The number of South by Southwest parties is so staggering that I unplugged from nearly all the SXSW Interactive parties and only attended a few SXSW Film parties this year. The opening and closing-night parties are always "must attend" events, as they provide an opportunity to mingle with festival attendees, filmmakers and actors from near and far.

At the Film Opening Party at Buffalo Billiards, I chatted with Austin filmmaker Geoff Marslett, seen above with actress Laura Aidan (Fright Night 2011) and her husband Chris Aidan. Marslett directed some of the SXSW 2012 Film Festival bumpers this year and starred in one -- I swear by the end of the bumper that he was emulating local film writer C. Robert Cargill.

SXSW 2012 Photos: Music Takes Over


Sixth Street SXSW 2012

As massive as the crowds may have been during the SXSW Film and Interactive Conferences, the number of people downtown when SXSW Music starts is overwhelming. Even on Wednesday night, which is usually a "soft" opening for SXSW Music, there were massive crowds on Sixth Street as seen above. I braved the crowds to attend screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and the Paramount Theatre, both appropriately for music-related screenings.

Music at SXSW isn't just contained within the bars and clubs. Check out some of the other locations where well-known musicians and live music performances are found after the jump.

Review: Casa de mi Padre


Casa de mi Padre still

I watched more soap operas than I care to admit with my mother and grandmother when I was young, but it wasn't until I spent a college summer break in Costa Rica that I sat through an entire Spanish telenovela. Without exception, the acting was overly dramatic and the sets were cheaply constructed, yet I found myself hooked by the plight of heroes and heroines who were often at the mercy of a moustached villian. Plus, it was a great way to brush up on Spanish. If you've not watched a telenovela on Univision or another Spanish language channel, you can experience the melodrama on the screen with the parody movie Casa de mi Padre starring Will Ferrell in a Spanish-speaking -- and singing -- role.

Ferrell portrays Mexican rancher Armando Alvarez, the eldest of two brothers who must save his family's failing ranch while dealing with drug traffickers. His younger brother and successful businessman Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his vivacious fiance Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), much to the delight of their father Miguel Ernesto (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.). However, Raul's true intentions are to take on the local drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), putting the Alvarez family and their farm in even more danger. Things become even more complicated for the Alvarez brothers as Armando falls for Sonia, and must save both her and the family's business with the help of his trusty sidekicks, Esteban (Efren Ramirez) and Manuel (Adrian Martinez).

SXSW Review: Texas Shorts



I'll never forget my first encounter with local comedian Zach Anner in 2004. He was trying to get the attention of Ron Perlman after the special SXSW screening of Hellboy, and I assisted him through the crowd. Born with cerebral palsy, Anner is wheelchair-bound, which can make it very difficult to navigate film festival crowds. Not only was Anner successful in his celebrity interview, but Perlman stayed until the wee hours of the morning talking with his fans -- what I refer to as "a South By Moment," where personal connections are made to ground oneself during the deafening roar of all things SXSW.

Now it's Anner's turn on the big screen at SXSW -- he gained local notoriety by winning his own show through a competition created by Oprah Winfrey, and has been busy directing and starring in his own films. You can see his work in foolproof, a short film he co-created with Marshall Rimmer, which is screening as part of the Texas Shorts program. Anner portrays a freeloading roommate who lives with a responsible businessman (Rimmer) in this funny and ironic short. Anner finds humor in the most obvious places that are overlooked, and turns it into a raucous mirth for audiences. His explanation as to why he turned down a job -- "they only wanted to pay me every two weeks, I need money NOW" -- had me and the rest of the audience in stitches.

SXSW Review: Safety Not Guaranteed


Safety Not Guaranteed

If you could go back in time, where would you go and who would you go with? That's the main question that comes to mind after viewing Safety Not Guaranteed, which had its regional premiere at SXSW this week. This film was a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award winner for writer Derek Connolly and Grand Jury Prize nominee for director Colin Trevorrow at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Safety Not Guaranteed is the feature-length narrative debut for both Connolly and Trevorrow. The movie's script is based on an actual classified ad that became an internet meme in 2005 after being featured in Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment on The Tonight Show.

Magazine writer Jeff Schwensen (Jake M. Johnson) pitches a far-fetched story to his trend-setting editor Bridget Bay (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to investigate the author behind a cryptic want ad looking for a time travel companion -- "Must bring your own weapons. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED." Jeff recruits young interns Arnau (Karan Soni) and Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) to assist him in his assignment, but it turns out that he has an ulterior motive: The location is his hometown, where he hopes to reunite with a high-school fling.

Arnau and Darius stake out the post office and succeed in tracking down Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a paranoid supermarket employee who claims to have built a time machine with which he's already traveled back in time once. Jeff evokes suspicion from Kenneth, who chases him off his property, so it is Darius who must gain enough trust to become Kenneth's time-travel companion. This turn of events allows Jeff the time that he needs to seek out and reunite with his lost love, as well as live vicariously through Arnau's potential first sexual encounter.

Austin at SXSW 2012: Jonny Mars, 'America's Parking Lot'


APL_Cowboys Stadium at Sunset

Austinite Jonny Mars may be best known for his roles in front of the camera in Texas independent films such as The Happy Poet and Wuss, but he's also spent a considerable amount of time over the last five years behind the camera directing his first film project, America's Parking Lot. In this documentary, Mars captures the story of Cy Dittmore and Stan "Tiger" Shults, two die-hard fans of "America's Team" and leaders of the legendary Gate 6 tailgate party, as they spend their last season with the Dallas Cowboys at the historic Texas Stadium. The economics and politics within the NFL threaten to dissolve the friendships and traditions these blue-collar tailgaters have built over 20 years.

I spoke recently with Jonny Mars as well as America's Parking Lot editor Robin Schwartz and sound engineer Eric Friend to discuss their film, which debuts at SXSW 2012 on Sunday afternoon.

Slackerwood: Describe America's Parking Lot in a few sentences.

Jonny Mars: Effectively America's Parking Lot chronicles the journey of two tailgaters as they move from their old stadium and 25-year-old tradition to a new billion dollar stadium, as they try to hold on to their tailgating tradition as well as their friends and identity over a four-year period.

AFS Announces SXSW 2012 ShortCase Winners

Photo Still from Mijo (My Son)

This year's SXSW Community Screening: Austin Film Society ShortCase will be held Saturday, March 10 at 11 am in the Canon Screening Room (aka Rollins) at the Long Center, and will feature short films by Central Texas filmmakers ranging from Richard Garriott to Bob Ray.

I was pleased to be invited to curate the ShortCase -- I've said for years that I'd love to help host a short-film festival. The response from AFS filmmakers was overwhelming, with over 100 short films submitted in a two-week timeframe. I cried, laughed, and screamed -- and even hit the Rewind button a few times to savor certain scenes. AFS Interim Artist Services Manager Austin Culp, intern Reid Connell and I worked together to select the 10 best films to fill the 90-minute screening time. It was a daunting task with so much wonderful content representing the talent of AFS filmmakers, but we somehow agreed on the final slate. 

For filmmakers who didn't make the cut, we hope that you'll submit films for future ShortCase events -- I'm already formulating a cunning plan to get some of the content into a screening later this year. Feedback will be provided to filmmakers who requested it, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs available to the AFS filmmaker members.

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

SXSW 2012: Chris Branca and Danielle McCarthy, 'Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me'


Lenny Kaye in 'Nothing Can Hurt Me'

Many people may never have heard of the early '70s band Big Star, and aren't aware that "In the Streets," the theme song for That 70s Show performed by my personal favorite band Cheap Trick, was actually penned by Big Star's Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens (correction: Chris Bell). Attendees of the 2010 South by Southwest Music Festival became more aware of the band's influence when Chilton died unexpectedly of a heart attack on March 17, only three days prior to a Big Star reunion show in Austin. That show turned into a tribute with many musical guests from near and far, with several other tribute moments throughout SXSW that year -- including several songs played in tribute by Cheap Trick as headliners at the Auditorium Shores outdoor stage.

In addition to the fans that have supported the band throughout the years, many musicians credit Big Star with inspiring their careers. More importantly, music critics who were often disillusioned with the rock "gods" of the early '70s were attracted to the heart and soul that Big Star gave to its music. One such rock writer is Lenny Kaye (pictured above), who wrote for several magazines including Creem and Rolling Stone. He is one of the interview subjects of an upcoming film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, which will have a special sneak preview at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.

I interviewed one of the film's producers, Danielle McCarthy, and editor Chris Branca, a native Texan, who are busy working on the final edits. Find out what they had to say about Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.

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