Debbie Cerda's blog

Ready, Set, Fund: Help Austin Cinematheque Relocate

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Austin Cinematheque crew, courtesy of Daily Texan

"Ready, Set, Fund," is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects. Contact us if you've got a film fundraising project going on you'd like us to know about.

If you weren't in Austin in the late 80s or missed the Live Your Cinema! Austin Media Arts documentary that screened during the 2010 Austin Film Festival, then you may not know about the significance of Austin Media Arts. This cramped space above Quackenbush's Coffee Shop on the Drag was the first venue that Austin Film Society (AFS) actually owned and operated. Formerly a psychedelic ice cream parlor, Austin Media Arts was the screening room of AFS founder Richard Linklater and Lee Daniels as they projected eclectic and diverse films by Ingmar Bergman, Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage, Michelangelo Antonioni and Jean-Luc Godard for eager film fans.

Austin Media Arts is long gone, but its spirit and intent has carried on in younger generations of film enthusiasts who drew inspiration from repertory programs including the defunct CinemaTexas. The most well known is Austin Cinematheque, the only free, 35mm retrospective film series in town, founded in 2005 by three University of Texas Radio-Television-Film students. Since their first self-funded screening of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in the Texas Union Theatre, they have screened over 75 films from sixteen different countries spanning nine  decades.

Unfortunately, due to the upcoming remodeling scheduled at the Union Theatre, Austin Cinematheque will be temporarily homeless while working toward expanding their free repertory film series. Find out how you can help them and other film-related projects after the jump.

Review: The Skin I Live In

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The Skin I Live In still photo

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is internationally known for his darkly humorous and often perverse explorations into gender and sexuality, but even more so about relationships between women and the men who love (while still often hating) them. His latest film, The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito), is no different in its general themes, but is the most stylized and visually and emotionally impacting of all his movies. Based on the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet, The Skin I Live In effectively blends so many genres -- thriller, erotica, drama, horror and sci-fi -- that it will hopefully appeal to a wide audience.

Secured in his operating lab at his isolated home El Cigarral, plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) has made a breakthrough in his research to improve methods of repairing disfigurement of burn victims. Through transgenesis -- the process of introducing an exogenous gene, from a hog in this case -- Dr. Ledgard has created an extremely resilient skin that can be grafted onto damaged tissue. However, colleagues and superiors are horrified, proclaiming his research as a violation of their bioethics. They prefer the less controversial practice of using El Cigarral's operating room for transgender operations from well-paying clients who require discretion. 

Dr. Ledgard isn't prepared to welcome his colleagues into his home, however, as he has a private patient locked in the premises. A young woman known as Vera (Elena Anaya) spends her days in solitude, reading and creating figures out of torn scraps of fabric, watched over by Dr. Ledgard's fiercely loyal housekeeper, Marilia (Marisa Paredes). When Marilia's brutish criminal son Zeca (Robert Alamo) arrives, demanding his mother hide him from law enforcement, violence explodes the idyllic calm and exposes the true horrors hidden within. No one is safe from the madness and destruction, including Ledgard's daughter Norma (Bianca Suarez) and her suitor Vicente (Jan Cornet).

Film on Tap: From Almodovar to Mr. Creosote

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

Since 1997, Alamo Drafthouse has set the bar high for Austin in offering moviegoers the option of enjoying libations and food during screenings. For several years this local favorite has also offered themed film-and-food pairings through their feast events, such as the Julie and Julia Feast, and Sommelier Cinema, which offers wine flights to complement classic movies. This month, Alamo Drafthouse executive chef John Bullington has joined forces with Drafthouse beverage director Bill Norris to delight the palate and test the fortitude of film fans who crave an unique and memorable film, food and drink experience.

This partnership is most notably responsible for a Spanish tapas and wine menu available at Alamo on South Lamar for the first two-week run of Pedro Almodovar's new movie, The Skin I Live In. Local media were invited to a sneak preview of the menu items last Sunday -- seen above is the tapas of tomato, leek, almonds and manchego in sherry vinegar with herbs, paired with the '06 Marques de Gelida Cava Brut Reserva Ecologico, a 100 percent organic Methode Traditionelle sparkler. I was so impressed by the wines Norris paired with Bullington's tasty tapas that I not only bought a bottle of the '09 Juan Gil Monastrell on the way home, but I plan on seeing The Skin I Live In for a third time just for the Spanish menu experience.

Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek also has some special events this month -- a beer dinner featuring Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and another "Meet the Brewer" event. Find out more after the jump about both events, as well as events taking place on the auspicious 11/11/11.

AFF 2011 Photo Essay: Hair of the Dog Brunch

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Kat Candler with Carla L. Jackson and Kelvin Z. Phillips of A Swingin' Trio

Austin Film Festival provides great opportunities to meet and mingle with filmmakers, but the most laid-back social event where new friendships are forged and ideas sprout is the annual Hair of the Dog Brunch. It's great to see seasoned veterans of Austin's local film scene such as Kat Candler (Jumping Off Bridges), seen above with Carla L. Jackson and Kelvin Z. Phillips of A Swingin' Trio -- check out Jenn Brown's interview with Jackson and Phillips and her review of their first feature film. 

See more photos of filmmakers including the Texas Monthly "Where I'm From" film contest finalists after the jump.

AFF 2011 Photo Essay: 'Deep in the Heart'

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Although out-of-town Austin Film Festival attendees may have had a difficult time attending movie premieres and screenings at the Regal Arbor in north Austin, this local doesn't mind the change of pace. With changes in the parking fees downtown and traffic congestion, I enjoy the alternate venues -- especially since the Arbor is close to home for me.

One of the AFF selections I saw at the Arbor this year was Deep in the Heart, a feature making its world premiere in the fest's Texas Independents category. Starring local festival alum Jon Gries (Natural Selection, Napoleon Dynamite) as Texan Dick Wallrath, this docudrama focuses on a man who went from a deadbeat alcoholic to a self-made millionaire and philanthropist. Wallrath is known for his generosity via the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H programs that helps fund college educations for students from rural communities. The movie was shot in the greater Austin area.

Dick Wallrath and his wife Patsy (seen above with executive producer Jay Hoffman) attended the Arbor screening, along with several of the film's stars and writer/producer Brian A. Hoffman -- read Jenn Brown's interview with Hoffman here. See more photos from the Deep in the Heart Q&A after the jump.

Review: Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone

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Everyday Sunshine

[Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone will screen in Austin tonight (Oct. 25) -- details are at the end of this review.]

Between deejaying college radio stations and also living in the heart of Montrose in Houston during the 1980s and 1990s, my nights were dedicated to the diverse music scene. New wave genre was my first love, but it was the upbeat tempo of ska and nitty-gritty sounds of punk that got me moving to the dance floor and from time to time, to the mosh pit. The creative cacophony of Austin bands including Bad Mutha Goose, Retarted Elf, The Big Boys, and Bad Brains created a mesmerizing wall of sound, moving the audience in a mass of sweaty, flailing bodies with an incredible outlet of energy.

Many of these bands were influenced by Fishbone, a black punk band from the streets of South Central Los Angeles. Band members sported dreadlocks and Mohawks as well as the ska/mod fashion, although sometimes they wore only their musical instruments. Fishbone "brought the Funk to the Punk." However, their prominence in the scene fell apart just as the band was on the verge of achieving the financial success they needed to survive.

Filmmakers Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson bring the personal story of the fiercely individual artists that make up the democracy of Fishbone in the compelling film, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the journey of Fishbone to fame and eventual bust is demonstrated through animation, vintage concert and interview footage with the band and other musicians.

Film on Tap: 'Beer Wars' and Beer Week

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Beer Wars posterWelcome to Film on Tap, a new column about the many ways that beer (or sometimes booze) and cinema intersect in Austin.

October is always one of the biggest months for craft beer in Texas, and this year has been no exception, especially with the revival of the Texas Craft Brewers Festival here in Austin. The second annual Austin Beer Week is in full swing, with over a hundred events taking place from October 22-30 highlighting local breweries and brewpubs. Several movie-related beer events are happening at venues around town, including most of the Alamo Drafthouse locations.

North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery is hosting a free screening of the documentary Beer Wars in the pavilion behind their restaurant at 8 pm tonight. Beer Wars explores the U.S. beer industry from the inside, revealing the truth behind the label of your favorite beer. Told from an insider’s perspective, the film goes behind the scenes of the daily battles and all-out wars that dominate one of America’s favorite industries.

North by Northwest is also paying homage to Spinal Tap's band member Nigel Tufnel on November 11 -- that's 11/11/11 -- with a a screening of This is Spinal Tap preceded by a special performance by a cover band.

Find out after the jump about other Austin Beer Week events, and why the screening of the "David versus Goliath" story in Beer Wars is quite timely for the Texas craft beer industry. I also share how Boston Beer Company -- one of the film's feature subjects -- and Flix Brewhouse are supporting the homebrew community in Central Texas.

AFF 2011 Day Four: Family Values in Filmmaking

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Elizabeth Avellan with Sarah Fisch of BRANDsplanglish productions and Mariella Sonam Perez

What an exhausting but rewarding time I had at Austin Film Festival on Sunday. The Hair of the Dog Brunch always provides a wonderful opportunity to meet and mingle with filmmakers as well as cast and crew of short and feature films screening at AFF -- check back later for a photo essay from the brunch.

I met several filmmakers involved with the Texas Monthly's "Where I'm From" film contest, including I Heart SA filmmakers Robert B. Gonzales and Sarah Fisch (seen above with Elizabeth Avellan and Mariella Sonam Perez), who also writes as Chupacabrona for the Texas visual art website Glass Tire. A discussion about disparities between males and females that I've observed in online journalism and filmmaking led Sarah to introduce me to Mariella Sonam Perez (Going to Grandma's) who is one of the founders of the nonprofit organization South Texas Underground Film (STUF). STUF engages and inspires the South Texas film community by screening films without discrimination, creating new  movies, teaching the art of filmmaking to the young and old and networking with fellow filmmakers local and abroad.

AFF Review: DeadHeads

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The popularity of AMC's The Walking Dead series testifies to the longevity of this horror subgenre, with the success of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland prompting more "zombedies." Both of these movies focus on the survival of unaffected individuals during a zombie apocalypse, but DeadHeads takes another road with the story of two zombies just trying to survive and fulfill unrequited love. Written, produced and directed by brothers Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce, DeadHeads pays homage to many of the classic zombie/undead films, especially Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, for which their father Bart Pierce handled the photographic special effects.

DeadHeads centers around Mike Kellerman (Michael McKiddy), who awakens to find himself in a strange place. After escaping, he encounters and runs in fear from flesh-eating zombies. What Mike doesn't quite get is that he is also one of the "undead," as he is able to speak and think regularly. A chance encounter with Brent (Ross Kidder) -- another zombie who can think and talk -- leads Mike to the realization that he's been dead for over three years. Even worse, as his memory returns he recalls that he had been on his way to propose to his girlfriend Ellie (Natalie Victoria). But how did he die to begin with, and why are there zombie-killing bounty hunters pursuing him?

AFF 2011 Preview: Selected Shorts

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Fa Smiles from "The Kook"

I find it intriguing that shorts are recognized as an art form in Europe with the European Film Academy's short film initiative in co-operation with a series of film festivals. With most filmmakers starting out by making short films before tackling feature-length projects, one would hope the American film industry and festivals would embrace and support the short film format as well.

Thankfully, local film festivals feature some short films in their schedules, with the Austin Film Festival (AFF) offering the largest and most diverse programming of shorts at festivals in Austin. This year is no exception, with 13 separate shorts programs and a few short films preceding features, highlighting emerging filmmakers from Texas as well as across the globe.

Check out some of my recommendations from this year's list of Compiled Shorts programs -- you can add them to your AFF Festival Genius schedule by clicking the related link for each shorts program -- after the jump.

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