Debbie Cerda's blog

Ready, Set, Fund: From 'La Perdida' to 'The Wolfman'


La Perdida still photo

Austin filmmaker Miguel Alvarez caught the attention of local audiences with his short films in 2010: the science-fiction themed Mnemosyne Rising, which premiered at SXSW, and the biographical Veterans at Austin Film Festival -- check out my AFF 2010 review of Veterans. This year, Alvarez contributed to a segment of Slacker 2011 -- read Elizabeth Stoddard's interview with Alvarez and producer and former AFF Film Program Director Kelly Williams here. Alvarez is now undertaking his first feature film with La Perdida (pictured above), a re-imagining of the traditional Mexican folktale of La Llorona combined with the Greek myth of Cassandra, but set in the middle of the 21st century. Described by Alvarez as a "lo-fi sci-fi drama," this movie will explore the universal themes of loss and redemption combined with time travel.

Alvarez is currently seeking funding for pre-production expenses of La Perdida through the crowdfunding site United States Artists here. Funds raised will provide Alvarez with a six-week research and writing sabbatical in Mexico City, where the story takes place. Alvarez's goal of $6,500 by Friday, November 4, will help get the project off the ground by covering pre-production expenses. You can learn more about the project in this pitch video.

Kelly Williams is also producing Pit Stop, which is seeking funding from the community. Find out more about this and other interesting and deserving projects in need of donors after the jump.

Review: Machine Gun Preacher


Machine Gun Preacher still

Machine Gun Preacher is violent drama based on the true story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a drug-dealing criminal biker who transformed his life after finding God. Through a series of events, Childers finds redemption from his violent life not only to become a preacher, but to risk his life to establish an orphanage in war-torn Sudan. Butler was so taken with Childers' story that he not only served as an executive producer for the movie but also took a pay cut for the role, which could quite possibly lead to an Oscar nomination.

Machine Gun Preacher opens with a violent night in a remote Sudanese village -- members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) force a young boy to kill his own mother and kidnap any children old enough to hold a gun. The film then shifts to rural Pennsylvania, where Sam Childers prepares for his release from prison, having been incarcerated for drug-related criminal activities.

Childers discovers that while he was away, his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has given up her lifestyle of drugs and drinking, as well as her job as an exotic dancer. Her faith in God and participation at a local church has motivated her to provide a healthier atmosphere for herself and her daughter. Childers' disinterest of religion takes a sudden turn when after a rough night of drinking and shooting up, he nearly kills a hitchhiker who has pulled a knife on his biker buddy Donnie (Michael Shannon).

Fantastic Fest Review: Bullhead



Fantastic Fest 2011 was marked by several "slow burn" thrillers this year, and the most exceptional film I saw in this category was Bullhead (Rundskop), the feature directorial debut of Belgian writer/director Michael Roskam that won the fest's AMD and DELL "Next Wave" Spotlight awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. What starts out as a movie about the mafia behind illegal bovine hormone use and trading in the Belgian agricultural industry turns into an intensive character study of one thug who is addicted to illegal hormones.

Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts plays Jacky Vanmarsenille, a young brute who works on his uncle's cattle farm and strong-arms other cattle farmers to do business as he demands. A local unscrupulous veterinarian who takes care of the Vanmarsenilles' cattle approaches them with a deal to sell their beef to notorious hormone trafficker Marc Decuyper (Sam Louwyck). The so-called "hormone mafia" trades in banned substances which when injected into beef cattle convert fat to lean flesh and stimulate artificial and increased growth rates, ensuring big profits for producers. Decuyper's brutality and ruthlessness is evidenced by the assassination of a federal policeman who had been investigating his illegal bovine drug trade.

Fantastic Fest Photos: Angels and Airwaves Presents 'Love'


Angels and Airwaves presents LOVE Red Carpet

Cinematographer William Eubank made his writing and directing debut earlier this year with Love (aka Angels & Airwaves Presents Love), a late addition to this year's Fantastic Fest lineup. Eubank was joined on the red carpet on Wednesday by executive producer Thomas DeLonge and lead actor Gunner Wright. The filmmakers were caught by a surprise special guest: Richard Garriott, real-life astronaut and star of Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, who moderated an engaging Q&A after the Fantastic Fest screening. 

Love is an inspirational and lovely cinematic journey into the past and future. After losing contact with Earth, astronaut Lee Miller becomes stranded in orbit alone aboard the International Space Station. As time passes and life support systems dwindle, Lee battles to maintain his sanity ... and simply stay alive. His world is a claustrophobic and lonely existence until he makes a strange discovery aboard the ship. The film was funded by the musical group Angels & Airwaves, led by Thomas DeLonge of Blink 182.

Check out more photos from the special screening after the jump.

Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Six: Pass the Caffeine, Please


Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Woods, all rights reserved

Are we there yet? Despite skipping midnight screenings and limiting my alcohol intake to free beer in the Shiner Theater, I've hit the wall more times than I can count this year at Fantastic Fest 2011. Special guests Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood (seen above) recuperated with the requisite caffeine after a late night of Fantastic Feud. For those who missed the annual hosted event by Scott Weinberg of FEARnet, Monaghan captained the international team that was thoroughly trounced by the American team led by Wood. 

I can only blame my festival fatigue on the Fantastic Fest programming which has kept me in the theater for 4-5 movies a day. Despite thoughts of "I really should sit this screening out," I've stayed the course and not been disappointed in my decision. Find out after the jump which films confirm my selection of Todd Brown of Twitch as my all-time favorite Fantastic Fest programmer.

Fantastic Fest Quick Snaps: A Look at 'Julia X 3D'


Kevin Sorbo Skype

The filmmakers behind the black comedy Julia X 3D hosted a press meet-and-greet event at the Highball yesterday as part of Fantastic Fest 2011. Producer and writer P. J. Pettiette (Bad Dreams, Jennifer's Shadow) made his directorial debut at Fantastic Fest 2011 with this film starring Kevin Sorbo (Andromeda, Hercules) and Valerie Azlynn. Co-producer Claudie Viguerie and director of photography Jason Goodman were also on hand to answer questions about Julia X 3D, which debuted in the Sunday night midnight screening and runs again today at 12:15 pm.

Due to a health emergency, lead actor Kevin Sorbo was unable to attend in person but participated via Skype as seen above. Sorbo attributed his visit to the emergency room Sunday night to too much work and travel, but is expected to be well enough to arrive in time for today's screening. Although he seemed rather exhausted, he was in high spirits and shared some of his personal memorabilia as he spoke from his home office.

Check out more photos from the Julia X 3D meet and greet after the jump.

Fantastic Fest 2011, Day Four: From 'Corridor' to Coscarelli


Doug Jones and Don Coscarelli

I'm one of the "Sleep is the enemy" festival attendees that Jette mentioned in her Fantastic Fest 2011, Day 3 dispatch, although this year I paced my first couple of days by leaving before midnight movies. After a day away from Fantastic Fest on Saturday for the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, I was ready to kick it into high gear.

Unlike Rod's report in Fantastic Fest, Day 2, I'm still working out the kinks of using the online reservation system and almost missed getting into the screenings on my wish list. Thankfully the Fantastic Fest staff work wonders in meeting attendees' needs by remaining courteous and flexible -- note the new line for Super Fans to pick up their boarding passes, and the added screenings.

At the fest's halfway mark, Sunday was fueled by tasty coffee and an overstuffed breakfast burrito at a brunch screening of The Corridor. Filmed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this film was a good fit for Fantastic Fest as it balances a psychological thriller with survival horror and science fiction sprinkled on for good measure. The film's strengths -- character development, art and sound design, and casting -- outweighed the final scene that left some viewers disappointed. The filmmakers treated the sensitive subject matter of mental illness very well while bringing humor and suspense into the mix. Not vilifying the mentally ill protagonist while demonstrating the bonds and unmanning of the lead characters was a refreshing change.

Fantastic Fest 2011 Guide: How To Drink Like an Austinite


Taps At Red's Porch

Every year the Alamo Drafthouse serves up Fantastic Fest film programming to satisfy a diverse and eclectic range of tastes amongst festivalgoers, and this year is no exception over eight days and nights. Similarly, visitors to Austin for the festival can experience an equally diverse selection of adult libations to satisfy any palate.

This year's Fantastic Fest beer sponsor is Shiner Beers from the Spoetzl Brewery, which was founded about 100 years ago in Shiner, Texas. Shiner is best known for their flagship brew, Shiner Bock, which makes up over 80 percent of the brewery's sales. In addition, Central Texas has experienced a welcome growth of local craft breweries. Find out what's new on tap at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar as well as nearby watering holes, and what you don't want to miss after the jump.

Review: Seven Days in Utopia


Seven Days in Utopia

One of the most inspirational writers whose work I've enjoyed reading is Harvey Penick, a golf professional and coach from Austin, Texas. Penick began his golf career as a caddy at Austin Country Club, and went on to coach at the University of Texas from 1931 to 1963. He co-authored with Texas Film Hall of Fame member Bud Shrake Harvey Penick's Little Red Book. The "must-read" book contained insightful anecdotes that applied beyond the game of golf -- life lessons on mental focus as well as achieving goals.

Like Penick, Seven Days in Utopia -- opening Friday in Austin theaters -- employs a fictional character who serves up life and spiritual lessons through golf. Based upon Dr. David Cook's book Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, this golf-related movie centers around two individuals who appear quite different at first: Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall), an eccentric rancher with a passion for teaching golf and truth, and young golf professional Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black), who has crashed and burned on the golf mini-circuit. Chisholm's demanding father (Joseph Lyle Taylor) second-guesses and overrides his decisions, which doesn't help either. After Chisholm's bad shots on the golf course cost him a critical game, his father turns his back and walks away, as the young Chisholm explodes in anger on national television.

Narrowly avoiding a cow on the outskirts of Utopia, Texas, Chisholm winds up stranded after driving off the road onto Crawford's ranch and rural golf course where the old rancher offers life-altering advice on golf and faith. Through exposition, Chisholm discovers Crawford had his own glory and downfall in the world of golf amongst the masters, until the demon alcohol took away his success and ended his marriage. Through experience and faith, Crawford learned that one's significance is more important than success -- a lesson he imparts upon Chisholm. 

Two Austin Shorts Are Added to Fantastic Fest Lineup


AJ Bowen of No Way Out

As the largest genre festival in the U.S. featuring horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action, and "fantastic" movies, Fantastic Fest recently announced the 2011 short film lineup, with 50 shorts from across the world. The stellar programming showcases the best of hundreds of submissions from many countries, including Australia, Norway, Germany, Estonia, Canada, Spain and the U.K. This year's slate of short films also includes 15 from the United States, two of which were shot right here in Austin, Texas.

So far, Austin is represented at Fantastic Fest this year by No Way Out and Family Unit, films that feature Fantastic Fest veterans, including filmmakers, actors and writers. Find out after the jump why the Austin Fire Department paid an unexpected visit to one film's set. 

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