Fall Festival Roundup


If you're a film geek, September and October are pretty great months to live in Austin. Within the space of five weeks there will be nearly five hundred different features and shorts on display, many of them well outside the mainstream and which won't be screening again in Austin for months -- if ever. Here's a quick guide to the three big festivals of the Fall in the capital of Texas.

Fantastic Fest (Sept. 20-27)

In their words: "Fantastic Fest is a week-long festival featuring the best in new science-fiction, fantasy, horror, animation, crime, Asian, and all around badass cinema."

What they play: Fantastic Fest has tighter focus than its cousins and (potentially) more bang for the buck if you're into genre film. Fantastic Fest is the place to see the weird, the wonderful, the what-the-eff-was-that movies of the yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Claim to fame: Organized by Tim and Karrie League of the Alamo Drafthouse and programmed by such guiding lights as Matt Dentler (SxSW), Lars Nilsen (Weird Wednesday), and Harry Knowles (Ain't It Cool News), Fantastic Fest has geek cred coming out the wazoo. The Leagues pull out all the stops to get the festival's filmmakers into town for the show. If the names Bruce Campbell and Shusuke Kaneko aren't familiar, however, you might not care about the celebrity-types wandering the Alamo halls during this festival. Though I guess Mel Gibson did pull a surprise appearance last year, so who knows?

Visit the Fantastic Fest website.


Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival (Sept. 28-Oct. 6)

In their words: "The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) brings together the best new films from around the world by, about or relevant to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community."

What they play: 100+ films, including features, documentaries, and short films with gay & lesbian themes. If Hollywood's rom-com output isn't speaking your language orientation-wise, aGLIFF is probably the place to see what you want.

Claim to fame: aGLIFF is one of the oldest festivals of its kind and is certainly the most venerable festival in Austin. That doesn't mean it's gotten stale, though -- aGLIFF parties are some of the most anticipated of the year. This year aGLIFF has some new faces on staff so there will likely be some new ideas in the programming and execution.

Visit the aGLIFF website.

The Austin Film Festival (Oct. 11-18)

In their words: "The Austin Film Festival (AFF) is dedicated to championing the work of aspiring and established filmmakers, defined as screenwriters, directors, editors, producers, actors and all artists who use the language of film to tell a story."

What they play: AFF is the kind of festival a cinephile can get lost in, or the kind a casual movielover can drop in on just once or twice for a taste of something new and different. There is the usual compliment of narrative and documentary features vying for the "best of fest" awards, an assortment of locally made or produced features in the "Austin Screens" section, and AFF's own plunge into the weird and wonderful with their "Dark Matters" category. (For the love of heaven, don't miss Blood Car.) Those with a taste for the foreign film shouldn't miss the Viet Wave program, with pictures by Vietnamese expatriate filmmakers. There's also a good dollop of Hollywood studio previews going on, with opening and closing night films yet to be named.

Claim to fame: AFF is one of the few events in town that really pulls in the industry heavy-hitters. Headliners this year include Oliver Stone (JFK and Natural Born Killers), John Milius (The Hunt for Red October and HBO's Rome, among many others), and Glenn Gordon Caron ("Moonlighting" and "Medium"). The conference is stuffed with talent (both veteran and rookie) whose work you will know even if you don't know their names. I'm particularly happy to see the return of Larry Wilmore (now the senior black correspondent on "The Daily Show") and Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing), but there are others: Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Good Shepherd), Jon Hurwitz (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle), and too many others to list here.

Visit the Austin Film Festival website.


Call in sick to work and get ready to mark up those program guides (or create your own personalized schedule on any of the three B-Side powered festival sites).

(Full disclosure: I work for B-Side, a local film distributor which creates the interactive programming guide at all three of these festivals.)