A Guide to Austin’s Fall Film Festivals

By  · Published on September 4th, 2012

I have been anxiously awaiting Fantastic Fest 2012 (September 20–27) ever since the carnivalesque tomfoolery of the Fantastic Fest 2011 closing party. Year after year, Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers have totally blown me away with their impeccable curating of genre films. And the parties… Oh, the parties! If my liver could talk, the stories it would tell…

If history serves, Fantastic Fest 2012 will continue to expand upon its awesomeness, so this year will probably be ten times more amazing than last year’s festival. The announcements that Fantastic Fest has made so far with the first wave and second wave of programming have already solidified the fact that this will be the best damn Fantastic Fest of them all. First off, Tim Burton will be in attendance at the world premiere of Frankenweenie on the opening night of Fantastic Fest 2012. Sure, I have not been a fan of most of his recent work, but that makes him no less of a cinematic genius in my mind. And, while on the subject of this year’s festival guests, I pretty much peed my pants with excitement when I heard that Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be coming to Fantastic Fest with their film Looper. Color me thrilled!

I will barely have time to recover from the eight sleepless nights of genre filmmaking at its finest when AGLIFF (Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival) kicks off on October 3 with their Opening Night film, Thom Fitzgerald’s Cloudburst. The third largest and longest running international LGBTQIA film festival in the United States, AGLIFF25 will run through October 7. In addition to Cloudburst, Kyle Henry’s Fourplay has been announced as the Centerpiece film and the Closing Night film is Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil.

The theme for this year’s festival is “A Place For Us” (borrowed from the title of Noam Gonick’s experimental short film) which clearly communicates the festival’s dedication to inclusiveness. Yes, that means everyone is welcome, regardless of sexual or cinematic orientation. Speaking from personal experience, “allies” such as myself have always been able to find plenty of amazing films in the AGLIFF program. This year promises to be no exception.

The final AGLIFF25 schedule will be announced soon, but I can tell you that it will boast a slate of 96 films that will screen in downtown Austin at the Paramount, Stateside, Alamo Ritz and Violet Crown theaters. The festival’s new Program Director, Curran Nault, promises that this year’s festival will travel deep into uncharted waters, with innovative and daring programming. I cannot wait!

Next on the local film festival calendar is the Austin Film Festival & Conference (October 18–25), which recently announced the first 10 films of their 2012 lineup. The early 10 films include Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Don Cheadle; writer-director Todd Berger’s It’s A Disaster, starring Julia Stiles, America Ferrera and David Cross; Jay Gammill’s Free Samples, starring Jess Weixler and Jesse Eisenberg; James March’s Shadow Dancer, starring Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson; T.C. Johnstone’s Rising From Ashes, a documentary about Rwanda’s national cycling team; Dustin Rikert’s To Kill A Memory, starring Kix Brooks (Brooks and Dunn); Joseph Levy’s Spinning Plates, a documentary feature about the challenges and triumphs of three very different restaurants around the country; local writer-director Don Swaynos’ Pictures of Superheroes (produced by Kelly Williams), starring local actors Kerri Lendo and John Merriman; Laura Wilson and Lisa Wilson’s Last Will & Testament, a documentary about the debate over the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare.

Also announced is this year’s Outstanding Television Writer Award recipient, The X-Files creator Chris Carter. Carter will receive the award at the Festival’s annual Awards Luncheon and also share some stories from his television and film career during the conference event “A Conversation with Chris Carter.” Carter will also present retrospective screenings of The X-Files and Millennium episodes and will host a special screening of one of his favorite films. (Paul Feig and Brian Helgeland will be guest programming their favorite films as well.)

The complete list of films screening at AFF this year will be announced in mid-September. Festival Badges and Film Passes are still available.

In other news, Austin’s most successful – and beloved – teenage filmmaker, Emily Hagins is celebrating the Blu-Ray and DVD release of My Sucky Teen Romance (September 4). I once quipped that MSTR is sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer all hopped up on Pixy Stix; both productions certainly come from the same sort of sucky high school existence, as well as being playfully referential and shying away from any pretense of realism. What I appreciate the most about MSTR is that Hagins clearly understands her characters – since most directors are not teenagers, her keen grasp of teenage characters is a rarity in cinema. It also helps that the characters actually look like teenagers. (Imagine that!) But while MSTR is unmistakably a film for teens by teens, the awkward romantic experiences of teenage comic book/sci-fi/horror geeks have barely changed in the last 20+ years. In other words, I suspect that the elder geeks of the world will be able to appreciate Hagins’ knack for teenage suckiness just as much as I do.

Austin Movie Events This Week:

9/4 – Alamo South Lamar – AFS’s Essential Cinema Series features Mademoiselle Chambon. (More info)

9/4–9/9 – Paramount Theatre – The Summer Classic Film Series goes out with a bang with screenings of some of the finest films of cinema history: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, Rio Bravo, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind. (More info)

9/4–9/6 – Stateside at the Paramount – The Paramount and Stateside film programmer Jesse Trussell celebrates the conclusion of a successful summer film series by screening two of his personal favorites: David Holzman’s Diary and Magnificent Seven. (More info)

9/5 – Alamo South Lamar – Fantastic Fest presents a special screening of Ik-Joon Yang’s Breathless. (More info)

9/5 – Austin Film Society Screening Room – Moviemaker Dialogues: Festival Strategy features a conversation with SXSW’s Janet Pierson and Claudette Godrey as well as AFS’ Holly Herrick (former programmer of the Sarasota and Hamptons film festivals) about where to apply, when to apply and how to get the most out of your festival run. (More info)

9/6 – Austin Film Society Screening Room – The Houston Film Commission compiles a collection of the best of Texas-made short films that represent the creative, bold filmmaking that comes from across the state. (More info)

9/7–9/8 – Alamo Ritz – The Late Show presents my favorite film of Fantastic Fest 2007, Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes. (More info)

9/8 – Paramount Theatre – Director Spike Lee will be in attendance for a special screening of Summer of Sam. (More info)

9/9 – Alamo South Lamar – Hailed as one of the greatest films of the silent film era, F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise will screen with a live musical score by My Education. (More info)