Yeah yeah, Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World.” While that’s great and all, the world often forgets that Austin is an incredible city for film. It was even named the number one city in which to be a moviemaker by MovieMaker Magazine, beating out places like New York and L.A. And there is no better time to immerse yourself in Austin film culture than during the Austin Film Festival.
The 20th anniversary Austin Film Festival took place from Oct 24 to Oct 31 and featured more than 170 features, documentaries and shorts as well as hundreds more panels, talkbacks and workshops for writers, producers and directors alike. With such an extensive lineup, it was impossible to see everything (seriously … we tried). As with any film festival, there were hits and misses, but here are a few to keep an eye out for.
August: Osage County
The cast list alone is reason to see this movie—Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, to name a few. The film follows closely the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name by Tracy Letts. The twistedly dark comedy about a deteriorating family in Oklahoma will leave you shaken.
Beside Still Waters
This first feature film of director Chris Lowell is astounding. The tale of a reunion of childhood friends after a death is painful, hilarious, relatable, charming and nostalgic all in one tightly wrapped 76 minute package. Beside Still Waters was also named this year’s Best Narrative Feature by the Austin Film Festival.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The newest film of the Cohen brothers does not disappoint. A young, struggling musician in New York in the 1960’s sounds pretty cliche, but Llewyn Davis is far from it. The star-studded cast of Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman explore what it means to be an artist. Throw in an elusive orange cat and the folk music soundtrack of the year and you have was is sure to be a hit.
12 Years A Slave
This movie has been getting a lot of acclaim recently for its realistic and harrowing depiction of slavery, and it deserves every bit of it. This movie hits theaters everyone soon. See it. Bring tissues.
In the style of “Waiting for Guffman” or “Best in Show,” this mockumentary chronicles the trials and tribulations of three seafood restaurants in Cape Cod all vying for the coveted Golden Scallop award. On top of it all, the quirky, clever and heart-warming film was made not by Hollywood film executives, but by a group of old high school friends.
Gay Best Friend (G.B.F.)
This precious teenybopper film is full of all things high-school—clever dialogue, acronyms, queen bees, wannabees and the new hottest accessory: a gay best friend. G.B.F. is hilarious, even for (or, especially for) people who have since graduated. The one-liners will have you rolling, but the message in the end is great: nobody—gay, straight or otherwise—is an accessory.
A Leading Man
This film is a hard-hitter, to say the very least—Steven J. Kung was fed up with the hurtful, ridiculous stereotypes that Asian and Asian-American actors have been forced to fill in the media … so he made a film showing the audience what it’s really like, through his leading man’s eyes. The film has some plotholes, but we argue that the message is far more important than its few shortcomings.
Mom, Dad, I’m Muslim
A documentary about a young woman in Israel who, despite all odds, manages to convert from Judaism to Islam. The film is short and has many gaps in its storyline, so the audience is forced to take it at face value and fill in the blanks on their own.
So yes, Austin is home to some incredible music, but lest we forget, the Austin Film Festival serves as our yearly reminder that Austin is more than a one trick pony (and even if it was, it would be the best-filmed pony in the land).