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I can't imagine what the Tarantino Film Festival must have been like for those who braved the heart of it; my trip along its outer fringes was impressive enough. During the 10-day festival at the Dobie, Tarantino showed more than 30 films from his own collection. The Festival included double bills, kiddie shows, midnighters, special added encore screenings, an Austin premiere of Switchblade Sisters, a national premiere, and an all-night, six-film horror show. Although the series certainly celebrated low-budget American filmmaking, it included mainstream Hollywood, unusual epics, and Italian genre films as well. Tarantino introduced each film, most often enthusiastically, occasionally brilliantly (except for one kiddie matinee he missed because he was sick). Just the handful of films I saw, piled on one another, whipped me back to the days when two or three movies were the norm and not the nearly remarkable exception. A time when what was on film and what was in life ran together, blending and enhancing. The Chronicle first heard about the Tarantino Festival through those Austin Film Society stalwarts, two of the unsung heroes of the current Austin filmmaking scene, Jerry Johnson and Elizabeth Peters (who wrote that swell piece on the production of Richard Linklater's subUrbia, the upcoming film from Eric Bogosian's play). Among future AFS events, it was mentioned as a possibility that Tarantino might come to town and show a week's worth of films from his personal collection. This didn't seem likely because when trying to get in touch with the director/writer/actor, you find out that much of the time, not even Tarantino's office seems to know where Tarantino is.

Richard Linklater founded and personally ran the Austin Film Society for years, working with such other people as Lee Daniel, Dee Montgomery, and Katie Cokinos, who was director of the Film Society for a half decade. Over the years the AFS has screened an astonishing array of worthy films. Recently, Linklater decided it was time to expand the AFS' mission and create a production fund to help independent filmmakers. Tarantino, excited about the project and anxious to help his friend Linklater, has long been a friend of the film society. Previously, he appeared at the Austin premiere of Pulp Fiction and a world premiere of Robert Rodriguez' From Dusk Till Dawn, which Tarantino scripted and starred in. Both of these raised money for the Film Society (conflict of interest confession: I am a longtime board member of the Austin Film Society).

Tarantino came through, enthusiastically expanding the Festival to a 10-day event. Tarantino and Linklater, facilitated and aided by Johnson and Peters, created the event with a simple honest motive, to support local independent filmmaking and to have a good time in the process.

In this issue's "Screens" section, the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund announces its first grants, giving a total of $30,000 to 11 different regional projects. The logistics involved in an event like this are hard to imagine when the Festival is effortlessly unfolding in front of you, but behind the screens, a number of people were working very hard.

The Chronicle has often been accused of being overly enthusiastic about Tarantino's work, considering he has only really directed two movies and been involved in writing four or five others. Pulp Fiction alone makes me over-enthusiastic about his work; I think it re-imagines the American drive-in exploitation film by way of the French new wave (two of my favorite styles), achieving a distinctly American, profoundly religious film. It sends me. But that is neither here nor there.

One of the best qualities of this community is the way the creative communities support their own and each other. Benefits are a way of life but so is a kind of generous creative patronage in which more established talents help young talents along (which is, after all, the driving idea behind South by Southwest in all its manifestations -- another conflict of interest, for those who are keeping score). The support groups for this community are also surprisingly supportive of younger talent. This sense of cooperation and community is one of the reasons the Austin writing, theater, filmmaking and media development communities have expanded so dramatically over the last few years. Johnson and Peters worked hard to make this happen but they knew they could turn to the Dobie Theatre, to 107.1 KGSR, to the Omni hotel and to the Chronicle -- all the event's co-sponsors -- and get the support they needed.

On this very evening, Thursday, August 15, there is a benefit reading for Lars Eighner, author of Travels with Lizbeth,
7-9pm, at Bookstop Central Park. Eighner is a great writer and a great guy. More like rent parties of old, some of Austin's favorite writers will join Eighner to read, including Marion Winik, Lawrence Wright and Mary Willis Walker.

Sunday, August 25 is the sixth annual Austin Hot Sauce Festival from noon-5pm, at Central Park, 38th and N. Lamar. The Hot Sauce Festival is free and co-sponsored by 107.1 KGSR, Shiner Bock, Guiltless Gourmet, and Central Market.

Tabulation is going on for the Chronicle Best of Austin issue. Coming in September is our 15th Anniversary. Expect to hear a lot about it. n

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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