AFS Invites You to a Sundance at Pioneer Farms
Festival brings drive-in screenings plus special streaming panels
By Richard Whittaker,
11:00AM, Thu. Jan. 7, 2021
If you can’t go to Utah, then Utah will just come to you. Last month, Austin Film Society announced it would be partnering with the Sundance Film Festival for this year’s event, and now it’s announced a line-up of drive-in screenings and special online events with a Texas twist.
As the festival (often seen as the kick-off to the annual film calendar) has had to go virtual this year, it’s also selected a series of partner organizations like AFS around the country to act as satellite venues. Yet while AFS Cinema is still closed, the team has already been experimenting with drive-in screenings at Jordan Bachman Pioneer Farms. Today sees the scheduling of five Sundance titles – three narrative features and two documentaries – across four nights (Jan. 28-Feb. 1), all from the comfort of your own car.
The films are a taster platter of some of Sundance’s most eagerly awaited titles, such as the dark fantasy The Blazing World, and Users, exploring our increasing and unquestioning dependence on technology. There’s also a Texas connection in Maisie Crow’s At the Ready, an Austin Film Society-backed documentary about life at El Paso’s Horizon High School where students in the Criminal Justice Club navigate how their commitment to a safer community places them at odds with the very people they seek to protect.
However, that’s not the only Texas connection. Online, there will be a series of special events highlighting Lone Star State talents, kicking off with a conversation between Richard Linklater with Richard Linklater and Channing Godfrey Peoples, director of the rightly-lauded and SXSW-award-winning Miss Juneteenth. There’ll be more local connections when Elizabeth Avéllan (Spy Kids, Sin City, Machete and Hillary Pierce (At the Ready, The River and the Wall) in a special panel discussion about women producers. Crow will be on hand to talk about her film more as part of Shifting Perspectives About the Border, while Texas audiences will get a preview of another Sundance title and AFS grant-winner, Jockey, when director Clint Bentley and writer/producer Greg Kwedar discuss the film.
Tickets for the screenings will be available to AFS members starting 1pm on Thursday, Jan. 7, with the remaining tickets going on sale to the general public on Monday, Jan. 11. All the AFS/Sundance panels will be free and open to the public: simply register in advance for access.
Here's the complete lineup of the AFS-supported screenings and events at Sundance: find more info at www.austinfilm.org/sundance.
You can also virtually attend the entire festival, running Jan. 28-Feb. 3: check for passes and tickets at festival.sundance.org
SON OF MONARCHS
D: Alexis Gambis
Thur., Jan. 28, 7pm
Enchanted by the monarch butterflies of Michoacán, Mexico, since he was a child, Mendel dedicates his career as a scientist in New York to mapping out the monarch’s genetics. But he is haunted by flashbacks of being orphaned alongside his older brother, Simon, when their parents died in a flood. When Mendel travels home to attend the funeral of his grandmother, it's clear Simon harbors deep resentment toward him for having left. Migrating back and forth between Mexico and New York, Mendel starts to neglect his new girlfriend and grows spiritually restless as he obsesses over the iconic butterfly. Then he confronts his brother about what really happened the night their parents died.
Tenoch Huerta delivers a soul-searing performance in this transformative drama by director Alexis Gambis. The film viscerally captures the scientific marvel and splendor of the butterfly, which in turn creates a mythic parallel to Mendel’s primal fears. Son of Monarchs is at once a spiritual and biological quest of the next generation—fulfilling its destiny by never losing sight of ancestral ties. Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize winner.
THE PINK CLOUD
D: Iuli Gerbase
Fri., Jan. 29, 7pm
Giovana and Yago are strangers who share a spark after meeting at a party. When a deadly cloud mysteriously takes over their city, they are forced to seek shelter with only each other for company. As months pass and the planet settles into an extended quarantine, their world shrinks, and they are forced to come to terms with an accelerated timeline for their relationship. With all their other interactions governed by screens, and with the strain of isolation setting in, Giovana and Yago struggle to reinvent themselves and reconcile the differences that threaten to tear them apart.
Director Iuli Gerbase has crafted an ambitiously stylish debut feature set in an evocative, not-too-distant world that eerily echoes life in lockdown. Both a delicate exploration of what it means to connect in a world we no longer recognize and an unflinchingly honest look at the ways we shape our own reality, The Pink Cloud digs deeply into the underbelly of collective loneliness to offer us a way out.
THE BLAZING WORLD
D: Carlson Young
Sun., Jan. 31, 8:30pm
Ever since Margaret (Carlson Young) was six years old, she has been haunted by the memory of watching her sister drown during an explosive fight between her parents. As a young woman, she slides further into her twisted inner life, ultimately finding herself on the brink of suicide. Through an epic journey down the smokiest and scariest corridors of her imagination, she tries to exorcise the demons pushing her closer and closer to the edge.
The Blazing World is Carlson Young’s debut feature; it is based on her short of the same name, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Young brings to life in striking vibrancy an internality that is at once darkly beautiful and entirely terrifying. Blending horror and fantasy, this film is imaginative and gutsy, painting Margaret’s inner life as at once an alien realm and a devastatingly familiar emotional landscape. Manifesting her trauma through a series of lusciously unnerving locations and moving, bizarre interactions, Young unearths something often quietly, privately buried in our struggles toward the light.
AT THE READY
D: Maisie Crow
Sun., Jan. 31, 6pm
Ten miles from the Mexican border, students at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas, are enrolling in law enforcement classes and joining a unique after-school activity: the criminal justice club. Through mock-ups of drug raids and active-shooter takedowns, they inch closer to their desired careers in border patrol, policing, and customs enforcement. We follow Mexican American students Kassy and Cesar and recent graduate Cristina as they navigate the complications inherent in their chosen path and discover their choices may clash with the values and people they hold closest.
Through intimate access and a clear-sighted lens, director Maisie Crow takes us inside one of the largest policing education programs in the region, offering a rare portrait of Latinx adolescents grappling with their place within their communities. Unafraid of confronting the difficult questions that lurk at the intersection of identity, immigration, and personal politics, At the Ready asks: What is the price of pursuing dreams that have very real ramifications?
D: Natalia Almada
Mon., Feb. 1, 6pm
Acclaimed filmmaker Natalia Almada captures the ruthless locomotion of technology. Her camera flies with ferocious speed alongside jet streams, trains, trucks, and underwater cables that carry data at the speed of light. But just as her lens documents the power of frenetic human invention, so does it dive into technology’s greatest existential competitor: rising oceans, crackling fires, scorched mountain tops—a planet at war with so-called societal progress. In the center of this storm, Almada’s young son stares unquestioningly into his computer screen and is rocked to sleep by a seamlessly paced electronic crib. He’s soothed by forces outside of Almada’s — or, for that matter, any parent’s — influence.
With transcendent camerawork that peers into the internal organs of a technologically dependent planet, USERS both marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother.
BEYOND FILM ONLINE PANELS
A Conversation with Richard Linklater and Miss Juneteenth Director Channing Godfrey Peoples
Thu., Jan. 28, 4pm CST
Join us for a conversation between two Texas filmmakers: the five-time Academy Award nominated writer/director Richard Linklater and writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples, whose breakout debut feature Miss Juneteenth was recently nominated for two Gotham Awards. Richard Linklater's name is evocative of independent filmmaking in Texas and regional auteurism. His generation of filmmakers contributed to defining the image of the Sundance Film Festival, which endures even as big changes in festivals and the industry changed the "Sundance experience" for filmmakers. Texas-based filmmaker Channing Godfrey Peoples premiered her debut feature, Miss Juneteenth, at Sundance in January 2020. Her experience at Sundance and beyond reflects some contemporary trends for artists in the independent film industry and is taking her on a very different journey than Linklater's 30 years prior. Both Linklater and Peoples have early works focused on specific communities in Texas, aiming to represent them cinematically and authentically. The filmmakers will sit down for a virtual conversation to explore the creative threads that connect them, and the journey of making independent films today. Miss Juneteenth was supported by Austin Film Society’s artist development programs, including the AFS Grant and Artist Intensive.
Presented in partnership with the Houston Cinema Arts Society.
Texas Women Producers
Sat., Jan. 30, 11am CST
Three acclaimed female producers, each with a new film premiering at Sundance 2021, discuss how they built and are sustaining their careers outside of the industry poles of New York and Los Angeles. Featuring: Elizabeth Avéllan, veteran producer of the blockbuster Spy Kids franchise as well as Predators and Sin City, who is premiering her new independent film The Blazing World in Sundance NEXT; Liz Lodge Stepp, producer of Sundance Documentary Competition title Users and the previous Sundance award winner Monsters and Men; and Hillary Pierce, producer of Sundance Documentary Competition title At the Ready, and AFS Grant-supported project. Hillary previously produced SXSW award-winner The River and the Wall, also supported by AFS artist development programs.
Presented in partnership with Austin’s Women in Film and Television.
Shifting Perspectives About the Border
Mon., Feb. 1, 1pm CST
Join us for a conversation with regional filmmakers who are creating stories about the Texas/Mexico border communities that bring complexity and nuance missing from the national dialogue. The discussion includes director Maisie Crow of the Sundance US Documentary Competition selection At the Ready, and Angie Reza Tures, Executive Director of Femme Frontera, an organization supporting women filmmakers in the west Texas/ Mexico border region. At the Ready was supported by Austin Film Society’s artist development programs, including the AFS Grant and Doc Intensive.
Presented in partnership with Femme Frontera.
Jockey Filmmakers Talk Texas Film
Tuesday, February 2, 6PM CST
Director Clint Bentley and writer/producer Greg Kwedar of US Narrative Competition selection Jockey (and previously of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner Transpecos) sit down with Sailor Bear's Toby Halbrooks (A Ghost Story, Pete's Dragon) to talk about making independent work from the growing film community of North Texas. Jockey was the 2020 recipient of the AFS Grant Pioneer Film Fund Award, in partnership with Sailor Bear Entertainment and the Oak Cliff Film Festival.
Presented in partnership with the Oak Cliff Film Festival.
Black Media Story Summit-Texas
The 2nd Black Media Story Summit-Texas, following the inaugural summit held during the 2019 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, at the historic DeLuxe Theater in Houston's 5th Ward, will be a virtual affair, and part of the Sundance Film Festival's "Beyond Film" Sundance Satellite programming. This free virtual conference will bring together 100 guests, including filmmakers/content creators of color, foundations, tech, distributors, and social justice leaders on the Eventive virtual platform for a day of collaboration and discussion about new strategies designed to support diverse black stories. The Texas summit is one of several regional events that continue the conversation started at the inaugural Black Media Story Summit in 2018 originated by Black Public Media and aims to galvanize local efforts to amplify black stories.
Presented in partnership with Black Public Media and Houston Cinema Arts Society.