For Your Consideration ...

Austin Film Festival Preview

COMPETITION SCREENINGS


AFTER THE FLOOD

W/D: Robert Saitzyk; with Simon Andrews, Ola Metwally, Joseph Chase. (81 min., 35mm)

A moody, relentless head trip, After the Flood chronicles the unlikely relationship between an American gun dealer and a young El Salvadoran woman. Knee deep in drugs, despair, and existential mewings, writer/director Saitzyk's urban grit infiltrates so deeply, you'll need a hot shower post-screening (better yet, some Rodgers & Hammerstein) to get the grime gone. -- Kimberley Jones

(10/13, 9:30pm, Arbor 2; 10/17, 9pm, Arbor 2)


AMERICA SO BEAUTIFUL

W: Babak Shokrian & Brian Horiuchi/D: Shokrian; with Mansour, Fariborz David Diaan, Alain DeSatti. (91 min., 35mm)

A tarnished version of the American Dream unfolds in this film set in 1979. An Iranian immigrant lured into a get-rich-quick scheme to own a Los Angeles disco for one night tries to entice his friends to buy into the venture. But as the Iranian hostage crisis intensifies in the background, they confront the bitter reality that America isn't ready to welcome them, and that their homeland is fast becoming a place of no return. -- Belinda Acosta

(10/12, 9:30pm, Arbor 2; 10/14, 9:15pm, Dobie)


CHRISTMAS IN THE CLOUDS

W/D: Kate Montgomery; with Tim Vahle, Sam Vlahos, MariAna Tosca, M. Emmet Walsh, Graham Greene. (94 min., 35mm)

Kate Montgomery's debut feature is a disarming romantic comedy launched into motion by a series of mistaken identities. Set in a Native American ski resort, the film features a mostly Native cast and was co-produced by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians. Filmed at the Sundance Resort in Utah, the film's gorgeous cinematography lends weight to the effervescence of the contemporary comedy which nevertheless uses aspects of traditional Indian culture and cuisine as key narrative elements. -- Marjorie Baumgarten

(10/12, 7:15pm, Arbor 2; 10/18, 7:15pm, Arbor 1)


COME TOGETHER

W/D: Jeff Macpherson; with Tygh Runyan, Eryn Collins, Laura Harris. (80 min., 35mm)

A super-stylized, so-polished-you-can-see-your-reflection story of love lost and love possibly found, Come Together finds Ewan (Runyan) in town for his ex's wedding. Stuck between wallowing in twentysomething self-pity or moving on with grown-up stoicism, the greeting card writer also finds himself stuck between wily high schooler Amy (Collins) and former flame/present ice queen Charlotte (Harris). Told predominantly in flashbacks, phone messages, and home video footage, writer/director Macpherson's first film features a near-perfect piano score by Clinton Shorter and a cast coming together to make real choices amid real sadness and laughter. -- Shawn Badgley

(10/13, 7:30pm, Driskill; 10/15, 7:15pm, Driskill)


COW MONKEY

W: James Reichmuth, John Reichmuth, & Gabe Weisert/D: Weisert; with John Reichmuth, James Reichmuth, Bridget Schwartz. (88 min., video)

Paranoiac conspiracy theorists and good-old-boy naiveté make for strange and silly bedfellows in Weisert's digitally shot mockumentary about the search for Bigfoot, which ambles onward through the fog of rural mythmaking and makes equal sport of both the dumb (hickoid brothers Gil and Roy, played by real-life twins James and John Reichmuth) and the somewhat less dumb (Schwartz's slumming anthropologist Sydney). Sniffing the air for the scent of 'Foot spore, the addled Gil continually comes up short on his prey but long on gosh-darn stupidity, which makes for a surprisingly entertaining mental Quaalude for the audience. -- Marc Savlov

(10/12, 7pm, Dobie; 10/17, 7pm, Dobie)


LIVING IN MISSOURI

W: Connor Ratliff/D: Shaun Peterson; with Connor Ratliff, Ian McConnel, Christina Puzzo. (90 min., video)

Living in Missouri functions as a bit of a reality check on the golden-lit, sharply dialogued suburban-alienation epics Hollywood has deployed to great success in recent years. Against a backdrop of massive junk food consumption, barely realized tchotchkes, and a uselessly lovely Midwestern autumn, first-time feature director Peterson and screenwriter/actor Ratliff catalog the breakdown of a marriage and a friendship that survives because it is too detached to fall apart. This is Middle American existentialism at its most naturalistic, full of Star Wars figures and underarticulated desire.

-- Cindy Widner

(10/12, 9:30pm, Driskill; 10/15, 9:15pm, Driskill)


THE MEDICINE SHOW

W/D: Wendell Morris; with Jonathan Silverman, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Greg Grunberg. (100 min., 35mm)

Life informs art in writer/director Wendell Morris' dramatization of his bout with colon cancer. The ever-wry Jonathan Silverman plays Morris' stand-in, Taylor, a cynical animation writer; Gregson Wagner is the elfin leukemia patient who injects a little whimsy into the works. Silverman's dry-ice delivery is effective, but what he -- and the film -- really nail are the hospital scenes, where Taylor trades in shtick for something more vulnerable. Well-shot and only scattershotly glib, The Medicine Show finds the humor in the pathos, or maybe the other way around. -- K.J.

(10/11, 7:15pm, Arbor 2; 10/14, 9pm, Arbor 1)


MISERABLE COMFORTERS

W/D: Jonathon Schaech; with John Asuncion, Steve Longway, Rob Naples, Alice Barrington, Elise Ballard, Jeff Lorch. (67 min., video)

In this almost-convincing mockumentary, four film students at the Texas Christ Fellowship University of Appleton, Texas, track down wino philosophers, disenfranchised souls, and down-on-their-luck families and capture their lives on film as they attempt to show them the light of Christ. Tongue-in-cheek bible-beater parody and surrealism alternates with exploration of real-life self-esteem issues facing indigents. -- Michael Chamy

(10/11, 7pm, Driskill; 10/14, 7:30pm, Driskill)


A PASSAGE TO OTTAWA

W: Jameel Khaja/D: Guarav Seth; with Nabil Mehta, Amy Sobol, Jim Codrington, Ivan Smith, Franceen Brodkin. (90 min., 35mm)

This amiable dramedy, based on "The Fourth Daddy" by Yuri Nagibin, is modest but slyly charming. Eight-year-old Omi (Mehta) visits extended family in the titular city, but he's looking for a "hero" to care for his ailing mother in India -- perhaps Roland (Codrington), the tour-boat captain who attracts Omi's twentysomething cousin (Sobol). The bookend device distracts, but the cross-cultural dynamic is nicely handled, and the cast is engaging. -- Marrit Ingman

(10/13, 7:15pm, Arbor 1; 10/16, 7:15pm, Arbor 2)


RIDERS

W/D: Doug Sadler; with Don Harvey, Bodine Alexander, Sarah Stusek, Jane Beard. (95 min., video)

Riders, the debut effort of writer/director Doug Sadler, tells the story of Alex Stone, a teenage girl who, with her younger sister in tow, flees the girls' broken home and her mom's threatening new boyfriend in search of their father. The film, shot in a crisp DV palette of cool blues, is populated by complex and often ambiguous characters, and Sadler directs them along their slow and inevitable trajectories with unhurried grace. -- Will Robinson Sheff

(10/13, 9:45pm, Driskill; 10/17, 9:30pm, Driskill)


WAY OFF BROADWAY

W/D: Dan Kay; with Brad Beyer, Morena Baccarin, Michael Parducci, Jordan Gelber, Forbes March. (84 min., 35mm)

For a group of recent college grads, "way off Broadway" is almost as good as the Great White Way, especially when the alternative is writing soulless ad copy or sleeping with skeezy directors to land a bit part. There's a lot of talking here -- they're actors and writers and directors: What else to do but emote? -- but the real charm here is the subtle, lovely depiction of New York. Sure, it's hell being broke, out of work, and lovelorn, but writer/director Dan Kay makes it look so awfully romantic. -- K.J.

(10/11, 9:40pm, Arbor 2; 10/14, 7:15pm, Arbor 2)

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