Film News

Local docmaker Heather Courtney heads to Afghanistan, and the 2009 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards

Courtney Aims Lens at Afghanistan

Heather Courtney knows that documentarians go where the story takes them, and that's why she'll soon spend two months embedded in Afghanistan shooting footage for Where Soldiers Come From, which follows five high school friends who join the National Guard to pay for college, then end up shipping out overseas. It's a decidedly personal project for the Austin filmmaker (Letters From the Other Side), who hails from tiny Hancock in the northern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She describes her hometown near the shores of Lake Superior as cold, snowy, harsh, but beautiful. Small-town America is often seen through stereotypes, and she wanted to change that. "As someone who comes from a small town, I wanted to tell a rural story that was more complex and at the same time universal," she says. With a grant from the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund offered up through the Austin Film Society, she traveled back to the former copper-mining town in early 2007 to shoot footage of abandoned mines, only to discover her real story when she met a 19-year-old recent Guard recruit and his friends. "For the past two years, I've just been filming them and their families in their normal daily civilian lives, going to school, working, partying, and every once in a while their monthly trainings," Courtney says. "I would spend a few months in Michigan and then come back to Austin for a few months and then back to Michigan, etc. And now I'm going with them to Afghanistan when they deploy in just a few weeks." First stop is Camp Shelby in Mississippi, then she embeds with the soldiers overseas near the end of January. The doc is also funded by the Paul Robeson Fund and the Independent Television Service and will eventually air on PBS.

And the Rest …

Twilight director and McAllen native Catherine Hardwicke; J.R. Ewing his own bad self, Larry Hagman; and Powers Boothe (of Sin City, 24, and Deadwood fame) are the first names to leak for the 2009 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards, which will move to Thursday night, March 12, this year. Hardwicke also directed Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen. Hagman, a Fort Worth native, will receive his award from his Dallas wife, Linda Gray. Boothe, a theatre graduate of the school that shall forever be known as Southwest Texas State University, has a respected career both as a stage and screen actor but is still perhaps best known for an Emmy-winning turn as the Kool-Aid drinking cult leader in the television film Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.

The 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival lineup is starting to fall into place. Newly announced additions to the fest include centerpiece comedy Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogen; a number of documentaries, including New World Order, which follows Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists; and new panelists such as Catherine Hardwicke, Mike Judge, and Mark Woollen, creator of award-winning trailers. For more information, visit or

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Heather Courtney, Where Soldiers Come From, Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, 2009 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards, Powers Boothe, Catherine Hardwicke, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray

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